πάντα χωρεῖ και οὐδὲν μένει
everything is on the move and nothing stays
– Heraclitus of Ephesus
Since tomorrow will be the first day of Chinese New Year, I guess it would be good to reflect a bit on my new year resolution~
A while ago I liked to listen to a song sung by a Taiwanese pop star 王力宏 entitled ‘依然爱你’ (well, the title has nothing to do with what I am going to say below, so please allow it to stay untranslated). There is one line of the song that attracts my interest: 唯一不变的是一直在变。The only unchanging (fact) is that it is always changing. Listening to this line, it makes me think of family members, friends, acquaintences, and strangers who have been walking in and out of my life, think of work and study environments, life and travel sceneries which are changing constantly. Sun sets and sun rises; every morning waking up, I ponder a little bit: What makes today’s me different from yesterday’s me? What links me to yesterday and what connects me to my future? Is there anything that will stay unchanged eternally?
In a corner of my heart, I have always been believing a kind of eternal truth. When I was young, Bible was a fairy tale, believing that everything in it was going to stay eternally unchanged. The kind of ‘eternal immutability’ that I expected is like the planet of my imaginary universe, which loyally goes around the sun over and over again, protecting it for billions and zillions of light years without any deviations in any form. However when I grow older, it seems like the truth is ever changing. Let me illustrate from one example:
The Masoretic Hebrew Text of Psalm 23 looks like this:
1 מִזְמ֥וֹר לְדָוִ֑ד יְהוָ֥ה רֹ֜עִ֗י לֹ֣א אֶחְסָֽר׃
2 בִּנְא֣וֹת דֶּ֭שֶׁא יַרְבִּיצֵ֑נִי עַל־מֵ֖י מְנֻח֣וֹת יְנַהֲלֵֽנִי׃
3 נַפְשִׁ֥י יְשׁוֹבֵ֑ב יַֽנְחֵ֥נִי בְמַעְגְּלֵי־צֶ֗֜דֶק לְמַ֣עַן שְׁמֽוֹ׃
4 גַּ֤ם כִּֽי־אֵלֵ֙ךְ בְּגֵ֪יא צַלְמָ֡וֶת לֹא־אִ֨ירָ֤א רָ֗ע כִּי־אַתָּ֥ה עִמָּדִ֑י שִׁבְטְךָ֥ וּ֜מִשְׁעַנְתֶּ֗ךָ הֵ֣מָּה יְנַֽחֲמֻֽנִי׃
5 תַּעֲרֹ֬ךְ לְפָנַ֙י׀ שֻׁלְחָ֗ן נֶ֥גֶד צֹרְרָ֑י דִּשַּׁ֖נְתָּ בַשֶּׁ֥מֶן רֹ֜אשִׁ֗י כּוֹסִ֥י רְוָיָֽה׃
6 אַ֤ךְ׀ ט֤וֹב וָחֶ֣סֶד יִ֭רְדְּפוּנִי כָּל־יְמֵ֣י חַיָּ֑י וְשַׁבְתִּ֥י בְּבֵית־יְ֜הוָ֗ה לְאֹ֣רֶךְ יָמִֽים׃
Now let’s watch the following performance of the song:
The above performance is a Chinese song based completely on the Chinese translation of Psalm 23. Comparing the two versions, I want to ask, what makes the Hebrew written Psalm 23 and the Chinese singing of 诗篇 23 the same? Are the words the same? But, the languages are different. Is it the content? But, are you thinking about the same content as I would think about it? It brings me back to my original question: What actually stays unchanged forever?
Maybe just like the line sung by the Taiwanese pop star, the so-called immutable fact is that it will always be changing. Finally I have to concede ‘eternity’ cannot be captured, I find myself not being able to say it out loud, I cannot express it with words, even though it seems like once in a while I feel it lurking somewhere in my heart. Maybe it is like the shooting star or the fireworks that fade away easily, leaving only some beautiful memory, passing down from one epoch to another epoch in various forms representing the original glory (cf. Jan Assmann’s cultural memory). Or maybe it is only when everything – even the sun and the moon, the heaven and the earth – has been constructed and deconstructed, that ‘eternity’ is to be discovered there with no beginning, no end, only continuing (cf. Derrida’s deconstruction?). I want to know, sincerely wish to capture something that will stay eternally unchanged, but it slips across my fingertips…At the end, I can only believe, believing that some form of ‘eternity’ is there…
It reminds me of the beginning of Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
This year, I want to make Romans 12:2 my new year resolution:
2 καὶ μὴ συσχηματίζεσθε τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, ἀλλὰ μεταμορφοῦσθε τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοὸς εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τί τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ εὐάρεστον καὶ τέλειον.
Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.
I wish you a very happy Chinese New Year in 2012!! 🙂