The Amazing Spirit of Living, Proselytizing, and English to Chinese Translations

Yesterday I went to see Nick Vujicic, a young man who was born without arms and legs, speak at the CUHK Chapel.  My classmate Evert had mentioned it to me last week, and at first, I had no desire to attend, but after a day or two, I figured I might as well join in on what would be a unique opportunity.  I was not sure what to expect, but had only heard that this limbless man was a motivational speaker, and figured I could use some motivation.

The stunning visual presence of a fully grown man without arms or legs really forces you to rethink what it means to struggle.  Even more stunning is this man’s emotional presence, as he is simply beaming with life and love.

I really appreciated the bulk of his talk, reminding us to let go of the suffering we largely self-impose on ourselves, and look towards greater goals in life.  I was actually so moved, there were tears in my eyes.  It made me realize that I have been suffering quite a lot in the past few years, still tormented by the loss of Mom.  I try hard to move forward in life, and I think I’ve done a halfway decent job, but at the same time, healing takes so much time.  I wonder when it can ever stop being this painful.

Nick spoke about how at 8 years old he wanted to kill himself, and at 10, he actually tried to!  It reminded me of my most immature thoughts on losing Mom.  The first year of her diagnosis, I’d declared that there would be no way I could live without her, and I’d just as well kill myself if she lost her battle against cancer.  It was a very naive notion, and I’m grateful that I grew the strength to overcome it. Yet today I still find myself feeling sorry for myself, and that is something I still need to grow past.

Living to experience the great gift of life and to contribute to the entirety of this world should not be taken so lightly.  It’s an amazing gift that we often forget to appreciate.  Seeing this limbless man exude such incredible fervor and energy was quite inspirational.

I’m glad I attended the talk, but of course I ended up walking out before it completely finished, as Nick began to proselytize a bit more than I’m comfortable with.  Nick spoke about faith, and more specifically, a faith connected to the Christian notion of God.  Now I’m all for people finding faith, and the whole concept to me is quite admirable — that one can take such an intangible and unprovable notion and use it to motivate himself to do such greatness is remarkable.  I’m also all for people sharing how faith has impacted their lives, and thence influencing others to seek out faith.  However, I am not impressed when one, so steeped in his own amazement with faith, insists on impressing upon others the very same methods.

Firstly, I am not entirely all that religious nor faithful in many ways.  I do claim to be a practicing Buddhist, but in many ways am very ignorant about my own religion.  I use Buddhism as my vehicle for faith, for entrusting that there are greater plans for me, or at least mankind and not me specifically, and that with diligence and persistent goodness, good things will come to me and to others.

Secondly, I am not terribly well-versed in the Christian faith in spite of being brought up in the United States.  As any of my sisters would tell you, I usually shunned any Christian media, considering it a shameless act of proselytizing.  I have, however, started to try to understand it better, and at least I watched the Ten Commandments in its entirety last year!  But I have to say, things about Jesus are rather freaky to me.  I hope I don’t offend anyone, but check it out — Nick said that he felt compelled to follow God because Jesus did the most remarkable thing in the world — he defied death by coming back to life.  Now why on earth anyone would want to follow such a person is beyond me.  I’d be completely freaked out and scared (to death) of any such person!  It’s that which would indicate devilry to me!

I see death as a natural part of life.  We don’t always die at the most timely moments, and indeed, one can say there never is one — but just as there is life, there must be death.  It is not reversible, it is not predictable, it is not controllable.  Death happens, and to reverse it would seem so entirely counter to anything normal to me.  Honestly, if I met someone whom I saw die come back to life, I’d run.

Further, Nick explained how it was his mission to come meet God in Heaven with others, and that if he came alone, it would disappoint God.  I’m not sure if that sounds like a benevolent person, but rather a greedy person.  I supposed if you think of all the people who did not also go to Heaven as being un-saved and suffering, then God isn’t all that bad for wanting everyone up there with him, but being that the conditions to being in Heaven and away from Hell is to “find God,” whatever that means, I’m not sure I feel safe following this guy.  Seems pretty sketchy to me.

I’m just trying to put forth my natural instincts towards Jesus.  I’m not saying Buddhism is much better, and it is also a religion I struggle with.  I’m not sure how I feel about some of the theories of Pure Land and meditation, but I do agree with the notion that life is a state of flux, and that it’s always the material things that somehow bring us down.  On the other hand, I can’t seem to grapple the notion of also letting go the immaterial things – like love for your family and friends in order to achieve Nirvana.

And now the final thought on this talk — there was a Cantonese translator at the event, and I thought he did a stand-out job.  I was really impressed at how quickly and accurately he was able to work, especially since Chinese and English can be so incongruent in terms of structure.  Often you can’t even begin to translate English into Chinese without at least hearing the entire sentence first, since Chinese often has a reverse sentence structure from English.

That the translator was able to come up also with so many apt words in Chinese for what Nick was saying in English was also incredible.  There really does exist a body of words in Chinese or English that cannot be directly translated into the other, and sometimes it may take more or fewer words to express a thought. Similarly, I was amused with the very slight inconsistencies presented by the challenge of such translation, and seeing how neither language can ever be entirely exactly translated.

So it was great fun watching this skillful translator, and also learning how to use words I’d already known to fit the English words.

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