Wednesday, February 21, 2018

May You Live In Interesting Times (A CNY Curse)

There's an ancient saying in China: "May you live in interesting times".

Apparently, it's both a blessing and a curse.

A blessing, because hey, it's fun and exciting to be living in fast-moving times. Our phones can book cabs. We can watch our favourite TV series without annoying ads. The day our fridge restocks itself is not too far away.

A curse, because change brings chaos. We replace our phones every 2 years. It's hard to tell the difference between real news and fake news, between journalistic opinions and sponsored content. The day AI robots enslave humans and take over the world is not so crazy after all.

No surprise then that there are many people who prefer things to stay the same, for traditions to be followed unquestioningly, and for the world to be as uninteresting as possible.

Chinese people, for instance.

Just recently, supermodel Liu Wen faced the fury of Chinese netizens for wishing "Happy Lunar New Year" instead of "Happy Chinese New Year" on Instagram. Now, who says we Chinese ain't got no passion, yo?

"Happy Lunar... um, I mean... Happy CHINESE New Year!"

Chinese New Same Old Year

Chinese New Year (CNY) came and went. Whew! Good thing it's over.

This year, we didn't have reunion dinner on the eve. Being stuck in traffic for 6 hours just wasn't worth the effort.

This year, I didn't go around meeting friends. I had urgent work to do, and it's not like we live on different planets that we can't see each other any other time of the year.

This year, I didn't gamble. Again, it's not like there's some rule in the universe that gambling can only be done during CNY.

I did enjoy catching up with some distant relatives, and munching away on Chinese New Year cookies. That's as interesting as my CNY goes.

It's not a new revelation that I'm come up with. For years, I haven't bothered keeping up with Chinese traditions. (Admittedly, last year, I tried to see the positive side of things).

I don't wear new clothes during CNY (instead, I ditch and recycle my old clothes).

I don't send people greeting cards (and wish people I've never talked for the whole year would stop spamming me with e-cards on Whatsapp).

My yummy solo CNY eve dinner (hey, at least the chicken is red!)

Change Over Custom

Do I have something against CNY? Sort of, but it's nothing personal. I'm also against Christmas for much the same reason.

That custom entrenches ill-founded and purposeless dogma.

That custom makes us complacent and resistant to change.

That custom sets society back from creating and innovating new habits.

Why do we keep doing the same thing over and over again? To beat the mad traffic rush, we speed on the highway in the dark of night and put our lives at risk. To get new clothes, we splurge unnecessarily.

Why are we such sticklers to custom? Would we really be cursed with bad luck if we wear black for CNY? Would we be swamped by demons and ghosts if we don't let loose noisy fire-crackers?

Out with the old

Interesting Times Are Coming

I don't see any sense in doing things just because that's the way it's always been done.

Most Chinese are stuck in the past.

Well, not me. I want to live in interesting times.

Time moves on, technology propels us forward.

Next year, hopefully, I will be able to teleport back home through a quantum portal. And if that's not possible, I'll just beam my holograph from where I'm at. Ang-pow? No problem, just send them over through blockchain, thank you very much.

It's going to be a great year ahead. And may we all live in interesting times!

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