Monday, January 03, 2011

First bon mot of the year

"It is more important to live dangerously than to survive."


Oh, Froog, you crazy thrill-seeker, you....


Anonymous said...

Is buying orange soda on sale part of living dangerously?

Froog said...

Er, that was actually supposed to be OJ rather than soda.

I think 'living in China' would count as living dangerously for most people, but I've probably had my 'threat threshold' set unreasonably high.

Anonymous said...

Orange JUICE. Of course. I suppose I will need to NOW deal with the pesky sleep-deprivation issue that has me missing obvious details.

Living in China DOES count as living dangerously for most people. Moi-self included. Reading about your life there makes me wonder (curiously, not comdemningly) at my own level of fortitude.

I suppose, when I think about this, there's a lot of truth in your bon mot-ism, Froog. Well, for me anyway. Looking back at the odd, dangerous and sometimes terrible things from which I've managed to escape, it does put the whole idea of survival in a different light. Boring, staid existence for 100+ years? Or 50 of them packed with chaos and amazing stories? I know I'd take the 50 without a backward glance.

Froog said...

I'm not really an advocate of reckless, adrenalin-junkie, needlessly self-endangering behaviours. The bon mot probably should have been "It is more important to live daringly...

Anonymous said...

Ugh, I didn't mean to imply adrenalin junkie-ism in my comment. That's not what I meant at all.

"Dangerous" is just where you end up sometimes, without really meaning to, like in a sort-of brawl with townies in Oxford.

Or "terrible" in relationships that hurt and feel awful, but one still manages to survive in spite of things that shouldn't have happened but did (I'm speaking for myself here, not you).

"Odd," or "funny" can be any number of things, many of which you write about, living in China.

But no, not jumping out of airplanes or being a heroine addict.

I prefer a life in which I am "daring" enough to care about people or places or things even if it means it may not be reciprocated. I'd take the shortened life-span if it meant I had actually lived caring versus survived neglecting everything.

I don't know what your intent was for your bon mot; that happens to be what I got from it.

Froog said...

Ha, inspired typo! I fear I may from time to time have been a heroine addict! I may even write a post on that...

I'm also thinking of doing a 'Top Five' on near-death experiences. Strangely, the leading contenders all occurred during the space of the few weeks I spent in Fiji.

I'm absolutely with you on 'daring to care' - but I don't see how that would radically shorten your lifespan.... unless the resultant emotional stress is really extreme.

Anonymous said...

That typo is a perfect Froog post...perhaps even making an appearance as 1 of the Top 5 Near Death Experiences?

Hmm, well, I think it’s obvious how caring or having a care can shorten, even radically, one's lifespan. But for the sake of argument, I’m going to go look up definitions forcare.

These ones stand out, though there are more.

- a cause or object of worry, anxiety, concern, etc
- serious attention; solicitude; heed; caution
Top of mind is Wu Yuren. He cares quite a bit about what goes on in his country, from what I have read. Will it shorten his lifespan? Probably; I can’t imagine how spending 212 days imprisoned wouldn’t shorten your lifespan. Radically? I don't know. Is he being tortured? Neglected? How does one KNOW? Is it possible he won't survive this? I don’t know enough about imprisonment in a Chinese prison to know what his chances are. And frankly, it's too horrible to contemplate and I don't even know him. All I can do is send a measly postcard and hope it is 1 of thousands.

His is the sort of caring referenced in my own head when I think of being willing to shorten one's lifespan from 100 years to 50 because of one’s "daring to care." His words in the NY Times article:

"In China, you can sense there is a change," he told me. In the past, people were content to "watch the flames from the opposite side of the river," he said, using the Chinese idiom for regarding somebody else's troubles with indifference. "We always viewed society like that. But now we are the ones who are on fire. Each of us can be a victim. This makes us want to fight."

Anonymous said...

(I have had issues posting comments for a 1/2 hour, I have no idea if this will go anywhere...this is Part 2).

Wu Yuren's sort of caring is quite noble and on a grander scale than when we think about relationships. But even relationships, and the way one may care for another, can shorten life spans immensely. My great-grandmother Winifred died of a feverish illness in the 1920’s, contracted from her best friend and sister-in-law who was dying. Winifred (who was pregnant) was warned by doctors not to visit her because it could put her at risk. The thought of losing her beloved friend without seeing her alive again or saying good-bye was more than she could bear, apparently, so she took the risk and lost. They died within weeks of each other, both pregnant. I've read family letters from that time. That family's double loss was quietly and painfully penned upon paper, my great-grandfather's self-admonishment for not stopping Winifred, but also knowing he could never have stopped her. But it was his own sister, his favorite, through whom he'd met his wife, that he also lost; his great confidante. Yikes, all the makings of Hollywood. Only it's true.

Froog said...

Ah, well, I'd thought you initial remark had been about the sphere of personal relationships.

If it's 'caring' about the wider society, that can be a whole different question - particularly if that caring is translated into action, political action which may make you unpopular with the powers-that-be.

I don't think Wu's current circumstances are too bad - although it's hard to know, hard to imagine exactly what it's like; and we don't like to think about it too much. It's certainly not pleasant. The main problem with the detention centres for pre-conviction prisoners is that they are hellishly overcrowded - very limited opportunities for exercise or socialising, basically stuck in the cell for hours on end, and sharing the cell with up to two dozen other guys. I can't think how I'd be able to sleep in such circumstances; but I guess you get used to it somehow. The major concern is his arm, which appears to have been quite badly injured in the initial beating on the day of his detention, and for which he's had no treatment since. I hope he's not going to lose the use of it altogether, but it's not sounding too good.

He should be out in less than a year, and I don't think anything (else) too bad is going to happen to him. But there are so many other people they've locked up for 5 or 10 or 15 years (Liu Xiaobo sentenced to 11), many of them not classically 'political', not campaigners like Liu or Wu, just people who were trying to do their job right and offended someone important who needed it done wrong, just people who protested about being shafted by employers or property developers or their local government.

It makes me weep and grind my teeth when I hear people - Chinese and foreigners - say that China doesn't need the rule of law, Chinese people don't really care about human rights. People here buy that line until.... someone they know gets shafted, some family member or friend or workmate or neighbour gets banged up in prison on one of these bogus charges. And we are slowly, inexorably moving towards the point where almost everyone in the country knows someone who's been shafted.

This is why I say (hope!) that the Chinese Communist Party's days are numbered.

Froog said...

That was a fascinating story about your great grandmother - inspiring but terribly sad. Do you know what the disease was?

This kind of self-endangering companionship was especially common during the years of the prevalence of TB. That was a remarkable phenomenon - such a common disease, so easily communicable, and so inexorably fatal over quite a long timeframe. I think it must have scarred the psyche of people in the 1800s and early 1900s in a similar way to the AIDS epidemic in our own time, perhaps even more so.

It's hard to know how we might behave in similar situations. I knew a guy at college who had got himself badly burned going back into a flaming car wreck to try and help a friend get out (not sure if he succeeded or not). He rightly won a lot of admiration for that; but in a situation like that I figure adrenalin plays a big part. It must be even harder to try to weigh up - coolly, rationally, and without imminent crisis to goad you on into a snap judgement - the risks of infection to yourself or your unborn child.

You mention her husband's response. It would seem she had surviving children too, one of your grandparents. Do you have any evidence of how they responded to this?

Anonymous said...

Though I have tried to make a difference in bigger ways, there are small ways that are not in the least political, but that still offer a sense of caring enough to propel one into action. In a restaurant once (different one) as a server, I had a tyrant of a boss who would intentionally mess up pizza orders depending on what he needed to offload in the kitchen. You ordered pepperoni, he’d send out salami. You wanted the Greek, he’d give you the Tuscan. He’d do it at lunch time when people had a time crunch and didn’t have time to wait for a new pizza. So they’d grudgingly take the pizza and my boss insisted they pay the full price of whatever pizza they’d eaten. He didn’t tell them this, I was supposed to tell them this. The first time he did it, I removed the entire cost of the pizza from the bill, just assuming the protocol. I got reamed up one side & down the other and threatened with firing. I was too young to know better (19), and was stunned, but also needed the job. And I was angry. What he was doing (once I figured it out) was so unprincipled and sleazy, I wanted to quit but wasn’t sure I could find another job on short notice and I needed the cash. Instead I figured out a way to use a discount card he’d signed up for that year that gave customers 50% off their entire bill if they used the card. A lot of people used it because his place was a popular spot. But when I worked lunch, the number of discount cards increased, amazingly, by exactly the same number of pizzas that were screwed up on my shift. Now it was his turn to catch on to me, but he had no way to prove it since the discount cards were simply punched, not taken. And to top it all off, I usually got a hefty tip because people were paying so much less than they had expected, even for a messed up order. It was a short-lived victory. He fired me a few weeks later, right before Christmas (I forget why, now, but he’d made things up and I didn’t want to fight it). It was the only job from which I’ve ever been terminated and it occurred because I stood up to someone. Not exactly the stuff about which romance novels are written, but an example of my genre of defiance...ahem. But when one lives in a country like the US, whose privilege has afforded the luxury of turning dissent into a Saturday morning decision between marching for (pick your cause) or taking a jog in Golden Gate Park, the valor of the motive begins to pall.

Anonymous said...

I'm shocked that comment above went through, I must have tried 15 different time to make it appear and it never would...I hope you didn't have to moderate 14 others. I have no idea how Bloggers comment protocol works, but I seem to muck it up and a regular basis. Fortunately a Froogvillian I know recommended I begin in a Word doc first. Smart fella, that one.

Anonymous said...

Well, I shall give up trying to reply about Winifred. Blogger seems to take issue with me. Oh well.

Froog said...

So, sorry Blogger's been giving you such grief, CW. (You could always take the e-mail route. And, if you feel the comment is suitable for public consumption, I could post it on your behalf - I don't seem to be having too many problems. Blog owner's privilege!)

I might try changing the comment interface template. Another of my 'regulars' has been telling me that this view causes problems with his workplace firewall (for some intricate and obscure reason that I am not nearly techie enough to understand).