Looking at the stars

A former student, Wong Oi Wah, shared a quote on Facebook, which resonated with me instantly:

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Oscar Wilde

How come I was not aware of this quote? I would have loved it and embraced it instantly.

We like to compare ourselves with each other, and we always end up with the conclusion that other people are luckier than we are. They are either born more gorgeous, or more clever, or richer, or they are luckier in life: they have a better job; they get promoted more quickly; they have a happier family; they have a larger flat and a bigger car and a fatter paycheck and a more impressive job title ……

And I have nothing.

I often wonder why there are so many unhappy people in Hong Kong. Yes, the costs of living are going up all the time. Flats are becoming more and more expensive. Jobs are becoming more and more competitive and demanding. But if we are constantly looking for things to complain about, then there will always be millions of other things to complain about.

If I’m lucky, it’s not because I have a stable job and a decent salary. It’s because in my childhood, I literally lived in the gutter. After the brothel (see last post), we (my mother, my sisters, and I; my father had passed away) moved to Tung Tau Village, and lived in what they called in those days ‘the squatters’ area’. A squatters’ area was made up of small wooden huts: no electricity; no water supply; no nothing. If a fire broke out, the whole area could be swept away in an hour. After Tung Tau, we moved to what they called a resettlement area in those days: 7-storey buildings consisting of 120-square foot rooms. Now, we had electricity. But still no toilet; no bathroom; no kitchen.

At night, we could literally look at the stars, because there was no television, and inside it was unbearably hot.

I lived in such environment until age 27. Yet, like most of my contemporaries, I was happy. We were optimistic. We seldom complained. We either settled for a humble life, or took our future into our own hands. We were all in the gutter, but some of us were looking at the stars.

Today in Hong Kong, some people may be jealous of Lee Ka Shing, thinking that he can have anything he wants. But is Lee Ka Shing really exempt from worries, regrets, and remorse?

On that level, all of us are in the gutter. But there is one thing we can choose to do – we can choose to look at the stars.

(Thanks to Alice Chau, who forwarded the following PPT, which I have re-titled as ‘Things you will understand at 60’. But don’t wait until you turn 60 to view it; it will be too late.

things you will understand at 60


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