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【英文書評】周保松 小王子的領悟

2016/8/22 — 11:37

【文:Jasper Wong】

What is Love? What is Friendship? How do we keep our innocence? How do we not lose hope, when everything around us fails?

These questions, taken out of context, seem too abstract for answers. In the buzz of Hong Kong, we tend not to think about abstract questions; life’s too full without them! But as we lose ourselves in the world of the Little Prince, these questions, so often neglected, acquire an immediacy of their own.

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In this short book, Chow Po Chung weaves between the world of the Little Prince and the world we live in today. The aim is philosophical: to draw lessons that apply as much to the little prince as ourselves.

In the paragraphs below, I give a short summary of the argument; readers should note that the nuances of Chow’s argument cannot be recaptured in a few words!

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Innocence: Adults often say that they miss “the innocence of childhood”. But what is the innocence of childhood? Why do people lose them? Why don’t we do something about it? Innocence, for both the little prince and for us, is the pursuit of dreams for its own sake. An innocent child does what she does just because she loves what she does. Long-term calculations do not come in. Other people’s expectations do not come in. The pursuit of dreams is all that matters.

Can we keep this simple pursuit as we enter into the adult world? To an extent: we can deliberately ignore other people’s expectations, and ignore any calculation of long-term achievements, when we devote parts of our lives to activities we love.

Love: Adults often say they like the feeling of falling in love. But why do we put so much value on falling in love? What about all the pain and anxiety in the process? And what of the risk of suffering when relationships fail? When a person falls in love, that person attaches herself emotionally to another person. In every such situation, we commit ourselves to something that we can’t control: that person can enrich us or deprive us in previously unimaginable ways. Risk is inherent in love.

Friendship: how do we strike a balance between dreams and calculations? How do we keep our courage to love, despite its inherent risks? Friendship is the answer. Friends understand and appreciate our dreams: we can talk about them go after them without need of gain or outside recognition. Friends take on a moral responsibility towards us: by developing a unique relationship with us, they undertake to be there for us, in good times or bad.

Hope: Can friendship flourish in a divided and unfair society? Does it relate us to people who are not yet our friends, or is it an escape from social and political realities? Can considerations of friendship shield us from the powers that are, with their money, violence, and terror? First, no matter how unfavourable the climate, friendship is possible. Our need of friends is as deep as our need to love and our need to dream. Second, friends don’t give us not an escape from wider society. We don’t know how or when we can make friends.

To have the best environment for friends, we need a society that is open, free, and fair. Putting it the other way, it is not easy to make or retain friends in a society that is closed, unfree, or unfair. Finally, even if unjust regimes are popped up with money, violence, and terror, their influence is never lasting: they cannot support meaningful friendships. Leaders in such regime cannot pursue their dreams, because their decision is primarily motivated by keeping their power. And they universally lack in love, for they are unable to enjoy relationships spontaneously made between unique individuals. However threatening, unjust regimes are only powerful as numbers on paper. They have little of substance. 

 

(Jasper Wong is PCLL candidate at HKU. He is interested in Philosophy, Music, and Career Advising. )

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