The Bomber’s Moon by Betty Vander Els

This fictional treatment of missionary children escaping World War II China reads almost like a memoir. In a brief search on the internet, I couldn’t find any information about the author, Betty Vander Els, but I would almost bet that this story is a fictionalized version of her own experiences or those of a very close friend. In the book in 1942 “Ruth”, about eleven years old, and her younger brother, Simeon, are sent away to an emergency boarding school for missionary kids so that they won’t end up in the concentration camp of Weihsien, captured by the approaching Japanese. However, their emergency school site is no safer from Japanese bombing raids than their homes were, and so the children are evacuated over the Himalayas to Calcutta.

The contrast between the children’s petty day-to-day concerns and the enormous events that are happening around them is one focus of this book. Ruth considers herself to be a naughty girl. She gets spanked (or strapped as the book calls it) a lot. But her infractions seem petty and inconsequential, too, for the most part: wandering away from the group, forgetting responsibilities, being disrespectful to teachers. Ruth’s concerns are to survive school and her nemesis, Miss Elson, and to take care of Simeon as her parents have charged her to do. The book paints a vivid picture of what it must have been like to see the war and its effects from a child’s point of view.

Ruth is a bit of an annoying child. She calls Simeon “dope” and “dummy” and “cowardly custard” and other such epithets frequently. She does forget to do her work, and she and her friend Anne play tricks on the teachers and band together to outwit the other children and get their own way. However, at the same time Ruth is quite concerned about taking care of Simeon, and she tries to teach him to be tough and to stand up to hardship. Simeon and his friend, Paul, are both daydreamers and and imaginers who run away, get lost, and find themselves in trouble with alarming frequency. And ever in the background and on the periphery of the children’s lives, there are Japanese bombers, American flyers, Chinese children, and Indian amahs. The setting is both exotic and dangerous, and Ruth and Simeon sashay through all the danger and foreign cultures with style and childlike confidence. In short, they act like children.

There’s a sequel (that I haven’t read) with the same characters called Leaving Point: “Home from boarding school to spend Christmas with their missionary parents, fourteen-year-old Ruth and her brothers find that the Communist Revolution has brought about many changes and new restrictions that complicate Ruth’s growing friendship with a young Chinese girl who may not be what she seems.” (Goodreads)

Exploring the World in Books

I am taking a blog break for Lent, but I thought I’d share some of my old posts from years gone by. I’ve been blogging at Semicolon since October, 2003, more than eleven years. This post is copied and edited from February 28, 2005:

Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve,
And hope without an object cannot live.
–Coleridge

I read Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya and thought it gave a beautiful, but very sad, picture of life in India for many people. It’s the story of a poor family, a fourth daughter who, because she has no dowry, cannot marry well but must settle for marriage to a landless tenant farmer who brings her home to a mud hut he built himself. Fortunately for the girl, Rukmani, her husband Nathan is “poor in everything but in love and care for me, his wife, whom he took at the age of twelve.”
Rukmani narrates the story in first person, telling of the birth of her daughter, the long wait during which the couple think they will have no more children, and then the birth of her five sons. The village where the family lives is on the edge of poverty and starvation; a bad year with too much rain or too little rain will push Rukmani’s family over the edge. Change and new economic oportunities come to the village; however, these new ideas and possibilities are full of danger too, for peasants who have nothing in reserve and are unable or unwilling to move with the times.
I wrote about a month ago about some of my favorite fantasy worlds. These fantasy worlds were first encountered on the pages of books. Then, there are historical and sociological worlds that I visit mostly in books, too. Finally, there is the actual world. I’ve never been to India or China or South America, but I have a picture of what life in those lands is (or was) like–again, from books. I think that Nectar in a Sieve, first published in 1954, will become a large part of my picture of India, along with missionary stories, the young man I met a few years ago at Baptist World Alliance Youth Conference, and other sources, such as the women I see at the grocery store here in Clear Lake dressed in saris.
Warning: The book has a bittersweet ending, but it’s realistic without being hopeless and depressing. Excellent.
These are some of my favorite books that have given me vivid pictures of the world. Most of them are fiction.
Around the world in books:
South Africa: Cry, the Beloved Country and Too Late the Phalarope both by Alan Paton
India: Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan, The Christ of the Indian Road by E. Stanley Jones, Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth.
China: Imperial Woman by Pearl S.Buck, The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang, Nanjing Requiem by Ha Jin, other books by Pearl Buck
Antarctica: Troubling a Star by Madeleine L’Engle,
The Netherlands: The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
England (Yorkshire): All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot and all the many, many books I’ve read that take place in England.
Russia: The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig (And, of course, Tolstoy and Dostoyevski, although they’re more historical)
Israel: Exodus by Leon Uris
Hawaii: Hawaii by James Michener

Can you suggest any books that capture the culture and living conditions of a country in either fiction or biography? I do prefer and learn more from stories.

Christmas in Northeast China, 1940

David Michell was born in China, the son of Australian Christian missionaries working with the China Inland Mission. He was at Chefoo School, away from his parents, when the Japanese took the students and staff there captive. He spent part of the war in an internment camp, the same camp where Olympic runner Eric Liddell was held. This Christmas, described in a letter to the students’ parents, was just before the Japanese took over the area in 1941.

From A Boy’s War by David Michell:

“Just before Christmas the well-known story of Scrooge once again delighted youthful eyes and ears and prepared the way for the Spirit of Christmas 1940. On Christmas Eve little messengers went round the compound or to the houses of other friends carrying bulging bags, waste paper [baskets], or even laundry baskets full of gifts, while others with dolls’ prams filled them with gay packages and wheeled them off. Meanwhile a bevy of artists from the Girls’ House transformed our dining room into a Christmas bower, where red and green and silver glowed in the soft lights from the tree.

Just as supper was over a Chinese school visited us and filled the hall with their hearty singing while our children looked on in solemn amazement. . . . That night a package found its way on to the foot of each bed, not quite burning a hole through the covers in the few short hours till Christmas Day in the morning. That morning began at 6:30, and instead of the clanging of a gong, church bells relayed by a gramophone echoed down the passages. Breakfast was followed by family prayers round the table, and again the soft lights on the tree shed their radiance over a scene which you would love to have looked upon. Our hearts bowed in worship as we sang of the One who came, ‘A little Child to earth, long ago’ from the knowledge of whom comes all peace and joy and love.”

Alvin Ho: Allergic to the Great Wall, The Forbidden Palace, and Other Tourist Attractions by Lenore Look

Alvin Ho is back again, kind of like his namesake, the chipmunk. (Actually, the two have nothing to do with one another. I just was reminded of Alvin the Chipmunk for some reason and wanted to post a picture. Maybe because both Alvins have a penchant for getting into lovable trouble.)

This time Alvin Ho goes on a trip at Christmas time to China with his family to visit his relations who live in a tall scary apartment building. And Alvin has to fly across the ocean in an airplane, aka tin can, to get there. And there are maybe a billion people in China who could squash you. And you might have to use a squat toilet or be stuck all over with acupuncture needles like a pincushion. Scary, right?

Those are only a few of the dangers Alvin faces as he explores, or tries to keep from exploring, a new country. I’m getting a little jaded on Alvin, but I think this book might be just as funny and just as comforting to the average second or third grader as were Alvin’s previous adventures.

I did especially like chapter 15, You Can Make a Friend Anywhere, where Alvin does something very generous and kind in spite of all of his fears and phobias. The rest is standard Alvin Ho fare, although it provides a good introduction to the tourist attractions and interesting aspects of a visit to China. I felt sorry for Alvin’s dad, though, who is forced to be very, very patient and forgiving with Alvin’s childish anxieties and careless misdeeds.

Read this one if you’re a fan or if you want a painless introduction to China or if you have yet to meet the inimitable Alvin Ho.

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee

So, how are fortune cookies and Powerball (lottery) related?

And who really invented fortune cookies anyway–the Chinese or maybe the Japanese?

Why do Jewish people love Chinese food, or as Ms. Lee asks, “why is chow mein the chosen food of the Chosen People?”

Do you know where in China all those illegal immigrants to the U.S. come from—and what they leave behind?

Is chop suey really Chinese?

Who is General Tso, anyway, and why are we eating his chicken? Is it really his chicken?

And what’s the greatest Chinese restaurant in the world outside of China?

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: A Book Adventure through the Mysteries of Chinese Food by Jennifer 8. Lee (what’s with the middle numeral/initial?) purports to answer all of these questions and many more you didn’t know you had about Chinese food in the United States and the rest of the world.

There are more Chinese food restaurants in the U.S. than McDonalds, Burger Kings, and Wendy’s combined. Our family only eats restaurant or take-out Chinese food once or twice a year, but apparently we’re in the minority when it comes to Chinese food lovers.

I enjoyed reading about all of the quirks and ramifications of Americans’ love affair with Chinese food, but I must admit that Ms. Lee’s writing style, journalistic in nature, sometimes gave me reader’s whiplash. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles starts out as a book about the connection between a flood of of Powerball winners in March 2005 and the fortune cookies where they all found their winning numbers. Then it becomes a book about Chinese cuisine and where fortune cookies were invented. Then, suddenly we were dealing with other topics, such as Chinese illegal immigration or the Kosher Duck Scandal of 1989 or Cajun Chinese food or the source of take-out boxes or the soy sauce controversy.

Yes, all of these topics and more are at least tangentially related to Ms. Lee’s main topic, American Chinese food, but the material, while fascinating, is not organized as well as I might have liked. A lot of back-tracking and rabbit trails lead the reader on a winding road through the world of Chinese food and Chinese restaurants and Chinese influence in the United States and in the world. As long as you can take the twist and turns, which hardly ever slow down enough to be boring, you’ll like Ms. Lee’s guided tour through the world of Chinese cuisine.

A few facts and stories I found particularly interesting:

Did you know that there’s one particular day in the year that hundreds of Chinese immigrants in New York’s Chinatown choose to get married? No, not Valentine’s Day and not New Year’s Day and not in June.

Most of the fortunes in the fortune cookies we get from our favorite Chinese restaurants are curated, written, and sold by three guys, two of whom aren’t on speaking terms as a result of stolen fortunes (the written ones, not money).

There really are a bunch of “kosher Chinese restaurants” to serve the Jewish community.

People who organize the smuggling of illegal Chinese immigrants into the United States are known as “snakeheads”.

I especially found the chapter about a specific Chinese immigrant family who bought a restaurant and saw their family implode from the pressures of running that restaurant in rural Georgia and adjusting to the cultural expectations of 21st century America. It was a sad story of family dysfunction and cultural misunderstanding and over-zealous child protection services run amuck. I wanted to know what happened to the family and where they are now. So I stopped and prayed for them. (Do you ever pray for the people you read about in magazine articles and nonfiction books?)

Real Chinese people and fortune cookies:

Chinese History in Fiction and Nonfiction

I read two books back to back that shed some light on the vicissitudes of Chinese life and history: Fortunate Sons by Liel Leibovitz and Matthew Miller and Nanjing Requiem by Ha Jin.

Fortunate Sons is the nonfiction title, subtitled The 120 Chinese Boys Who Came to America, Went to School, and Revolutionized an Ancient Civilization. It’s about an educational experiment that took place starting in 1872 in which groups of boys from China were sent to New England to be educated in the ways of Western thinking and inventions and technology. The goal was to train leaders for China who would bring the Chinese out of their technological deficit and their impotence in the face of Western weaponry and warfare.

In spite of the fact that the boys were called home early, before most of them were able to complete their university education, many of the young men who returned to China after receiving an American education were able to serve their native country effectively and with great loyalty. Sometimes their gifts were under-appreciated and under-utilized given the chaotic state of Chinese politics in the early twentieth century. However, some of the CHinese Educational Mission graduates were given great responsibility in bringing China into the modern age in the areas of railroads, diplomacy, and warfare in particular.

Unfortunately, I had trouble remembering which boy was which as I read the book. What with American nicknames like “Jimmy” and “By-Jinks Johnnie” as well as Chinese names, such as Yung Wing and Yung Liang and Chen Duyong and Liang Dunyan, that all started to sound alike to my untrained American ears, I was confused most of the time about who was whom. A list of the boys with their Chinese names, American nicknames, and one distinguishing fact about each would have been quite helpful. Nevertheless, I do recommend the book for those who are interested in modern Chinese history.

As usual, I learned more from the fiction book that I read set in 1937-1940 China called Nanjing Requiem than I did from the nonfiction book. This novel is another one of those memoir-ish fictional treatments, based on the life and experiences of a real person, specifically the life of Minnie Vautrin, an American missionary and the dean of Jinling Women’s College in Nanjing, China. If you’ve read anything about China and World War II, you’ve heard of the Rape of Nanjing. This story brings the Japanese occupation and pillage of Nanjing to life, but in an understated, almost documentary sort of writing style. The violence and the horror are there, and the author’s style, using a fictional Chinese narrator to tell the story of Ms. Vautrin’s courage and her eventual mental collapse, makes the barbarity of the events in the novel even more vivid because Ha Jin leaves much to the imagination. Then, there are the moral dilemmas of war and dealing with the enemy on behalf of the helpless and sometimes thankless Chinese refugees who become Ms. Vautrin’s responsibility. No one, including Minnie Vautrin, especially Ms. Vautrin, escapes the horrible repercussions of decisions made under the pressure of sometimes choosing between evil and more evil.

For those who are interested in the true story of Minnie Vautrin and the Rape of Nanjing, this video is a dramatization of material from the diaries of Minnie Vautrin, presented as a mock trial for war crimes committed during the Nanjing occupation. This video is a fictional presentation, not a real trial. The real Minnie Vautrin died in 1941.

I noticed as I read Nanjing Requiem how the characters in the novel spoke and thought about revenge on the Japanese for the atrocities they committed and how they wondered why God did not act to bring justice and vengeance down upon the Japanese army and upon the Japanese people for allowing such wickedness to proceed unchecked. I couldn’t help thinking about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki a few years after the Rape of Nanking. Although I don’t believe that God sanctioned the bombing of those Japanese cites in retribution for the Rape of Nanjing and other Japanese war crimes, I do believe that evil begets evil. And sometimes the innocent pay for the sins of their fathers and others.

1928: Events and Inventions

January 10, 1928. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin exiles all opposition leaders for Moscow. Leon Trotsky is sent to Alma-Ata in Kazahkstan. Other rivals have been sent to Siberia or to small remote villages in the Soviet Union.

May, 1928. Japanese and Chinese Nationalist forces clash in Shantung province in China. The Japanese retain control of the city of Tsinan-Fu

June 8, 1928. Nationalist forces, led by General Chiang Kai-shek enter the Chinese capital of Beijing (Peking). Chiang has expelled the Communists from the Kuomingtang, and he and his Nationalists may now be regarded as ruling the entire country of China, except for a few pockets of rebellion by Japanese, Communist and warlord groups.

'Nationalist government of Nanking - nominally ruling over entire China, 1930' photo (c) 2008, http://maps.bpl.org - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

June, 1928. US aviator Amelia Earhart, as a passenger, is the first woman to cross the Atlantic by air.

July, 1928. The first commercially available TV set goes on sale in the U.S. Cost: $75.00.

August 27, 1928. The Kellogg-Briand Treaty. The United States, France, Great Britain, Germany, and eleven other countries sign a treaty promising not to go to war—ever. the treaty is also called the General Treaty for the Renunciation of War or the World Peace Act. There is an exception in the treaty for wars of self-defense.

September 30, 1928. Scottish doctor and bacteriologist Alexander Fleming discovers the antibiotic penicillin. It is hoped that this wonder drug may soon be used to treat human bacterial infections.

October 1, 1928. Stalin announces his Five Year Plan to industrialize the Soviet Union, iprove it socialist economy, and take all farming out of private hands.

October 6, 1928. Chaing Kai-Shek becomes Chairman of the Nationalist government and COmander-in-Chief of all armed forces in China under the new CHinese constitution. Chiang chooses the city of Nanking as his capital, and his alliance with Northern warlords seems to be keeping the Communists and other dissidents out of contention for power in the Chinese government.

October 7, 1928. Ras Tafari is crowned “King of Kings of Ethiopia, the Conquering Lion of Judah and the Elect of God” in ceremonies at the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. Ras Tafari says that he is a descendant of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, but he is required to share power with his aunt, Empress Zauditu.

Kool-Aid, the first powdered soft drink mix to be sold nationally in stores through wholesalers, is packaged in envelopes printed by Edwin Perkins, the inventor of the drink mix, and hits the markets in 1928, first locally and then beyond.

Missionary Fiction

In an episode of what Madame Mental Multivitamin calls synchronicity/serendipity/synthesis, I read two works of fiction this week based on the lives of the authors’ missionary grandparents. I’ve also been thinking a lot about sending two “missionaries” from my own home to Slovakia in a couple of weeks and about my mother and my father-in-law and the legacy of faith they have given to me and to my family.

The first book, The Moon in the Mango Tree by Pamela Binnings Ewen, was just O.K. The writing quality is somewhat uneven, and the characters sometimes enigmatic. The story opens in 1916 in Germantown, Pennsylvania, when Barbara (Babs), a schoolgirl and aspiring opera singer, meets Harvey Perkins, a young medical student. As the two grow together, get married, and then endure being parted while Harvey serves in the military in France during The Great War, Barbara learns that she must subordinate her choices to those of her loving but firm-minded husband. The couple go to Thailand to serve as medical missionaries, even though Barbara must give up her hopes for a career in opera and even her enjoyment of classical music itself to live in a remote mission outpost in Northern Thailand. Of course, with such different outlooks and goals in life and with what I suppose was a typical (?) early twentieth century lack of communication in the marriage, trouble is bound to ensue. And it does.

Besides the fact that the characters’ motivations were sometimes obscure, I guess what I disliked about the story was that neither Harvey nor Barbara seemed to have much of a faith in God to lose. They do lose their faith, both of them, in the face of suffering and hardship in Thailand. But I couldn’t figure out whether they believed in anything much in the first place, other than themselves and their own ability to “be a team” and improve the physical lives of the Thai villagers. The book was good, but not great, although I liked the ending and the ideas about the legacy we leave as a result of the choices we make.

The second book I read had the same basic premise as the first: a young couple goes to the mission field, China this time, in the early twentieth century. However, City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell made me cry. It’s very, very difficult to write a book about Good People, about heroes and heroines, without making them larger than life, unapproachable, and unrelatable. (The dictionary says “unrelatable” isn’t a word, but it should be, and I’m going to use it anyway.) Will and Katherine Kiehn are ordinary, fallible people, and yet they are heroes. They go to China as young, untested volunteers with only their calling and their faith in God’s love and mercy to sustain them, and they survive disease and poverty and famine and family tragedy and war and persecution. Each of the two has a “crisis of faith”, maybe even more than one, but they manage to hold onto the the God who is always holding on to them, even when doubt and fear threaten to overwhelm. The story is told in first person from Will’s point of view, interspersed with excerpts from Katherine’s sporadically kept journal. The whole novel is just golden.

As a reviewer, I feel as if I ought to be able to tell you how Ms. Caldwell was able to write such a true story about people that I believe in as much as I believe in my own parents and grandparents, but I can’t. The humility and the honesty displayed in the characters of both Katherine and Will inspire imitation. I wanted to sit beside an elderly Will Kiehn, listen to his stories of China, and absorb some of his wisdom and his indomitable meekness.

City of Tranquil Light is one of the best fictional accounts of missionary life I’ve ever read. It ranks right up there with Elisabeth Elliot’s No Graven Image, a book I mentioned (and recommended) here. City of Tranquil Light has the added advantage of painting a wonderful picture of a committed, growing marriage.

Can you tell I really, really liked this book? I happened to pick it up from the library and read it because it’s one of the books on the long list of nominations for the 2011 INSPY Awards. Thanks to whomever nominated this book. If all the nominated books are as good as this one, the judges will have an impossible job.

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Pearl and May Chin are sisters, growing up in Shanghai, 1937. The two young ladies are also Beautiful Girls, a phrase that carries a specific denotation in the modern, cosmopolitan culture of Westernized Shanghai. Pearl and May are models whose portraits sell everything from cigarettes to soap. The girls are living a fast, sophisticated, and carefree life, when suddenly everything changes. The girls’ father owes money to the mob, and in order to pay them he arranges a complicated deal that involves arranged marriages for his daughters to two Chinese boys from San Francisco that they’ve never met. And at the same time the Japanese army is sweeping over northern China, headed for Shanghai. Chiang Kai Shek and his Chinese nationalists are opposing the Japanese, and the two forces meet on the streets of Shanghai.

This first part of the book was illustrative of fact that at the same time that huge historical events are taking place, individuals are playing out their own dramas. May and Pearl hardly notice the advance of the Japanese army at first; they are too caught up in their own battle with their father. Then, they realize that their American husbands may be their only ticket to escape the horrors of war and the Japanese occupation of Shanghai and surrounding areas.

Most of the rest of the story deals with May and Pearl and their relationship as sisters and their adjustment to living in a new place and a new culture. The Chinese are not particularly welcome in pre-WW2 San Francisco. There is much bigotry to endure or overcome, and many decisions must be made about how to handle encounters with the U.S. government and with non-Chinese neighbors and citizens. But the center of the story always comes back to the relationship between May and Pearl. Are they rivals or best friends? Or both? How can the two sisters see each other’s faults and shortcomings so clearly and still remain the central source of love and support for one another?

The book made me think not so much of my own sister, although we are good friends, as it did of my children and their relationships. Sometimes they exhibit the same jealousies and misunderstandings that May and Pearl have, but at the same time I see them being fiercely protective and defensive of one another. I do believe that some of my children are each other’s best friends, and that makes me happy, even when it involves a closeness that can see and exploit the other’s weaknesses. The sister/sister relationship in particular is fraught with peril, but also can be rewarding and full of joy. On whom can you depend if not your sister?

Shanghai Girls was a moving look at a pair of Chinese sisters and their perilous journey to America and also to true sisterhood. I enjoyed the trip.

What some other bloggers thought about Shanghai Girls:

Dawn at She Is Too Fond of Books: “The fictional Pearl and May, like many actual Chinese in America during this period, endured. Shanghai Girls is a work of historical fiction that both entertains and teaches.”

A Book a Week: “The sisters in Shanghai Girls have a relationship that is clichéd and predictable. The dialogue is almost painfully banal. Yet the settings (1930’s Shanghai, 1940’s and ‘50’s Los Angeles) are great, very evocative and filled with detail.”

Darlene at Peeking Between the Pages: “I have to say that Shanghai Girls really ends in the middle of nowhere. I was shocked when I got to the last page as I still expected more story but that leads me to believe there will be a sequel and that I’m looking forward to.”

Kailana/Kelly at The Written Wordhas a joint review with Marg of The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader. Good discussion there, and their review confirms that there is supposed to be a sequel.

Advanced Reading Survey: The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang

I’ve decided that on Mondays I’m going to revisit the books I read for a course in college called Advanced Reading Survey, taught by the eminent scholar and lovable professor, Dr. Huff. I’m not going to re-read all the books and poems I read for that course, probably more than fifty, but I am going to post to Semicolon the entries in the reading journal that I was required to keep for that class because I think that my entries on these works of literature may be of interest to readers here and because I’m afraid that the thirty year old spiral notebook in which I wrote these entries may fall apart ere long. I may offer my more mature perspective on the books, too, if I remember enough about them to do so.

Author:
Lin Yutang, or Lin Yu-t’ang, was a Chinese American author born in China and educated in Christian schools there. He later moved to New York and still later to Singapore. He also moved from a childhood immersed in Christianity to a sort of joyful paganism and then back to a deep commitment to Christ and to the church. At the time that his most famous book of essays, The Importance of Living, was written (1937), Mr. Lin was in the happy Chinese pagan chapter of his life. He later wrote another book, From Pagan to Christian, in 1959 that detailed his return to Christianity and the reasons for it. Lin Yutang was a best-selling author, and he was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature several times in the 1970’s. He is said to have been a writer who bridged Eastern and Western cultures. Oh, and he also invented and patented a Chinese typewriter.

Quotations:
“Somehow the human mind is forever elusive, uncatchable, and unpredictable and manages to wriggle out of mechanistic laws or a materialistic dialectic that crazy psychologists and unmarried economists are trying to impose upon him.”

“The world, I believe, is far too serious, and being far too serious, it has need of a wise and merry philosophy.”

“A plan that is sure to be carried out to its last detail already loses interest for me.”

“Somewhere in our adult life, our sentimental nature is killed, strangled, chilled, or atrophied by an unkind surrounding, largely through our own fault in neglecting to keep it alive or our failure to keep clear of such surroundings.”

“No one should aim at writing immortal poetry, one should learn the writing of poems merely as a way to record a meaningful moment, a personal mood, or to help the enjoyment of Nature.”

“Scholars who are worth anything at all never know what is called “a hard grind” or what “bitter study” means. They merely love books and read on because they cannot help themselves.”

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”

I really would like to re-read Mr. Lin’s essays on living a good and wise and simplified life. Maybe when I simplify my life . . .