I don’t know why but I’ve been staring at the leaf of a parasol leaf tree for a long time.
Finding its heart right in the middle, I fixed my gaze on its veins spreading out across the surface like capillaries, following an ordered and meticulous pattern. From a few major veins, fine secondary veins branched out even further. Just like our heart and the lobes of our lungs — they must also have an ordered and meticulous pattern and structure?
The ancient people spoke about “investigating the truth of things” (格物, gewu). Does it refer to objective observations such as these?
If the observer was a botanist, he/she would probably do a more in-depth study of the transportation of water through the veins, or the relationship between the leaf, sunlight and photosynthesis…
If I was a biased person, proclaiming the good and bad and jumping to conclusions, would I be able to make detailed observations in a calm and objective manner?
Without a process of discernment, knowledge merely amounts to likes and dislikes formed from one’s emotions and biases; there is no room for self-observation, contemplation, and judgement.
Some say that we are living in a “post-truth era”. Because of an information overload, people are spoilt for choice, quick to judge, and have no patience for questioning the truth. Without a process of discernment, knowledge merely amounts to likes and dislikes formed from one’s emotions and biases; there is no room for self-observation, contemplation, and judgement. In the post-truth era, people are quick to reach careless and simple conclusions — they wear these platitudes like a label, sticking them on themselves and on others. Then they make use of social media to gain hundreds of responses in an instant.
There seems to be many truths and people are each saying what they want to say — in fact, there may be no truth at all.
Once a label is stuck on, people only choose to believe the "truth" they want to believe. There is no room for communication and neither is there dialogue. There seems to be many truths and people are each saying what they want to say — in fact, there may be no truth at all. I’m getting more and more afraid of people who are quick to jump to conclusions, and more and more frightened of people who force other people to accept that their truths and conclusions are the only ones out there.
Growing up in an era of labels, slogans like “Anti-communist and anti-Russian aggression” (反共抗俄), “Grand alliance for China's reunification under the three principles of the people” (三民主义统一中国), “Be an upright, good, and honest Chinese” (做堂堂正正的中国人) and so on are plastered everywhere. It was not until I was 25 and had gone to Paris to study that I stopped seeing slogans plastered on every nook and cranny of the streets. I felt an immense sense of freedom; I was finally liberated from slogans and could now seriously think about what I wanted and did not want.
What exactly is the significance of slogans and labels?
It is hard to imagine that slogans like “I belong to XX” (我是XX人) would fill the streets of Paris.*
Arrogant slogans and labels that leave no room for discussion have fooled an era of simple-minded people. Do we really want to create more slogans and labels and allow them to lead us by the nose?
I just want to go back to studying the great and intriguing ecology of this parasol leaf that was perhaps formed over a period of 100 million years.
*"我是XX人" is a trending game in Taiwan where Taiwanese from different parts of Taiwan proclaim their pride and loyalty to their respective counties on Instagram in the form of a slogan.