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《Lessons for Elementary School (8) 》__ Kong Shiu Loon (53)

Big Bird and Small Sparrow

“Grandpa, do you see things far away?”

“I wish I do”

“I mean do you or do you not?”

“I know. But I can’t see things far away, because I have glaucoma, and also because I am old. That is why I said I wished.”

“But you often tell me about things far away.”

“Yes, in tine. That is what was in the past, not in future. Far means the future. Dose it not?”

“I don’t really know, Grandpa. Today, Mr. Shaw invited his friend to talk to us. He is a psychologist, Professor Fang who teaches at Stanford University in California.”

“You are lucky. Mr. Shaw has so many professor friends visiting you.”

“Yes, he has. He says they are his classmates in high school where everyone has high aspirations and the power to pursue them.”

“What did Professor Fang tell you?”

“He told us this story of an ancient Chinese sage called Zhang Zi.”

“How interesting, a psychologist talking about a philosopher’s great wisdom. I thought psychologists only do experiments with guinea pigs and monkeys.”

“No. he did not talk about those things. He told us a story of a fish becoming a big bird.”

“That is interesting. It looks like psychologists know more things than I thought. So, what about this big bird?”

“There was this fish which lived in deep water. It grew so big that no body of water was enough to accommodate him. So it transformed itself into a gigantic bird. It had a wing-span of tens of yards. When it flapped it soared up high into space in the universe. Looking down, it saw human beings in many societies. They were all busy in getting more material things that they forgot that life had limits, and people who lived with high spirit would reach far and last long. Suddenly, the bird heard a sparrow laughing. It asked the big bird where it hoped to go. The bird said it wanted to reach the southern pole where space had no limits. The sparrow told the bird scornfully: ‘you will never touch the ground’. The big bird then said: ‘I will see far, where I will dwell in my home, unconcerned about air or touching any ground.’”

“That is a good story. I’ve heard about it too. But, it has so many meanings. What did Mr. Shaw’s friend say?”

“He asked us what we would like to be, the big bird or the sparrow.”

“What was your reply?”

“Well, I said I would like to be the bird, soaring free and far, not limited by space or time. Elaine said she did not believe a fish could become a bird. Matthew said the sparrow was more practical. Henry argued that we should have imagination and fancy, and not be limited to possessing material things. Dennis said that we all missed Zhang’s intentions. The story is a fable to inspire us to think and to know that life has many aspects and meanings. Mr. Shaw praised us for speaking our minds. He said we had a good discussion.”

“What about Professor Fang?”

“He praised us too, and said he wished his students were like us. Then he said that Zhang Zi was a very good teacher, as well as a great sage. He used allegories to illustrate the good, the true and the beautiful. He said he would like to meet with us in future visits, to share other stories, like the butterfly in dreams.”

“Looking far to reach home” Grandpa murmurs repeatedly, lost in thoughts.

"Well, I am thinking how true Dr. Fang’s words are. He meant looking into the future or other possibilities when he said looking far. He did not mean seeing with eyes.”

“So, what are you telling me?”

“Well, I was telling you I can’t see far because of my glaucoma. I now realize that I do see far with my mind. But, what I see is still limited because I am old.”

“Don’t say that, Grandpa. You do have many years to live. I want you to see me in university and get married and have great grandchildren for you.”

"Thanks, dear. I wish that too. I can also see the sparrow’s point of view too. We should have our feet on the ground and accept our limitations.”

“That was what Professor Fang said too. He said knowing both limitations and possibilities would help us live a richer life.”

“Did you ask questions?”

“Yes we did. I asked why it was possible for a fish to change into a big bird.”

“Good. I have the same query too.”

“Professor Fang said it is a transformation. He wrote down the word on the blackboard for us. He said that a transformation has special meanings in mathematics and sciences. It also can be a dramatic change in life, such as tadpoles growing to become frogs. In human life, it could be a change of attitude or behavior, or even a belief about life and death.”

“That reminds me that we Chinese believe that a leaping carp could become a dragon, the most powerful and benevolent animal. We are proud to claim that we Chinese are descendantsof the dragon.”

“Is that really true? Grandpa?”

“It is true when you believe it, dear. For example, I believe my mother is alive in heaven, and so she is. This means that death can be transformed in memory into life.”

“I think Dr. Fang is right when he said that transformation has as many avenues as we can imagine, with no limit of any kind. It is so neat.”

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