Yosi didn’t want to kill it, but the snake was faster and more deadly than any of us.
The Banded Krait is poisonous, and there’s no anti-venom if you get bitten. Your only option is to be happy you died on a tropical island. I keep thinking back to that moment as I’m locked down in my apartment here in China.
This isn’t the first time — and won’t be the last time — that China has had to deal with chaos, crisis, or upheaval. Chinese civilization extends uninterrupted for thousands of years into the past. Its citizens have seen those years have seen change, disruption, and chaos, and now boast a youth population that constantly tries to balance the best of what has been with the best of what can be.
Sometimes our actions carry the memory of ancient wisdom. To try and understand the local response to the Coronavirus outbreak, I turned to Chinese proverbs. The following 15 proverbs instruct how to act when it is time to act, explain how to stay compassionate when times are hard, and urge us to maintain a sense of balance.
The last 4 opened my eyes to the nuances of collective culture. I thought collectivity was nepotism and a disdain for meritocracy. But thinking collectively means considering how your decisions affect your loved ones for generations to come.
“In nature there are unexpected storms; in life unpredictable vicissitudes.”
Flip a coin — heads or tails. Disaster and delight are two sides of the same coin. This proverb tells us that life is as predictable as the clouds or the wind. It’s Vedic in its sense of equanimity, to neither worry too much in the face of calamity, nor rejoice too much in the face of fortune.
“Sit tight in the fishing boat despite the rising wind and waves.”
Those unexpected storms will rock the boat. But it’s best to remain calm in the face of crisis.
“A boat can’t always sail with the wind; an army can’t always win battles.”
After the winds have died down, the unexpected storm has passed, and you’re safe in the fishing boat, don’t expect it to be smooth sailing. Even with the wind at your back. There will always be difficulties and setbacks.
“The moon waxes only to wane, and water surges only to overflow.”
Water can give life to the crop or flood the farmer. Water will fill any vessel its given, but will always be restored to balance. The Taoists knew that the funny thing about extremes is that they turn into their opposite eventually. To the Taoists, the idea that “this, too, shall pass” included nature as well as human affairs.
Knowing When To Act
“Unless you beat a snake to death, it will cause endless trouble in the future.”
As a practicing Hindu, Yosi takes ahimsa very seriously. He didn’t want to kill that snake, but he had to.
“Face odd things fearlessly and their fearsomeness will disappear.”
Alarming situations have a way of developing and then disappearing. So, when faced with frightening things, don’t be frightened.
Have you ever watched toddlers toddle? They’re fascinating. Watch a kid fall flat on their face. There’s a pause. Then an adult rushes in oh-my-godding and are-you-okaying. After seeing the distress on the adult faces, the child decides something is wrong and starts to cry.
Sometimes, they look to us to see how they should react. So don’t let the incident hijack your emotions. Especially when emotions won’t help solve the problem.
A better translation might be, “As much as possible, be like Captain Holt. 99!”
“Just as it takes bitter medicine to properly cure a disease, it takes blunt advice to put us on the right track.”
Buckley’s entire marketing is based around a tacit acceptance of it being the most effective simply because it’s the least palatable. Nobody is happy about being quarantined. Quarantine tastes terrible. It must work!
“No melon is completely round, and no person is perfect.”
“Near vermilion, one is stained pink; near ink, one is stained black.”
This is what Jim Rohn was channeling when he suggested we’re the average of the 5 people with whom we spend the most time.
“A man is prone to stumble when walking, and a horse is prone to stumble when galloping.”
One can’t avoid making mistakes; what is important is to recognize and correct one’s mistakes.
Instead of panicking or blaming when faced with trouble, let’s work together and keep in mind that this is how development happens.
“A fall in the pit, a gain in your wit.”
After having suffered a setback, one will have gained experience and wisdom if only one can learn something from it.
“A word, once it is uttered, cannot be overtaken even by swift horses.”
“What you hear may be false, but what you see is true.”
“A single thread can’t make a cord, nor a single tree a forest”
“The previous generation plants the trees under whose shade future generation rests.”
I think of these together to mean that we must be careful with our language. Words are powerful, and we can’t unsay them after we’ve said them. Words have the power to divide, a power that makes them particularly dangerous. We are best to consider ourselves trees in a forest. Together, we are better.
Not only should our work be to plant the trees under whose shade we don’t intend to sit, but also to remember that no single tree does a forest make.