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已有 10271 次阅读 2008-5-2 12:58 |个人分类:自言自语|系统分类:生活其它

四十不惑


2008.05.02


明天整四十周岁。孔子说他四十而不惑,可我还惑着呢。


生命如刍狗


对于生日,我一向是既来之则安之,没有什么特别的过法,也没有什么特别的打算。四十年前,毛主席他老人家发动的无产阶级文化大革命差点一开始就要了我的小命。所以,这条命没有什么特别价值,不值得庆祝。


我要出生的时候,值文革武斗正酣,医院的医生要么被打倒,要么在革命,没有正常上班,我妈当时也只好回到乡间外婆家避难待产。据说某一天有了产象,我姨妈(四嬢)赶紧到十几里之外的区医院(卫生院)去请医生,找不到医生,结果在街上碰到一个区医院的护士,请来之后没生又回去了。若干天以后又到家去请,幸好她及时请到,要不然我这小命当时就没有了。


据我妈说当时脐带有点缠绕,很有些危险。若干年后和我妈在老家的街上碰到她,我妈说:这就是当时给你接生的刘医生,那个时候她要是没赶来,就没有你了。


老子说,天地不仁,以万物为刍狗;圣人不仁,以百姓为刍狗。为什么不呢?世界上的很多人本来就是不知道怎么来这个世上的。来路不清,把你当刍狗已经不错了。很多人搞不清这件事,所以一天到晚还要为什么人生的理想和目的之类的事情烦恼,不知道当一天和尚撞一天钟,每每感谢上帝给自己到人间走一遭的机会才最重要。


名可名,非常名


据说我父母一开始希望要个女孩,所以父母一开始给我准备的名字是诸如什么王晓燕之类的。生下来看是男孩,才在后来编了个现在的名字。如果不是因为这个名字,大概也不会像现在这样到处奔波。为什么我的名字不叫什么金锁或者栓柱呢?我出生的时候,我爸在千里之外的深山老林的地质队中,他几个月后才知道自己有了个儿子。


在中国,源头创新一向没有地位。冶金啊,石油啊,功劳和好处都是人家冶金工人和石油工人的,伟大的很,好像开采和冶炼比地质勘探更重要似的。当年哪些搞地质勘探的不仅自己没有多少好处,连后代大都给耽搁了。


我爸当时是在地质队机关做政工,算是参与。当年我们子弟校的小朋友们,虽然他们的父母很多都跟温总理有一样的资历或更高的资历,但是读出书来或者有比较体面生活的相比之下却很少。相比之下,我虽然也不能作为地质人和地质子弟的代表,不过国家和社会绝对是欠他们很多,这一点我有机会还是要说。


不知死 焉知生?


言归正传,人虽然不知道自己为什么来,但未必不知道自己朝什么地方去,不过每个人相信的去处差别很大。很多人要到八宝山去,很多人会去其它地方类似八宝山的地方。我的博士后导师有一次告诉我,他曾经启发和开导一位研究生说:你有没有想过将来你的墓碑上会写些什么?比如我的墓碑上至少可以写上Scientist, Administrator, Devoted Father and Husband。你的呢?


孔子说过:“未知生,焉知死?”我这位秉持儒家思想,在自己的化学博士论文扉页上写下“学而不思则罔 思而不学则殆”的导师却反其道而行之,告诉他的学生“不知死,焉知生?”的道理。


和一个不关心自己的墓碑上写些什么的人谈论伦理道德会有什么意义呢?宗教和文化是能够给大家提供意义的东西。人生下来没有意义,死去是一了百了。离开了宗教和文化和任何能够脱离个人的生命的具有延续性的东西,生命的过去、现在和将来都没有什么意义。我们唯物主义者最大的麻烦,就是找不到生命的意义,因为一切关于生命意义的说法或价值体系其实都是唯心的,也是客观的。至少我还没有看到例外。


宇宙孤儿


我上大学的时候,同班的刘钊兄不知道吃了什么药,给了我一篇题为The Cosmic Orphan(《宇宙孤儿》)的英文文章,是《大英百科全书》(Encyclopædia Britannica)第五版上的一篇随笔,作者是Loren Eiseley(1907-1977)。我读了这篇文章之后有一种莫名的感动,直到今天还记忆犹新。可以这样说,在此之前我不过是一个智力早熟但没有多少思想的小子,在此之后我开始变得有些真正的思想了。


Eiseley在这篇文章看起来其实平淡无奇,也没有讲什么高深的道理。不过它当时的确深深地打动了我,尤其是他从小河中的一只死乌龟出发阐述的关于生命的哲理给了我深刻的印象。相信任何一个小孩都有类似于Eiseley小时候看见死乌龟的经历,不过并不是每一个人都一定会从中去理解生命的意义。


我当时并不知道Loren Eiseley是何许人,而且我一直误以为他是一个女作家之类。后来才发现他居然是一个很有名的人类学家、生态学家、科学作家和诗人。他曾经是宾夕法尼亚大学的人类学博士,在哥伦比亚大学做过博士后,后来还做过宾夕法尼亚大学的教务长(Provost)。后来我还在网上发现在他的故乡的内布拉斯加大学还有一个专门的Loren Eiseley协会。因为我自己也有宾夕法尼亚大学和哥伦比亚大学的经历,小时候也有在野外看见死猫死狗的经历,所以现在想来当年被Eiseley的随笔所感动而开始思考生命的意义,应该不是简单的巧合。


Loren Eiseley的The Cosmic Orphan全文链接:http://www.britannica.com/original/print?content_id=1325


Loren Eiseley简传链接:http://www.eiseley.org/biography.php


维基百科上关于Loren Eiseley的介绍链接:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loren_Eiseley


The Loren Eiseley Society主页链接:http://www.eiseley.org/


生命的意义


我曾经问我的一个学生是否想过关于生命的意义。他很腼腆地说,哎呀,我是应该好好想一下。我说,生命其实没有意义,它的所有意义在于你用它做了些什么。


我的这种态度,按西方分类,应该是属于美国佬的pragmatism(实用主义)。其实,我自己认为这完全是最正统的中国式的儒家态度。


维基百科上关于Meaning of Life的不同观点的总结链接:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meaning_of_life


我感到充实的是,自己到目前为止的确已经做了一些能够独立于我的生命之外的事情,而且还觉得有更多这样的事情可以做。


一条从无产阶级文化大革命中捡来的狗命,能够活到四十岁,而且还算有滋有味,这难道是有道理的吗?


我惑,我惑,我惑惑惑。


***********************************************************

The Cosmic Orphan (宇宙孤儿)

作者:Loren Eiseley
 
全文链接:http://www.britannica.com/original/print?content_id=1325
 

Encyclopædia Britannica的按语:


While the encyclopaedia is usually associated with an objective tone and statements of fact, the Fifteenth Edition of Britannica dedicated space to more philosophical reflections on knowledge and the human condition. These appeared as introductory essays to the different parts of the Propædia, one of three sections--the Micropædia (Ready Reference), Macropædia (Knowledge in Depth), and Propædia (Outline of Knowledge)--that comprise the innovative organization of the Fifteenth Edition. Among the most insightful is Loren Eiseley's essay prefacing the coverage of human life.


正文:


When I was a young lad of that indefinite but important age when one begins to ask, Who am I? Why am I here? What is the nature of my kind? What is growing up? What is the world? How shall I live in it? Where shall I go? I found myself walking with a small companion over a high railroad trestle that spanned a stream, a country bridge, and a road. One could look fearfully down, between the ties, at the shallows and ripples in the shining water some 50 feet below. One was also doing a forbidden thing, against which our parents constantly warned. One must not be caught on the black bridge by a train. Something terrible might happen, a thing called death.


From the abutment of the bridge we gazed down upon the water and saw among the pebbles the shape of an animal we knew only from picture books--a turtle, a very large, dark mahogany-coloured turtle. We scrambled down the embankment to observe him more closely. From the little bridge a few feet above the stream, I saw that the turtle, whose beautiful markings shone in the afternoon sun, was not alive and that his flippers waved aimlessly in the rushing water. The reason for his death was plain. Not too long before we had come upon the trestle, someone engaged in idle practice with a repeating rifle had stitched a row of bullet holes across the turtle's carapace and sauntered on.


My father had once explained to me that it took a long time to make a big turtle, years really, in the sunlight and the water and the mud. I turned the ancient creature over and fingered the etched shell with its forlorn flippers flopping grotesquely. The question rose up unbidden. Why did the man have to kill something living that could never be replaced? I laid the turtle down in the water and gave it a little shove. It entered the current and began to drift away. "Let's go home," I said to my companion. From that moment I think I began to grow.


"Papa," I said in the evening by the oil lamp in our kitchen. "Tell me how men got here." Papa paused. Like many fathers of that time he was worn from long hours, he was not highly educated, but he had a beautiful resonant voice and he had been born on a frontier homestead. He knew the ritual way the Plains Indians opened a story.


"Son," he said, taking the pattern of another people for our own, "once there was a poor orphan." He said it in such a way that I sat down at his feet. "Once there was a poor orphan with no one to teach him either his way, or his manners. Sometimes animals helped him, sometimes supernatural beings. But above all, one thing was evident. Unlike other occupants of Earth he had to be helped. He did not know his place, he had to find it. Sometimes he was arrogant and had to learn humility, sometimes he was a coward and had to be taught bravery. Sometimes he did not understand his Mother Earth and suffered for it. The old ones who starved and sought visions on hilltops had known these things. They were all gone now and the magic had departed with them. The orphan was alone; he had to learn by himself; it was a hard school."


My father tousled my head; he gently touched my heart. "You will learn in time there is much pain here," he said. "Men will give it to you, time will give it to you, and you must learn to bear it all, not bear it alone, but be better for the wisdom that may come to you if you watch and listen and learn. Do not forget the turtle, nor the ways of men. They are all orphans and they go astray; they do wrong things. Try to see better."


"Yes, papa," I said, and that was how I believe I came to study men, not the men of written history but the ancestors beyond, beyond all writing, beyond time as we know it, beyond human form as it is known today. Papa was right when he told me men were orphans, eternal seekers. They had little in the way of instinct to instruct them, they had come a strange far road in the universe, passed more than one, black, threatening bridge. There were even more to pass, and each one became more dangerous as our knowledge grew. Because man was truly an orphan and confined to no single way of life, he was, in essence a prison breaker. But in ignorance his very knowledge sometimes led from one terrible prison to another. Was the final problem then, to escape himself, or, if not that, to reconcile his devastating intellect with his heart? All of the knowledge set down in great books directly or indirectly affects this problem. It is the problem of every man, for even the indifferent man is making, unknown to himself, his own callous judgment.


Long ago, however, in one of the Dead Sea Scrolls hidden in the Judaean Desert, an unknown scribe had written: "None there be, can rehearse the whole tale." That phrase, too, contains the warning that man is an orphan of uncertain beginnings and an indefinite ending. All that the archaeological and anthropological sciences can do is to place a somewhat flawed crystal before man and say: This is the way you came, these are your present dangers; somewhere, seen dimly beyond, lies your destiny. God help you, you are a cosmic orphan, a symbol-shifting magician, mostly immature and inattentive without humility of heart. This the old ones knew long ago in the great deserts under the stars. This they sought to learn and pass on. It is the only hope of men.


What have we observed that might be buried as the Dead Sea Scrolls were buried for 2,000 years, and be broken out of a jar for human benefit, brief words that might be encompassed on a copper scroll or a ragged sheet of vellum? Only these thoughts, I think, we might reasonably set down as true, now and hereafter. For a long time, for many, many centuries, Western man believed in what we might call the existent world of nature; form as form was seen as constant in both animal and human guise. He believed in the instantaneous creation of his world by the Deity; he believed its duration to be very short, a stage upon which the short drama of a human fall from divine estate and a redemption was in progress.


Worldly time was a small parenthesis in eternity. Man lived with that belief, his cosmos small and man-centred. Then, beginning about 350 years ago, thoughts unventured upon since the time of the Greek philosophers began to enter the human consciousness. They may be summed up in Francis Bacon's dictum: "This is the foundation of all. We are not to imagine or suppose, but to discover, what nature does or may be made to do."


When in following years scientific experiment and observation became current, a vast change began to pass over Western thought. Man's conception of himself and his world began to alter beyond recall. "'Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone," exclaimed the poet John Donne, Bacon's contemporary. The existing world was crumbling at the edges. It was cracking apart like an ill-nailed raft in a torrent--a torrent of incredible time. It was, in effect, a new nature comprising a past embedded in the present and a future yet to be.


First, Bacon discerned a mundus alter, another separate world that could be drawn out of nature by human intervention--the world that surrounds and troubles us today. Then, by degrees, time depths of tremendous magnitude began, in the late 18th century, to replace the Christian calendar. Space, from a surrounding candelabrum of stars, began to widen to infinity. The Earth was recognized as a mere speck drifting in the wake of a minor star, itself rotating around an immense galaxy composed of innumerable suns. Beyond and beyond, into billions of light years, other galaxies glowed through clouds of wandering gas and interstellar dust. Finally, and perhaps the most shocking blow of all, the natural world of the moment proved to be an illusion, a phantom of man's short lifetime. Organic novelty lay revealed in the strata of the Earth. Man had not always been here. He had been preceded, in the 4,000,000,000 years of the planet's history, by floating mollusks, strange fern forests, huge dinosaurs, flying lizards, giant mammals whose bones lay under the dropped boulders of vanished continental ice sheets.


The Orphan cried out in protest, as the cold of naked space entered his bones, "Who am I?" And once more science answered. "You are a changeling. You are linked by a genetic chain to all the vertebrates. The thing that is you bears the still aching wounds of evolution in body and in brain. Your hands are made-over fins, your lungs come from a creature gasping in a swamp, your femur has been twisted upright. Your foot is a reworked climbing pad. You are a rag doll resewn from the skins of extinct animals. Long ago, 2,000,000 years perhaps, you were smaller, your brain was not large. We are not confident that you could speak. Seventy million years before that you were an even smaller climbing creature known as a tupaiid. You were the size of a rat. You ate insects. Now you fly to the Moon."


"This is a fairy tale," protested the Orphan. "I am here, I will look in the mirror."


"Of course it is a fairy tale," said the scientists, "but so is the world and so is life. That is what makes it true. Life is indefinite departure. That is why we are all orphans. That is why you must find your own way. Life is not stable.


Everything alive is slipping through cracks and crevices in time, changing as it goes. Other creatures, however, have instincts that provide for them, homes in which to hide. They cannot ask questions. A fox is a fox, a wolf is a wolf, even if this, too, is illusion. You have learned to ask questions. That is why you are, an orphan. You are the only creature in the universe who knows what it has been. Now you must go on asking questions while all the time you are changing. You will ask what you are to become. The world will no longer satisfy you. You must find your way, your own true self."


"But how can I?" wept the Orphan, hiding his head. "This is magic. I do not know what I am. I have been too many things."


"You have indeed," said all the scientists together. "Your body and your nerves have been dragged about and twisted in the long effort of your ancestors to stay alive, but now, small orphan that you are, you must know a secret, a secret magic that nature has given to you. No other creature on the planet possesses it. You use language. You are a symbol-shifter. All this is hidden in your brain and transmitted from one generation to another. You are a time-binder, in your head symbols that mean things in the world outside can fly about untrammeled. You can combine them differently into a new world of thought or you can also hold them tenaciously throughout a lifetime and pass them on to others."


Thus out of words, a puff of air, really, is made all that is uniquely human, all that is new from one human generation to another. But remember what was said of the wounds of evolution. The brain, parts of it at least, is very old, the parts laid down in sequence like geological strata. Buried deep beneath the brain with which we reason are ancient defense centres quick to anger, quick to aggression, quick to violence, over which the neocortex, the new brain, strives to exert control. Thus there are times when the Orphan is a divided being striving against himself. Evil men know this. Sometimes they can play upon it for their own political advantage. Men crowded together, subjected to the same stimuli, are quick to respond to emotion that in the quiet of their own homes they might analyze more cautiously.


Scientists have found that the very symbols which crowd our brains may possess their own dangers. It is convenient for the thinker to classify an idea with a word. This can sometimes lead to a process called hypostatization or reification. Take the word "Man," for example. There are times when it is useful to categorize the creature briefly, his history, his embracing characteristics. From this, if we are not careful of our meanings, it becomes easy to speak of all men as though they were one person. In reality men have been seeking this unreal man for thousands of years. They have found him bathed in blood, they have found him in the hermit's cell, he has been glimpsed among innumerable messiahs, or in meditation under the sacred bô tree; he has been found in the physician's study or lit by the satanic fires of the first atomic explosion.


In reality he has never been found at all. The reason is very simple: men have been seeking Man capitalized, an imaginary creature constructed out of disparate parts in the laboratory of the human imagination. Some men may thus perceive him and see him as either totally beneficent or wholly evil. They would be wrong. They are wrong so long as they have vitalized this creation and call it "Man." There is no Man; there are only men: good, evil, inconceivable mixtures marred by their genetic makeup, scarred or improved by their societal surroundings. So long as they live they are men, multitudinous and unspent potential for action. Men are great objects of study, but the moment we say "Man" we are in danger of wandering into a swamp of abstraction.


Surveying our fossil history perhaps we are not even justified as yet in calling ourselves true men. The word carries subtle implications that extend beyond us into the time stream. If a remote half-human ancestor, barely able to speak, had had a word for his kind, as very likely he did, and just supposing it had been "man," would we approve the usage, the shape-freezing quality of it, now? I think not. Perhaps no true orphan would wish to call himself anything but a traveler. Man in a cosmic timeless sense may not be here.


The point is particularly apparent in the light of a recent and portentous discovery. In 1953 James D. Watson and Francis H.C. Crick discovered the structure of the chemical alphabet out of which all that lives is constituted. It was a strange spiral ladder within the cell, far more organized and complicated than 19th-century biologists had imagined; the tiny building blocks constantly reshuffled in every mating had both an amazing stability and paradoxically, over long time periods, a power to alter the living structure of a species beyond recall. The thing called man had once been a tree shrew on a forest branch; now it manipulates abstract symbols in its brain from which skyscrapers rise, bridges span the horizon, disease is conquered, the Moon is visited.


Molecular biologists have begun to consider whether the marvelous living alphabet which lies at the root of evolution can be manipulated for human benefit. Already some varieties of domesticated plants and animals have been improved. Now at last man has begun to eye his own possible road into the future. By delicate excisions and intrusions could the mysterious alphabet we carry in our bodies be made to hasten our advancements into the future? Already our urban concentrations, with all their aberrations and faults, are future-oriented. Why not ourselves? It is in our power to perpetuate great minds ad infinitum? But who is to judge? Who is to select this future man? There is the problem. Which of us poor orphans by the roadside, even those peering learnedly through the electron microscope, can be confident of the way into the future? Could the fish unaided by nature have found the road to the reptile, the reptile to the mammal, the mammal to man? And how was man endowed with speech? Could men choose their way? Suddenly before us towers the blackest, most formidable bridge of our experience. Across what chasm does it run?


Biologists tell us that in the fullness of times more than ninety percent of the world's past species have perished. The mammalian ones in particular are not noted for longevity. If the scalpal, the excising laser ray in the laboratory, were placed in the hands of one person, some one poor orphan, what would he do? If assured, would he reproduce himself alone? If cruel, would he by indirection succeed in abolishing the living world? If doubtful of the road, would he reproduce the doubt? "Nothing is more shameful than assertion without knowledge," the great Roman statesman and orator Cicero once pronounced as though he had foreseen this final bridge of human pride--the pride of a god without foresight.


After the disasters of the second World War when the dream of perpetual progress died from men's minds, an orphan of this violent century wrote a poem about the great extinctions revealed in the rocks of the planet. It concludes as follows:


I am not sure I love
the cruelties found in our blood
from some lost evil tree in our beginnings.
May the powers forgive and seal us deep
when we lie down,
May harmless dormice creep and red leaves fall
over the prisons where we wreaked our will.
Dachau, Auschwitz, those places everywhere.
If I could pray, I would pray long for this.


One may conclude that the poet was a man of doubt. He did not regret man; he was confident that leaves, rabbits, and songbirds would continue life, as, long ago, a tree shrew had happily forgotten the ruling reptiles. The poet was an orphan in shabby circumstances pausing by the roadside to pray, for he did pray despite his denial; God forgive us all. He was a man in doubt upon the way. He was the eternal orphan of my father's story. Let us then, as similar orphans who have come this long way through time, be willing to assume the risks of the uncompleted journey.


We must know, as that forlorn band of men in Judaea knew when they buried the jar, that man's road is to be sought beyond himself. No man there is who can tell the whole tale. After the small passage of 2,000 years who would deny this truth?



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