Would you rather be a man or a woman?

The other day, while discussing the many difficulties that a woman needs to face during her journey of life, I concluded: “I have never wanted to be a woman.”

But a former student, Andrea, proclaimed, “I have never wanted to be a man.”

I met up with Andrea and Clairine, another former student, today, and over lunch, I asked them the very question, “What’s so good about being a woman in today’s society?”

Interestingly, Clairine sided with Andrea, and they started to enumerate the advantages of being a woman, and the disadvantages of being a man, in present-day society.

Listening intently, I came to realise the huge difference between our perceptions of the life that members of the opposite sex are experiencing. For example, they see men’s financial responsibility for the family as a great burden, while I don’t see it as a source of stress. I see a woman’s major chapters of life as sources of worry, but they didn’t experience them as worrisome.

Perhaps we can only fully understand the joys and sorrows of the opposite sex by living our life a second time, in a different gender role. But for me the problem is: If I could live my life a second time, I would still want to be a man!


To love, or to hate?

(written August 9, 2013)


我在香港出生,對香港有感情(對事物有感情是好事啊!),如果有一天這城市沉淪下去,我也無處可逃。我回想沙士期間,298人死去,百業消條,但香港人是多麼沉着應戰,多麼彼此關心和包容,結果香港沒有死去,反而,近年事無大小只顧爭鬥的社會風氣,卻令我憂心忡忡。大家似乎一下子失去解決矛盾的能力,不懂得agree to disagree, 只求利用羣衆壓力和語言暴力去壓倒對方。

Parker J. Palmer 在To Know as We are Known: Education as a spiritual journey中,強調兩個概念:community,和love。如果教育是一個尋求真理(truth)的過程,這過程必須在community中進行,因為truth不是一件object,由某些人獨自「擁有」;truth是在community中,通過know和be known的不斷探索,而得到的understanding。佛教也很強調衆生的彼此依存(inter-being; inter-connectedness; inter-dependence)。

為什麼要追求truth,Palmer提出這是基於對人類的愛: Knowing is loving。我們都會自認有愛心,但Palmer指出,To control is easy; to love is difficult。這是多麼令人深思! To control是實現我們的primeval instincts,但to love 卻需要我們放下自己的偏見,權力慾,甚或自我,甚至不怕被傷言,To love着實不易啊。

我們可以選擇to love, 或 to hate,作為我們的生存哲學;後者似乎是部份傳媒、政客、網上討論區居民的選擇。我選擇前者(雖然很多時候我都做不到,這是修為不夠),我的原因?因為我只能在這地球上活一次。

追隨 truth, community 和 love,並非表示我們對不公義的事情不作出批評,但是批評的出發點,是要發泄心中的憤怒,表現自我正義感(這是文革時期的我),滿足欺凌天性,希望落井下石,希望同歸於盡?抑或基於愛心,希望共同建設一個更美好社會?如果是後者的話,我們當知除了公審、辱駡,用粗暴的語言外,實有更多更有效的溝通方法。而且,正如聖雄甘地說,我們可以Be the change that you wish to see in the world。

當然,這並不表示我們全部人都要成為革命家,我想起Mother Teresa的名言:“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”


If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. ….

Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offense, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes. (1 Corinthians 13)



The ‘Like’ on Facebook

What exactly do we like, when we click on ‘Like’ on FB?

I sometimes see the interesting scenario of people ‘liking’ an update from a poster (the person who posts) who is ill, or has had a run of bad luck, or something like that. And I can’t help wondering: What exactly are these people ‘liking’?

I seriously think that FB should give us another sympathy button which means something like ‘Cheer up’, ‘Hang in there’, ‘Poor girl’, ‘Don’t worry’, etc., so that we don’t appear to be building our happiness on other people’s suffering.

like at CIY u

From Carmen Lee’s presentation on digital language/ symbols in the public spaces in Hong Hong, The 5th International Roundtable on Discourse Analysis; City University of Hong Kong, May 23-25, 2013.

Be a doer, not a critic

(1) 我們對事情的認識通常經過多重過濾,究竟我對事情的全部知道多少?
(2) 我對事物的判斷會受制於我的出身,我的經驗,我的遭遇,我能夠有多客觀分析事物? (‘We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are. – Anais Nin.)
(3) 站在道德高地論斷別人容易不過,這是沒有成本的,但易地而处,我肯定我會有更高的道德情操去處理有關事情嗎,尤其是當個人利益攸關?


If I try my best not to fall into the habit of criticising, this has to do with a segment of my past. There was a time in my younger days when I liked reading books on self-improvement to find out how I could be more ‘successful’. Of course, today, my conceptions of success have changed quite a bit, but one maxim in one of the books, written by Dr Wayne Dyer, has stuck with me ever since. Dyer said, if you want to be more successful:


Struck by Murphy’s Law

Murphy’s Law: ‘Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.’

The other day, a student teacher learnt this lesson, the hard way, as her PPT for the lesson I was to observe wouldn’t open in the classroom in the last minute. (But she still shone without the PPT; she is a gifted teacher.)

Then it happened to me. In the last 3 months, I had been coordinating a two-site joint video-conferenced lesson between a class in a Hong Kong primary school, and another class in a primary school in Foshan. We had as many as 5 trial runs, to make sure that the lesson would be 100% safe.

Yesterday was the big day, as teachers from other schools in Hong Kong turned up to see this lesson. They were expecting to see a highly interactive English lesson between the 2 classes. Everyone involved, the teachers, the students at the 2 places, and me, were excited about the forthcoming lesson.

Then one hour before the lesson was due to start, the Hong Kong school lost all Internet connection. We called PCCW immediately. which said that the soonest they could have the problem fixed was 3 hours. There was nothing we could do but to abort the video-conferenced lesson. Luckily the Hong Kong teacher had a Plan B, and taught a ‘traditional’ lesson for observation.

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Damn!

Which story do you prefer?


(Pi Patel)”In both stories, the ship sinks, my entire family dies, and I suffer.”
“Yes, that’s true.”
“So tell me, since it makes no factual difference to you and your can’t prove the question either way, which story do you prefer? Which is the better story, the story with animals or the story without animals?”
Mr Okamoto: “That’s an interesting question …”
Mr Chiba:”The story with animals.”
Mr Okamoto: “Yes. The story with animals is the better story.”
Pi Patel: “Thank you. And so it goes with God.”

(The Life of Pi, Yann Martel, p 424)
Paul’s note: The story with animals is the ‘beautiful’ version, in which Pi conquers his fear of the Bengal tiger that threatens his life, and insists on treating the tiger with benevolence. In the other version, the ugly version, Pi unleashes his savage instinct, and kills and eats the heart of the cook who has killed his mother.





 在愛爾蘭停留了五天,每天都致電回家跟母親聊聊。母親問:「吃得好嗎?」 「除了早餐,所有正餐都在療養院和神父一起吃。」我答道。 「甚麼?」母親高聲大叫:「老遠飛到歐洲,只吃老人院的食物?」
           有天我問神父:「生病時,會否感到沮喪?」 「基督徒都要揹起十字架追隨耶穌,」神父答道:「十字架有不同形式,有貧困,有逼迫,也有疾病。儘管如此,能夠追隨耶穌,是福樂。」 「你怕不怕死?」我又問。 「不怕,」神父說:「死亡是通往永生之門。自己愈接近死亡,愈為那些未有信仰的人憂心和難過。我帶着盼望離開世界,他們是帶着甚麼呢?」
           到了道別的早晨,神父問:「你不是說星期六才走嗎?」 「今天是星期六。」我回答。 神父拍一拍自己的頭,皺眉道:「這裏不中用了。」 「明年再見。」我握着神父的一雙手。 「謝謝你來看我。」神父也握着我的一雙手,良久也沒有放開。