前言

希臘神話中不乏唯美浪漫的愛情故事。這些故事中,神多少都佔有一席之地。不同於基督世界的耶和華或東方的佛陀,希臘的神不具有崇高的神性(transcendent divinity),有的卻是凡夫的貪嗔癡。以下的8個故事,筆者將之分為3種類型。其一是男女熾熱的情愛(Pyramus and Thisbe)、其二是堅如磐石的夫妻之愛(Orpheus & Eurydice); (Baucis & Philemon); (Ceyx & Alcyone)、 其三是求不得的單戀情殤。(Pygmalion & Galatea); (Endymion & Selene); (Daphne & Apollo); ( Alpheus & Arethusa)

I. Pyramus and Thisbe

Love cannot be forbidden. The more that flame is covered up, the hotter it burns. Also love can always find a way. It is impossible to keep apart the two whose hearts are on fire.

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The Tree of Life won the prize of Palme d'Or at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, getting polarized reactions to the director, Terrence Malick's style. Some critics uphold his artistic and technical skills while some disapprove of his fragmented and non-linear narrative. For an amateur filmgoer like me, bizarre”is the first word that comes to my mind when watching this film. Bizarre though it is, the film is unforgettable with some poetic shots leaving indelible impressions on me.

I. A Visual Manifestation of the Book of Job

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「享受吧,一個人的旅行」(Eat, Pay, Love),作者(Eliazath Gilbert)以第一人稱的角度,娓娓道來她的自我追尋。副標題(OneWoman’s Search for Everything across Italy, India and Indonesia)揭示這是一個女人的故事,她的追尋橫跨了義大利、印度及巴里島。故事的主角Lisa在三十幾歲出頭時,就已擁有時下美國女性該擁有的一切,包括有成就的丈夫、鄉村別墅、以及成功的事業,然而她卻感受不到滿足與喜悅,反而因困惑與驚恐而被受煎熬。故事從這裏開展,接下來就描繪她如何放下世人所欣羨的成功表象,轉而去追尋自己真正想要的東西。她用一年的時間,到三個不同的國家旅行,體察三種不同的文化,也發掘出最真實的自我。她在義大利體驗愉悅(pleasure), 在印度發掘虔誠(devotion), 最後在巴里島找到世俗享樂(wordly enjoyment)及靈性超越(divine transcendence)兩者間的平衡。

以西方文學的類別來區分,本書可視為是一本成長小說(Bildungsroman),主角從匱乏到富足,從中學習人生的寶貴經驗(from rags to riches)。此中的匱乏,可以是實際的物質或金錢,亦可以是心靈的枯竭。故事開始於主角的一無所有,必須赤手空拳面對世間的挑戰,但經由勇氣與智慧,或得到貴人的相助,最後終能享有成功的果實。此文類的代表作有狄更斯的大衛考伯菲爾,伯朗特的簡愛等。Lisa從離婚的一無所有,到最後在巴里島找到真愛的過程,就是一部成長小說的典範。用「三」這個數字,代表的是平衡、和諧與禪定。東方的佛教徒或瑜伽行者,在修行時手上的念珠有108顆。108這個數字是三位數,總合加起來是9,亦是三的平方數。西方基督教有三位一體(Holy Trinity)的說法,意思為聖父、聖子及聖靈,可見三所代表的吉祥意涵。作者將她的追尋分成三部分,以呼應它在宗教上的神聖意涵。Lisa在三個不同的文化中,看見潛藏於本性中的渴求,也釋放了真實的自我。透過三種文化的洗禮,她得到了真正的平靜和喜悅,這正是宗教的最終意義----讓世人離苦得樂。

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  • Jul 04 Mon 2011 12:33
  • 父愛

在西方的文學傳統裏,父與子經常處於對立矛盾的關係。天神宙斯(Zeus)必須打敗自己的父親(Cronus)才能稱霸於奧林卑斯山(Mt. Olympus)。伊底帕斯王命中註定會殺死自己的父親,娶自己的母親而後繼承王位。希臘三大悲劇詩人之一Euripides所寫的悲劇Hippolytus中,亦涉及父親(Theseus)對兒子(Hippolytus)的猜忌與不信任,最後導致忠貞的兒子被控與後母(Phaedra)有染,含冤而死。父子之間的爭戰衝突亦是現代電影經常探討的主題。從李安的「推手」到最近坎城影展的得獎影片「永生樹」(The Tree of Life),探討的都是父親的價值觀,強加於兒子身上時,所造成的情感暴力、傷害與束縛。

有別於父子矛盾如此熟悉的主題,本文要列舉一篇英詩來探討父親那種說不出口,卻真實細膩的愛。

那些冬日的星期天 

作者: 羅伯海登

Those Winter Sundays 
by Robert Hayden
 
Sundays too my father got up early 
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold, 
then with cracked hands that ached 
from labor in the weekday weather made 
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him. 
 
I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking. 
When the rooms were warm, he'd call, 
and slowly I would rise and dress, 
fearing the chronic angers of that house, 
 
Speaking indifferently to him, 
who had driven out the cold 
and polished my good shoes as well. 
What did I know, what did I know 
of love's austere and lonely offices? 

 

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     Some readers accuse Amy Chua’s Chinese way of parenting as child abuse while some identify with it. What’s the essential part of Chinese parenting that raises such controversy? To begin with, the demand for excellence imposes great pressure on children, which has a lot to do with the Chinese conception of success. To prepare kids for future success is the grave responsibility of Chinese parents. As Amy claims, “nothing is fun until you are good at it.” The only way to gain fun for everything is through tenacious practice, without which you can never achieve anything significant and therefore you cannot possibly have fun from it. She asserts the value of rote repetition: “Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence” Through rote learning, kids will have a good command of such skills as math, piano or ballet. Only when they get praise or admiraiton can they feel satisfied and confident. And it is the very confidence that makes the once boring activity fun.

     Besides the persistence of excellence in school, Chinese parenting ignores kids’ self-esteem in the process of discipline. A typical Chinese parent will scold kids relentlessly while a Western one is more concerned about kids’ psyches. This is because Chinese parents assume “strength” instead of “fragility” on the part of kids’ characters. As a Chinese proverb says, “Jade must be cut and chiseled to become a useful vessel.” Similarly, a successful person should go through a hard time to cultivate the spirit of perseverance and fortitude. Such traditional Chinese philosophy goes down in history and is still deeply imprinted in our minds. As a parent, Amy claims that “one of the worst things you can do for your child's self-esteem is to let them give up.”For her, the best gift for kids is the building up of their confidence, which is to let them know that they can do something they previously thought they couldn't. In her view, the ultimate goal of Chinese parenting is to let kids gain self-esteem instead of losing it. Kids’ loss of self-esteem by Chinese parents’ harsh discipline will eventually go away and be replaced with a new-born sense of pride and satisfaction.

     In conclusion, the true essence of Chinese parenting is to protect kids by “preparing them for the future, letting them see what they're capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.” In contrast, the Western style of parenting puts more emphasis on kids’ individuality, “encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment.

     Which is better? To discipline or not to discipline? To what extent can parents discipline kids without overexertion on both sides? One should always remember that love is the answer to everything. Chinese and Western parents use different ways to express their love towards their kids, that’s all. The crucial point is that kids must learn to appreciate the love. Without kids’ appreciation and acceptance of parental love, each way of parenting is futile.

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Conversations with God (與神對話) by Neale Donald Walsch is a morale booster meant to encourage the wretched people struck hard by fate. It may well be called a modern version of the Book of Job. Job is a God-fearing and righteous man, just as Neale is an ordinary, law-abiding guy. Yet, both are afflicted with misery for no reason --- the one suddenly deprived of all the possessions and cursing in dust and ashes, while the latter breaking his neck in a car accident, losing his job and becoming a  homeless bum struggling to stay alive. Both have consoling friends to help them weather through the difficulty. But Job's are beguiling, God-blaspheming ones while Neale's are kind-hearted ones who help him survive the harsh living condition. Both stories deal with a complete loser full of anger and bitterness toward God. Both have the theme of redemption embodied through the repentace for human ignorance. Through God's enlightening words, both characters are awakened from their dark world and regain their life.

Job's God calls from a whirlwind, showing him how little he knows about His creation. Overwhelmed by God's power, Job acknowledges his weakness and limited  knowledge. His repentance earns him twice as much property as before and an extremely long life. Similarly, Neale's God awakens him from his sleep, questioning and instructing him about the true meaning of life. Enlightened by God's words, he becomes a spiritual messenger and a bestselling author who devotes himself to preaching God's wisdom. Like Job, he is rewarded a prosperous life because of his faith in God. The following are God's inspiring words for Neale and for us:  

The way to reduce the pain which you associate with earthly experiences and events—both yours and those of others—is to change the way you behold them.

I tell you this: You are your own rule-maker. You set the guidelines. And you decide how well you have done; how well you are doing. For you are the one who has decided Who and What You Really Are—and Who You Want to Be. And you are the only one who can assess how well you’re doing.

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speech at Stanford, 2005

 

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Based on Roland Barthes’ analysis of the flood in Paris, 1955, this essay aims to examine the ravage of tsunami in Japan, 2011 with a similar semiotic approach.

The big flood brought by a massive tsunami of March 11, 2011, caused numerous deaths and serisous damage in the northeast coast of Japan. Despite the trials and agonies inflicted by Nature, the flood takes on two implications--- festivity and solidarity. 

To begin with, the so-called festivity means the abrupt change of the daily routine. In a festival, ordinary things are suspended and replaced with something unusal. So is the phenomenon of flood. In a flood, everyday objects, like houses, cars, trees, even landscape itself are all displaced. All is torn away from their roots---houses carried away, cars reduced to their roofs, household items drifting everywhere. Such a threatening sight dazzles our gaze but distances the real horror experienced by the victims or survivors of the disaster. Either the newspaper photographs or TV broadcast are a collective means of consumption of the flood. When we watch the flood scenes, our sensation remains calm, occasionally with pity and fear elicited by sensational scenes, like separated family reunited or ferocious flood engulfing everything in its path. All this is a break from the ordinary life, and what we see is already a finished act. That’s why we can just feel its terror vicariously. For those who are not the afflicted residents, the flood becomes a sensational show without the real horror of a catastrophe. For some, the flood has even created a more accessible world, a world manipulable with the pleasure a child takes when playing with his toys. The swampy wasteland littered with rubble is the replica of children’s sand castle---the houses no more than cubes, the cars stuck in mud, the utensils lying untidily. An ordinary landscape becomes unusual with the submerge of everything in a landscape. Unconsciously, each spectator of the flood experiences it as a festival in the sense that it disrupts the order of daily life (power blackout, shortage of clean water), turns the inside out (household items swept out onto the ground), tears the lofty apart (the high-rise buildings knocked down), and most importantly, it elicits the hidden emotions when witnessing a show, be they fear, pity or even relish (for a rival country).  

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海明威於1899年出生於美國的伊利諾州,從小喜歡釣魚或打獵等戶外活動,他熱愛大自然,也因此他的作品多有人與大自然接觸的經驗。此外,他本身也相當喜愛拳擊、鬥牛以及足球,是位喜愛運動的作家。高中時期開始,海明威在寫作方面逐漸嶄露頭角,並擔任學報編輯。高中畢業後,他不顧父親的反對,堅持不就讀大學,而在堪城星報(Kansas City Star) 當記者。數月之後,他辭去記者一職,參加了美國軍隊,希望能在前線親身體驗第一次世界大戰。雖然海明威身材健壯,但由於視力不好,被分發到救傷隊工作。在戰場上,海明威充分體驗到戰爭的殘酷與無情,人類在死亡邊緣的無助與渺小。也因此他早期的作品都與戰爭相關。在一次大戰之後,他繼續擔任作者一職,先後在多家報社工作,並開始了他的寫作生涯。在這期間,他陸續發表了一些作品,但成績並不是很理想。直到1926年,海明威發表了一部長篇小說《旭日又升》(The Sun Also Rises) ,藉由故事表達人們在戰後感到失落與茫然。這部作品讓他開始嶄露頭角,隨後的《戰地春夢》(A Farewell to Arms) 、《戰地鐘聲》(For Whom the Bell Tolls)和《老人與海》(The Old Man and The Sea)都是相當受到喜愛的長篇小說。其中又以晚期作品《老人與海》最受到肯定,海明威因這部小說得到普立茲獎與諾貝爾文學獎。 

《老人與海》的主題似乎很明確,人對抗大自然,即便最後一無所獲,仍堅毅不屈,不因挫折而喪志。故事中的老人費盡千辛萬苦,終於把魚釣到,但返回港口時,發現魚肉早已在回返途中被大魚吃掉,最後他得到的,只是魚的殘骸和眾人的嘲笑罷了。看似單調的情節,卻富含深意。大部分的人把它解讀成海明威式的人生哲學---(man v.s. nature),故事凸顯的是不畏惡劣的環境,仍奮力抵抗,雖敗猶榮的強人。但另一種詮釋卻更加精采。老人辛苦所捕獲的魚,不就是我們一生汲汲營營所追求的各種有形、無形的成就嗎?學位、名利、財富等,就是老人手中的那條魚。只是當我們生命要結束時,就如老人返港之時,卻發現手邊空無一物,唯有殘骸以見證一生所經歷之奮鬥罷了。殘骸何用,只能引來眾人訕笑,但我們卻還要緊緊抱持著它,捨不得放手。所謂一生的成就,到頭來只成空,在他人眼裏不過是廢物罷了。,只能在自己的記憶中憑弔。莎士比亞在皆大歡喜(As You Like it) 一劇中,早已看透此生命相狀。老人與海的主題,可以用莎翁的經典佳句來涵括: ---

"a soldier, / Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,  / Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel, / Seeking the bubble reputation / Even in the cannon's mouth."---老人拼命與大自然搏鬥,就像火氣方剛、準備壯烈犧牲當砲灰的士兵。老人為了證明自己的勇氣,士兵為了留取丹心照汗青。但那顆丹心恐怕來不及被寫入歷史,就已淪為泡沫了吧!

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I. 引言

希臘神話中,有著名的三朵花,分別是水仙、風信子和秋牡丹。它們的模樣色彩,和今日見到的大不相同。拿水仙來說吧,古希臘的水仙是銀紫色的,跟現在的黃、白色差別甚大。但這不影響我們對它美好的想像。為何希臘神話對這些花情有獨鍾,並為它們留下傳誦千古的一頁呢? 答案有二。第一是地理環境的因素。地中海的風情,有的是崎嶇的丘陵、嶙峋的島嶼、湛藍的蒼穹與壯闊的大海。在如此肅穆的氛圍中,偶爾望見從岩壁處伸展出的彩色花朵,那種驚喜,就像是得到上天的禮物。花的神話於焉誕生,目的是要讓珍貴稀有的東西永垂不朽。第二個原因是贖罪。在遠古文化未開的時代,血祭時有所聞。當農作欠收導致飢荒時,就必須犧牲個人,將他的血灑在大地上以祭祀大地。因為人須要吃的一切取之於大地,我們是被大地所滋養;當大地變貧脊的時候,我們須要反過來滋養它.”There must be a deep connection between themselves and the earth and that their blood, which was nourished by the corn, could in turn nourish it at need.” 花之神話的誕生,無非在掩飾這種殘忍的謀殺。在神話的歌詠中,美男子的死變得如此淒美不朽,我們再也感受不到血祭的殘酷野蠻!

II. 三朵花的故事

Narcissus (西洋水仙)

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