左边是林木幽深的峡谷，右边是绿树成荫的住宅区。 每次走上这条山路都会很愉快，因为路的尽头就是北温哥华的温莎屋学校（Windsor House School），那里有一群真正快乐的孩子们。
温莎屋学生的父母们，希望孩子快乐胜过希望他们成功，所以只有被父母无条件爱着的孩子才会被送来这里上学。他们的爸爸妈妈大概永远不会说：“如果你……爸爸妈妈就不爱你了”这种让孩子从此一辈子没有安全感的话。这里学生不想上课就不用上课， 不想做作业就没有作业，考试成绩全体家长选择不看。这样的学校，不用说得让所有的“虎妈”“狼爸”发疯，就是最开明的父母，如果你的孩子到了十几岁还不会读，不会写，不会算，而且还不想学， 也得焦虑不堪。有的家长把孩子送来是因为这里的“课外活动”丰富多彩，等他们发现这里并无“课内活动”时，就只好澄清误解，把孩子送到“正常” 学校去。因此，温莎屋学校制定了严格的招生程序以排除不合实际的期望，家长和孩子除了两次与校方面谈外，还包括三天的亲身体验。目前学校有大约150个学生。每年的名额有限，想来而来不了的孩子只能排在等候名单上。
书和先例也不是完全没有。温莎屋的建立不是靠凭空想象，它也不是独此一家。这样的自由学校，世界各地还有一些。最出名的有英国的夏山（Summerhill School，一所昂贵的私校），美国的桑德伯里（Sudbury Valley School）和专为穷孩子开的阿尔波尼（Albany Free School）。夏山是所有自由学校的老祖宗，1921年由苏格兰人亚历山大•苏兹兰德•尼尔（A. S. Neill）在英格兰风景优美的农业区建立，已有九十多年的历史。尼尔生在一个儿女众多的穷家庭，从小不被父母看好，经常挨揍。长大以后也不顺利。在长期的教师生涯中，尼尔认识到传统的教育方式完全行不通。创办夏山并任校长四十年后，尼尔出版了《夏山：一种培养孩子的激进方式》（Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing）。这本书最早在美国出版。首次征订时，全美没有一家书商愿意提前预订一本。十年后，该书已列入美国至少六百门大学课程的必读书目。至1970年，已有法文、德文、意大利文、西班牙文、葡萄牙文、日文、希伯来文、芬兰文、挪威文和丹麦文的译本。初版的扉页前附有一张明信片，以收集读者的反馈。明信片返回率高达百分之二十五，超过邮购目录返回率。许多人写道：本书是“我读过的最伟大的书”，和 “对我一生最重大的影响”。也有一位妇女寄回书要求退款，原因是她丈夫说两者之一必须从家里滚出去：这本书或她自己。伟大的哲学家弗洛姆为这本书写了序言。结尾处他写道：“这本书将为爱，肯定，自由这些词提供新的涵义。我相信尼尔的著作是将会生根发芽的种子。假以时日，他的思想将为一个新的社会所广泛承认，在那个社会中，人本身，和他的解放，将成为一切社会努力的最高目标。”
有什么是温莎屋的孩子学不到的呢？几乎所有的知识和技能，从历史地理到语言数学， 从哲学思考到编程上网，都可以无需学校这样一个集体，由单独的个人通过自学和独立思考完成，孤独、没有平辈压力的环境反而有益于学习的自由和思考的深度。而那些书本教不了、老师无法传授、书斋里学不会、模拟学不像、必须在一个活生生的群体中通过平等真实的互动与亲身实践才能学会的知识和技能，孩子们能够在温莎屋学会。这些也正是现代社会最需要的知识和技能：人性的优点和弱点、互相尊重和妥协的必要、寻找双赢的解决方案、充分的沟通、清晰的表述、专注的倾听、周密的思考、理解他人的观点和立场、说服他人、表达和实现自己的愿望、争取支持、组织、管理、领导、合作、谈判、建议、创新…。 一般的学校只教授那些孩子们可以自学的科目，而不提供这样一个自我管理的环境让孩子们培养这些自学不了、成年后难以补课、却对任何个人与社会都最为重要的见地和能力。哪一种学校才是真正耽误了孩子呢？
Shi Tiesheng, a Chinese writer, says: “To write is to prevent suicide.”
He died on the last day of the year 2010, four days before his 60th birthday. Having spent 38 years in a wheelchair, making matchboxes with other unskilled workers for a living for over a decade, he knew what he was talking about. Shi is one of the most profound and unpretentious writers inChina.
He had not expected to live to almost 60. His illness had brought him to the verge of death more than once. Daily living was difficult. He had to rely on medical help to clean his blood every two days, after his kidneys failed. Energy was of limited supply. If a friend was to visit in the afternoon, he dared not move much the whole morning, in order to save energy for the visit. It was a thoroughly tortured life, a life without health and all the pleasures health bestows. How could you buy the pleasure of taking a walk? He found he could not even recall the sensation of walking. The memory was gone soon after the departure of the function.
It was not a life lived by common standards. There was no feeling well or looking well. Yet he lived. And he wrote.
He lived and died in abundant, genuine love, love from his wife, his friends, his doctors and nurses — some of these health workers were his lifelong caretakers and lifesavers. Instead of a funeral, his friends gathered and celebrated his 60th birthday, in their brightest and handsomest clothing. They brought him colorful fresh flowers. “This time,” said his wife to these friends, “he has plenty of energy for the party.”
In his work, Shi says, “Death is something we don’t need to rush to. Death is a festival that is bound to come.” It had finally come.
He donated every part of his body to anyone in need of a transplant and to medical research. He hoped an autopsy would finally discover what went wrong in his spine at age 21. At that time, everyone was praying it was a tumor, which would mean it could be removed and he cured. Yet whoever he prayed to with all his might did not grant him this favor.
People say his profession is writing. He corrected that view. “My profession is being sick. I write in my spare time.”
A hot-tempered youth who yelled at his doctor and threatened to chop the doctor up alive if he could not be made to walk again, he came to a profound peace with a fate that seemed most unjust. If such a life is the price to pay for a mature soul, he made the price worthwhile. His writing is free of pretense, of shallowness. The clear, simple, earthbound words awaken deep sorrow and love in his readers. It is the soul behind the words that his readers feel.
Her name can be roughly translated as “the Lady of Sunshine”. This is her title, not her real name. This title was given to her when she was made a princess.
She is one of the Four Beauties in China’s history. Born in the picturesque Three Gorges area into a modest family, she was like any other industrious village girl, working and playing on the green hills and clear waters.
That was during the Han Dynasty. The emperor had three thousand wives in his massive palace, most of whom would never have a chance to see him. Yet year after year, pretty girls were sought from all over the country and sent to his imperial harem, waiting to be his bride for maybe one night. The degree of his attention and affection determined these women’s status. Those who never got to be near him would be the most inferior, living in seclusion, despised by even their servants.
Because his wives were so numerous, to ease the burden of interviewing each one, the emperor made his choice based on portraits painted by his court painter. Since the competition was fierce, the court painter sought and received huge briberies from the ladies in waiting.
When Zhaojun was brought into the palace, she had too little money and too much dignity. She refused to bribe the painter. The painter painted her portrait in minute detail; then, upon finishing, he let a drop of ink from his brush fall onto her face, which completely ruined her beauty in the portrait. She did not get selected. This beautiful girl was therefore locked up in the deep chamber of the royal palace, destined to grow old alone. She lived like this for years.
On the political side, the war on the northern border between the Mongolians and Han, which went on for generations, finally came to a ceasefire, thanks to a new wise khan of the Mongolians. Though a fearless warrior, he understood the importance of peace and wished to learn from his prosperous southern enemy. The Han was the most powerful and largest empire in the whole world, as well as the most advanced civilization.
The emperor welcomed the khan’s peace offering. In addition to all other friendly gestures and gifts and treaties, the emperor promised the khan a beautiful Han woman as his wife, to build an eternal bond between the two nations. This woman would be given to the khan in the status of a princess, as if she had been the daughter of the emperor.
This honor was offered to the untouched ladies in the back chambers. The ladies were horrified. Although it was a cruel fate to grow old in seclusion, at least they were living in the comfort their refined civilization could provide, of delicate clothing and fine cuisine. They could live with their familiar customs and language, in a mild climate and green landscape. Besides, there was always a slim hope of gaining the emperor’s attention someday. The North was harsh. The Mongolians lived on horseback, were nomads, warriors and hunters. They chased after the pasture with their herds. They ate meat, and drank milk and wine made from milk. They wore leather. Transportation was far from developed. Once gone they would never see their folks again. Nobody wanted a life in exile.
Nobody but one. Zhaojun volunteered. A woman of unmatched wisdom, courage and spirit, she preferred the unknown to a prisoner’s life.
Since she was the only one willing to go, she was chosen. On the day of her departure, she would be received in the court, where a grand ceremony would be held to make her officially a princess.
On that day, she dressed up magnificently. The moment she made her entrance, the whole court was illuminated by her radiance. She was the most beautiful woman in her time. Her immaculate beauty overwhelmed everyone.
Both the khan and the emperor fell in love with her. In his shock and anguish, the emperor retrieved her portrait to see why he had missed her in his viewing. The painter’s scheme and crime came to light and the poor fellow was executed. However, despite the emperor’s admiration for Zhaojun, he had no choice but to keep his word. He gave her away as his daughter, with a title to match her glowing beauty, and a dowry suitable for her royal status. There were tales about how he lived in agony and regret ever after, but none could be proved.
Zhaojun went to the North with the brave, wise khan and became the Mongolian Queen. She adapted to the new life, and developed a deep loving relationship with her husband. Together they ruled Mongolia for many years, bringing peace and prosperity to the people. After her husband died, according to the Mongolian custom at the time, she married his successor, the son of her late husband and his first wife. She remained the Queen for the rest of her life. Mongolia and Han lived in harmony and the border was quiet. She won the hearts of Mongolians, and was deeply admired and loved. She became a legend for two thousand years. To this day, her tomb is still a tourist attraction in Inner Mongolia.
Today I want to tell you the story of Gu Zhun 顾准, a Chinese intellectual who lived in the 20th Century. He was a member of the accounting profession, an economist, a government official, a scholar, a man of integrity and devotion. He is a representative of Chinese intellectuals, for it is our tradition that an intellectual should bear the responsibility for the whole nation.
Gu Zhun was born into a poor family in 1915. He finished his apprenticeship in a renowned accounting firm in Shanghai, and became widely known as a genius. He started teaching at the age of 17. By age 24, he was the professor of three famous universities, had published important books in accountancy, was fluent in several foreign languages, and was making an excellent living. He was a star, and the dream of many girls.
When he was only 20, he secretly joined the Chinese Communist Party, as did many other brilliant and idealistic young people at that time when they realized the prevailing social injustice and the nation’s agony under foreign occupation. Many of them were murdered or executed by the government. Gu Zhun actively involved himself in underground work. He later went to the base of the Chinese Communist Party, serving as an official and military commander. For 14 years, he fought against repression and corruption for a new China. His wife, another loyal communist, was one of his earliest comrades. They worked on different missions in different areas, spent much more time apart than together, and were willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause at any time.
In 1949, at the establishment of the People’s Republic of China by the Chinese Communist Party, Gu Zhun naturally became a high level official of the new government, in charge of the Finance Bureau and Tax Bureau of Shanghai, one of the largest economic centers in the Far East. His superhuman intelligence and capability became legendary. Unfortunately, he was also known for his straight speaking, his conviction and pride in his own opinion, and his unyielding spirit.
An honest intellectual, he was doomed under the dictatorship of Chairman Mao Ze Dong, a man of greatness but not of democracy. Gu Zhun was swept down during the first dissident-cleansing movement started by Mao in 1952. In 1957, he was deemed a “rightist”, the synonym for “enemy of the Party”. This was the end of his political career and the beginning of his personal ordeal.
In those torturous years, his non-conformist attitude brought him severe beatings and his family endless misfortunes. Confident in his own thinking, even during the worst public beating and humiliation, he still managed to raise his head and say loudly to the crowd: “I will not yield!” It shocked even his tormentors. Such a highly intelligent man, yet he had not the wisdom of self-preservation.
He was sent to a “school for the officials”, a mild labor camp where the fallen officials were put through a “re-education”. He lost touch with his family, although he kept writing to them, especially his wife. His family was under extreme pressure for being related to him. He was worried about his loved ones.
Finally he was allowed to go back home to Beijing. Full of hope, he was only to discover that his wife had committed suicide and his children had officially terminated all relationship with him. He lived in the same city with his aged mother yet could not see her even once. His siblings forbade it for fear of the social and political plague he carried. The old mother and her beloved son lived as if they had been separated in two different times and spaces, and hopelessly missed each other.
Tortured by cancer, bereft of all loved ones (either dead or alive), and living in poverty, he devoted himself to studying the ancient Greek political systems, hoping to find a safe road for China to democracy. Every morning, he left home with a bottle of water and two pastries made of plain flour. He stayed in the Beijing Library all day, immersed in thoughts, reading and writing. Often running a fever and coughing blood, this lonely scholar wrote his monologues full of courage and honesty, sometimes 100,000 words in 3 months. These last works, unfinished, were only published long after he died. As a scholar, he was proficient in Mathematics, History, and Economics, and well-versed in Philosophy, Law, Religious Study, Sociology, and Political Science.
He died of cancer in 1974. Seeing his children was his only dying wish. To get approval from the authority for the children to visit, he had to sign a statement of his alleged fallacies, which he had refused to sign even when threatened with death. This time, he signed with a trembling hand. All his life he gave in only this once. Afterwards, this strong man cried, and told his friends this surrender was the only stain on his life record. The authority approved the visit, but all the five children refused to come. In his reply, the youngest son wrote: “There cannot exist any father-son affection between my love for the enterprise of the Party and my hatred for Gu Zhun.”
One friend was with him at his deathbed. This friend, Wu Jinglian, would in his old age become the most influential economist in China and the principal of China’s most renowned university. He would carry on his dead friend’s pursuit, and be known for his genuineness and integrity. Once, in the spotlight of the press, he said he had not learned how to be a human being until his middle age, and he had learned it from his friend Gu Zhun.
Gu Zhun said his last words to this friend, a plain sentence: “Open the cot and have a rest.” He said it when he awoke from unconsciousness for the last time. No self-pity, no self-concern, even at his last moment.
Many years later, his children, who are now old, read his books and diary, and realized what a father they had deserted. His daughter wrote after her reading: “I followed his life year after year. Since 1957, every step he took was waddling through hell. His deepest thinking was done at the intervals of countless beatings and public humiliations. When he needed family the most, his family abandoned him. Everyone has only one father. What have we done to such a father?”
Gu Zhun is now recognized as one of the most important thinkers in China in the past half century.
For me China is a great country because we have people like Gu Zhun, not because we have the largest population, not because we have one of the oldest civilizations, not because we have a fast-growing GDP, not because we have a large purchasing power as a market, not because we are now the world’s factory and industrial garbage dump. China’s spirit is passed down to us through people like him. And this spirit is universal in all nations, big or small. A nation with men or women like this will not die.
At my darkest moments, Gu Zhun’s name is a reminder of duty. My personal tragedy paled in comparison with his hardship and the choice he made in it. This gaunt, spectacle-wearing, ordinary-looking man, is a monument in my conscience.
How is one’s past connected to his present and future? How does he redeem the fate he was born into? How does he rebel against the role he was assigned? It is not determined all by his efforts, neither all by luck. It’s both. Without the open-door policy of China since 1978 I would never be where I am. I would never have been exposed to those great thoughts, the job experience with a world-class multinational firm, the technology and management skills. I would never have been able to learn another language, and choose another country to live in. One statesman’s idea can have such an impact on so many lives, and a future beyond his vision will be born.
Therefore, take a long view, heart, take a long enough view so you can be optimistic again, and see that irreversible trend toward humanity and freedom and improvement of life. Even if you are in much misery and loneliness, without wealth or power, be optimistic, for this is the whole point of life, of living: to live as if everything is possible, to fight as if there is still hope. And trust the unknown, unpredictable ally from the universe.