A University Anthem that Speaks my Heart

I suddenly had this idea of listening to the the school song of my alma mater again 10 years after I graduated. I’ve gone to many schools but this one is dearest to my heart. Not only because I spent the best years of my life there, its campus is also one of the most beautiful places in the country.

水木清華眾秀鍾 The Garden of Tsinghua

水木清華眾秀鍾 The Garden of Tsinghua

I’ve always loved the melody of the song, even in my school days. But we were never really required to memorise the lyrics, and whenever it’s sung during ceremonies, we seldom go beyond the first stanza. Now that I studied the lyrics closely, I fell in love with it. So well it captures the spirit of the school, so elegantly it tells us the essence of learning that I found myself moved to tears, over and over again. Here’s the original in Chinese, written by 汪鵉翔 in Classical Chinese. In the brackets are my translation attempts, though the beauty of the language is inevitably lost.

西山蒼蒼 東海茫茫 (Lush hills on the west / vast seas on the east)
吾校莊嚴 巍然中央 (Our magisterial school / towering in the middle of the land)
東西文化 薈萃一堂 (Cultures from the East and the West / gather and fill the hall)
大同爰躋 祖國以光 (We’ve come to achieve a great society / to make our Motherland proud)
莘莘學子來遠方 (Hither come students from afar)
莘莘學子來遠方 (Hither come students from afar)
春風化雨樂未央 (Bathing in the joy of learning that knows no bound)
行健不息須自強 (Like the heavens that incessantly strives to prosper)
自強 自強 (Prosper! / Prosper!)
行健不息須自強 (Like the heavens that incessantly strives to prosper)
自強 自強 (Prosper! / Prosper!)
行健不息須自強 (Like the heavens that incessantly strives to prosper)

左圖右史 鄴架巍巍 (Rooms lined with books / towers of volume after volume)
致知窮理 學古探微 (Exhaust we knowledge / and perfect our study)
新舊合冶 殊途同歸 (Welding the new with the old / of diverse origins the same place they go)
殽核仁義 聞道日肥 (Feeding on kindness and righteousness / we walk on the right path and stronger by day grow)
服膺守善心無違 (Keep our heart virtuous and never against our conscience)
服膺守善心無違 (Keep our heart virtuous and never against our conscience)
海能就下眾水歸 (The sea receives many waters because it lays low)
學問篤實生光輝 (Thorough and honest study brings glory)
光輝 光輝 (Glory! / Glory!)
學問篤實生光輝 (Thorough and honest study brings glory)
光輝 光輝 (Glory! / Glory!)
學問篤實生光輝 (Thorough and honest study brings glory)

器識為先 文藝其從 (First, to form our character / followed by our crafts)
立德立言 無問西東 (Excel as man and scholar / whether in the East or the West)
孰介紹是 吾校之功 (Who gives us such wisdom? / ‘Tis the doing of our school)
同仁一視 泱泱大風 (All treated with equality / Such grace and nobility!)
水木清華眾秀鍾 (The Garden of Tsinghua, confluence of all beauties)
水木清華眾秀鍾 (The Garden of Tsinghua, confluence of all beauties)
萬悃如一矢以忠 (A thousand hearts of lasting loyalty)
赫赫吾校名無窮 (Illustrious our school’s name rings forever)
無窮 無窮 (Forever! / Forever!)
赫赫吾校名無窮 (Illustrious our school’s name rings forever)
無窮 無窮 (Forever! / Forever!)
赫赫吾校名無窮 (Illustrious our school’s name rings forever)

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Great Literary Works are not for Everyone

Writing for New Yorker, some Mark O’Connell (no doubt trained in an area where political ideologies override existential realities) complains about Borges’s reluctance in political engagement and his general non-interest in women writers. As a woman myself, I often find female writers utterly uninteresting to read: Virginia Woolf? Her Mrs Dalloway is less than 200 pages long and it pained me to finish it – that why I didn’t. Muttering in that voice inside your head without so much crafting out the larger scheme of things but keeps dabbling on seemingly important topics for a second is the very antithesis to novel writing. Walker? Constantly banging on colour and mother-daughter relationship proves that she is a very sensitive observer of her own life but lacks imagination in the grander truth. Sylvia Plath? Yes, she may be a genius but she is mad and arrogant, her ego blows up on every page of her works before it implodes to that nothingness that Hughes tries to salvage, over and over again, to no avail. You’ve got to be pretty mad yourself to like her. So yes, I’m a woman. I don’t generally read female writings except chick lit.

But let’s not be sexist about this, because to each his own, and let’s face it – not everyone has the intellectual capacity to write the Paradise Lost, or the Divine Comedy, or Hamlet, or Molloy, or Watt, or Elizabeth Costello, or The Aleph. Of course, not everyone has the intellectual capacity to enjoy or understand them either.

What Borges is doing in The Millions : A Literary Hedonist In The Classroom: On Professor Borges, or what he has been doing throughout his life, is to defy the commercial turn of literature in the classroom. He has kept the allure of literature and philosophy fresh and alive. In fact, he may even have suggested that they are doppelgänger of each other. Fascinating.

Borges and his cat, Aleph

Common Law’s Uneasy Jurisdiction on Modern Societies

In my last post, I raised a question regarding the legitimacy of any legal system, as a reflection of a course I’m taking with London U. Surprisingly, the actual post in the course forum has attracted some lively debates on the conflicts between individual and society. But a comment by the course’s professor, Adam Gearey, points out that we should not approach this question with the presumption of a clash between individual and society, and that perhaps the awareness/concept of individual can be given shape only in a well-formed society that has already agreed upon, explicitly or otherwise, a set of rules. My original thought was historical in nature – I was thinking about Oedipus, Aristotle, Pericles etc. Agamben was an afterthought, but relevant nonetheless. Continue reading →

The Aesthetic of Big Data (2)

In my last post on big data, I lamented the looming threat big data is posing on our dominion over the world, and suggested that something be done to  reassured our mastery position.

The trouble is, in a post-humanistic world, it is absurdly out of fashion to think that we are the only intelligent species on the planet that can single-handedly shape its future. The celebration of technology also ushers us into an era of post-human ideas, threatening our long-held beliefs of human nature – autonomous, rational, capable of free will – which unified in our being as the apex of existence. Post-human requires fluidity not only in human identity but physicality, turning the ultimate fantasies of sci-fi fictions into reality: artificial intelligence, bionic replacement, uploaded consciousness, cyborgs and all their cousins. But a closer look will reveal that by assuming a ‘shared sovereignty’ between human and technology, we are assuming a concession of power to our products. Continue reading →

Poet and Philosopher (I)

e349d103f3288149484e63e5cba7cf8bI know a man who lives on cotton clouds.
He dreams all day and talks philosophy.
His brain is spread with salmon-colour thoughts,
His fridge is always empty but for gods.

One day he parks his cloud beneath a bridge,
Across the road, there glistening in the sun
A vagabond who’s scribbling in his head
An epic poem, a tribute to the dead.

The poet tips his crown, hearing him anear –
who shouts: O Master! Please come to my help!
I cannot get the drumming off my head!
It lingers on and driveth me so mad!

Dear son, the master answers in a hush
Do not despair, and even if you must
Scream out loud to that golden distant place
Across the tinselly sea, into her face –

She whose snaky snarls ensnare your brain,
And loading it with feisty hollow forms
Of beauteous lies, painted white with wrath:
So white and pale, her fake virtue shines forth.

She who is robed in luxurious garment
Is but a man, a wicked and stupid
One, if you ask me, but followed by
Many, because of his simple make.

Oh dear! Cried the thinker in despair,
Have I been intercoursing with a man?
Albeit I never offered my body,
For she, or he, is concerned with my soul.

The Starry Heavens Above and the Bollocks Within

Casual notes of reading Kant loosely edited. Lateral thinking required

  1. his anti-Cartesian revolt which prevents our self from being totally severed from our senses; and
  2. his innovative, non-deductive, non-provable yet at the same time non-unprovable arguments based entirely on reverse logic

The first one enables us to link up our phenomenal senses (empiricist) with our cognition (rationalist) with the help of a priori categories that he invented. I say invented because he cannot prove the existence of such categories, of which some are really functions that enable any sensible data to be processed. At the same time, however, these functions are operating everywhere in our everyday lives. Most of these functions are logical functions like synthesis (addition) and causality; some other are time and space. Continue reading →