Tag Archives: obligation

Teaching Our Children Contempt


Author Gary Moreau, aka Avam Hale in fiction

When my wife first arrived in the US in 2016, having never before traveled outside the northeast regions of China, she made two rather prompt observations.

The first was to note, “There are no people.” I was perplexed, to be honest, given that we were leaving the Detroit airport at the peak of rush-hour traffic, crawling bumper to bumper among the suburbanites leaving the city center at the end of the work day. “Are you kidding? Look around. The traffic is terrible. Just as I remember it.”

“Those are cars,” she noted, “not people. It’s different.”

Her second observation came some days later, after having experienced American television and what we call the news. “The poor people in America appear very sad. Or angry. That seems strange to me.”

She, in fact, had lived in poverty virtually all of her life. At less than one hundred pounds in total body weight, her shoulders had long since given out from the work she began at the age of eighteen at the state-owned flourmill where both of her parents worked, and on which her family relied for virtually everything, including their apartment. She lifted 25 kg (55 lbs) bags of flour off of a conveyor belt, stitched the top shut, and then piled them on a platform for removal and shipment. And she did it for 8 hours per day, six days per week, and was paid $5 per month.

She is not pious, naïve, or deprecatingly arrogant about her personal history. I have met few in my life who are as candid and matter of fact about the reality of her circumstances. She does ‘get it,’ to use the common American phrase.

But it was Confucius who said, “Wherever you go, there you are.” And few people throughout history have embodied their culture or their heritage more completely than he did. Having lived in China for so long I easily imagine the 1.4 billion Chinese currently living there thinking the same thought with frequency throughout each day.

I offer here no ode to the poor and unfortunate. I don’t sing their praises as defined solely by their poverty. I do not mean to put them on an ethical pedestal. But I admit my bafflement that any of us, rich or poor, famous or ignored, imprisoned by bars or by circumstance, believe that our financial worth, or our social network, or even our Twitter following, is defined by things that should make us happy or sad, proud or bitter.

They are what they are, pure and simple. And while that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t change them, we should change them for the right reasons and in the right ways.


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While Chinese culture is built on a collectivist foundation that turns on personal obligation, American culture is built on an individualistic foundation that turns, so we think, on performance. We inevitably measure, as a result, success and failure of any kind, in personal terms. The successful are gifted, hard-working, and well organized. Those who fail are lazy, unmotivated, and, most likely, deserving of their failure.

The inevitable result is not a contest of ideas, but a contest of competing virtues. ‘Because my ideas are better, I am better.’ It’s just a short hop to contempt. And that, of course, is where sadness and bitterness come from.

On March 14 students across the country took to the street to protest the fact that very angry young men are allowed to buy military assault rifles and kill large numbers of their fellow students. They should be angry. The fact that we are even debating what to do is a sure sign of just how far we’ve fallen from our true American heritage. (When the Second Amendment was adopted in 1791 the only guns in existence had a capacity of only three shots per minute in the most capable hands and were accurate at little more than 20-30 yards.)

And who are the media heroes of this fight? Judging from the coverage it is the students with the loudest voices and the most contempt. And, of course, no politician gets time in front of a television camera today unless he or she is virtually seething with contempt for somebody.

Contempt, of course, seldom solves much of anything. It destroys lives, in fact. It feeds addiction, shortens lives, and leads, inevitably, to sadness and despair.

The reason our politics and our social intercourse is so vile and acerbic at the moment is not the result of Trump’s election or Pelosi’s fund raising skills. It is the result of our unwavering commitment to individualism; to the belief that the individual, either competitively or inclusively (which is really the only difference between Republicans and Democrats, respectively), stands at the center or our economy, our ecology, and our culture.

It worked, with some obvious exceptions (e.g., slavery, the lack of women’s rights), when our world was far less crowded, much more localized, less industrially advanced, and less technologically integrated. It worked, in other words, on a relatively small scale.

The message we should be teaching our children is not that they should feel contempt for the death that surrounds them, but that they are literally all in this together. And in light of that reality there is no room for contempt. There are only solutions that promote the common good. It’s the difference between shouting for the cameras in a gesture that Washington will soon forget, and, say, organizing school watch programs, or student aid programs that help the most alienated children find their social footing before they resort to violence.

In my latest book, We, Ourselves, and Us, I note that early in my career corporate executives felt a strong sense of personal obligation to the employees and the community. My first CEO wanted nothing more than to raise wages and would never have even entertained the idea of closing the factory on which the community relied and moving production to Mexico or China.

Corporate executives today often lament the change, but blame it on globalization or activist shareholders, both of which are beyond their control. It’s bunk. No law has been passed that in any way restricts corporate executives from exercising the kind of obligation they did just a few decades ago. It is merely their sense of individualism that precludes them from accepting their collective obligation.

Individualism without obligation is fatalism. Individualism with obligation is collectivism, what I call we-ism.

When I lived in China I witnessed poverty on a daily basis. It was no-running-water poverty. My friend referred to his own upbringing as a three-bath life (once when you are born, once when you get married, and once when you die). But that never once influenced how he felt about his life or the people around him.

In his latest book, Radical Inclusion, retired general Martin Dempsey notes that when he had to console troops who had lost a comrade, he always said, “Make it matter.” It’s great advice. But it won’t matter if we don’t accept we’re all in it together.

That, I believe, is the message we should share with our children and each other. Once we do, the violence will dissipate. And the newsmakers won’t be quite so full of contempt.

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My newest book, We, Ourselves, and Us: Creating a More Just and Prosperous America, is now available on Amazon in paperback (click here) and Kindle (click here) versions.

If you read any of my books and like them  I would greatly appreciate it if you will take the time to post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or whatever book site you enjoy. Thank you in advance.

China’s One Child Policy

Author Gary Moreau

I published Understanding China: There is Reason for the Difference in 2015. And I had been compiling the content of the book for the eight years I had lived and worked in China, putting it all in the context of what was then my sixty-one years of life experience.

While books are normally classified as fiction or non-fiction, I’ve always thought of this book as a book of understanding. As noted in the introduction I was trying to decipher the why behind the what regarding the differences between Western and Chinese culture. The objective was to become less frustrated by the differences, when simply knowing what to expect wasn’t enough, and to become more pro-active in my ability to influence behaviors in the workplace and marketplace.

Books, however, except for classic literature, tend to be a snapshot taken at a point of time. The author’s thinking naturally evolves over time. The subject matter likewise evolves. And in the case of China that evolution continues at breakneck speed, or, what I call in the book China Time.

I am giving an American college lecture on China next week and in the preparation I started to think about the ways in which my thinking had changed since writing the book. In addition to the evening lecture I am conducting a Q&A session with a class that is using Understanding China as a textbook this semester to answer the class’ questions and provide further elaboration on points of interest.

As a result of this introspection the one area in which I concluded my thinking had changed the most was in regard to China’s one child policy, officially known as the family planning policy. The policy was implemented in 1979 in response to rapid population growth that the country deemed unsustainable. (China’s population has nearly tripled since 1949 and the founding of the PRC.)

Understanding China is available at Amazon in paper and electronic formats.

In the book I reiterated the commonly held belief, both inside and outside of China, that the one child policy would inhibit the natural development of the ability to collaborate and work as a team, essential qualities in the modern workplace. The single child of single child parents, with no aunts, uncles, or cousins, I believed, would not learn the skills of diplomacy or cooperation necessary in our shrinking world due to the lack of competition for scarce resources, material as well as emotional, during their youth.

In retrospect, I was wrong. And here’s why.

In Western cultures we put primary emphasis on individual rights and freedoms. You have merely to glance at your preferred source of news today to see this reality on display in today’s Western political arena. Compromise and cooperation, let alone civility, is notably absent in most of our public discourse.

The Chinese, however, are much more collectivist in their perspective and cultural emphasis. They understand and support the idea of the common good, and are quite willing to sacrifice their personal rights in support of that collective well being.

My widowed Chinese wife, for example, who grew up in a family of five children, with ten aunts and uncles and close to fifty cousins, was herself limited to one child. When asked, however, she sincerely supports the government’s decision to implement the policy. While she would have preferred to have more children, she believes it was the pragmatic thing to do for the benefit of China as a whole. As a result, she holds no grudge whatsoever against the government for what, to most Westerners, would be perceived as a gross violation of her individual rights and freedoms.

I also, at the time of writing the book, failed to fully integrate into my thinking the degree to which Chinese culture is built on relationships and the Confucian obligation that flows from them. In essence, it is this circle of relationships and obligations that serve to provide the same influences on a Chinese child that siblings and cousins provide in most Western cultures. Society essentially serves as a giant eco-system of extended family even though each individual set of parents may themselves have only one child.

If you go for a walk in a public park in Beijing, for example, as I often did, you will encounter relatively few individuals. You will encounter a few young couples that are, perhaps, courting or recently married. But most of the people you will encounter will be in groups, large and small.

Many will be families, which are often three-generational. (Child, parents, grandparents) Most, however, will simply be groups of individuals out for a collective outing. Some will simply be friends while others may be work units, such as a department within a company, spending time together both by choice and as a result of their sense of obligation to socialize with their workmates.

It is this abundance of social interaction, in the context of a culture that emphasizes obligation within a relationship, which provides much of the development of social and collaborative skills that Westerners of my generation learned within the larger family unit common to the West at the time.

In fact, with the advent of the nuclear family and a noted reduction in the birth rate in many Western cultures, it might be argued that the West is moving in the opposite direction. It is the West, not the East, which is suffering from an inability to work together, compromise, and collaborate. Certainly the curtain political climate here in the US would support that conclusion. (It’s an observation. If the comment makes you angry, you might be proving my point.)

In recent years, of course, the Chinese government has eased the restrictions of the one child policy, largely in anticipation of a rapidly graying society and the recognition that the Chinese labor force will shrink considerably in the years ahead.

It has had some possible impact on birth rates although it hasn’t been material and isolating the true cause is difficult at best. In one Western news report I recently read, for example, the writer noted that the birth rate in China grew last year and attributed that increase solely to the modification made to the one child policy.

The writer failed to note, however, that last year was the Year of the Monkey, the monkey being considered a very auspicious sign, while the year before was the Year of the Sheep. The sheep is generally considered a less propitious sign.

While taken by most Chinese and foreigners with a large grain of salt, these zodiacal predictions do impact birth rates nonetheless. Some expectant mothers, for example, asked their doctors to induce labor to insure their child was born in the Year of the Dragon (2012); the dragon commonly considered to be one of the most favorable signs to be born under.

The one child policy, of course, isn’t the only area where my thinking has evolved since publishing Understanding China. I mostly got it right, I think. And that’s not bad when writing about a culture and a place as fluid as present day China.

Contact: You may reach the author at understandingchina@yahoo.com. Mr. Moreau is also available for public speaking and the provision of third-party written content on a wide variety of topics for your website or other communications material.

Lessons Learned

I have traveled internationally all of my adult life. And I’ve found that, without exception, every time I visit a foreign land I end up learning more about myself than my destination. For the nine years I lived and worked in China, the lessons I learned profoundly changed the way I live and evaluate my life.

Here are a few of the key lessons I learned:

  • Trust v Obligation

How we live our lives, and the stress that flows from our choices, often comes down to our ability to predict the behavior of others. And in Western cultures, more often than not, that ability of prediction often comes down to trust. Westerners put great stock in trust, which is why we put such great cultural emphasis on telling the truth.

Chinese culture, by contrast, turns on obligation. Trust plays a secondary role. And, as a result, so does telling the truth, at least in the Western sense. Without a concrete expectation of obligation, in fact, the Chinese trust no one.

And I think they are on to something. Perhaps I’m just fed up with the 2016 presidential election, but I’ve come to believe that obligation is a much simpler and more practical way to determine behavioral reaction to the behavior of others. The rules of obligation, in a conceptually structured culture like that of the Chinese, are very straightforward and easy to understand. A child is obligated to his or her parents. You do me a favor and I owe you one. You respect your elders.

Trust, on the other hand, is a much more challenging judgment. There are many variables at play, including the ability of one party to act out the tenets of trust. With trust, you often have suckers.

I’ve concluded that the beauty of obligation, beyond its simplicity and predictability, is that obligation is naturally a two way street. If you demonstrate obligation to me, I am naturally inclined to feel obligation to you. It’s just how we’re wired.

Even if I trust you, however, I may not be able to assume that you will put your interests above my own when the two are in conflict. That’s a crapshoot that requires a fair amount of guesswork.

  • Result v Process

Deductively – minded Westerners typically put great emphasis on process. A job well done is to be praised even if the objective is not realized. Businesses, in particular, spend much of their time codifying processes in the belief that this will lead to more predictable results with minimal risk.

The Chinese, in contrast, typically focus exclusively on results. A job performed according to a pre-defined process brings little satisfaction if the desired result isn’t achieved.

And doesn’t the Chinese perspective make more sense? There have to be boundaries to the process, of course. If everyone cheats or breaks the rules, you have anarchy. Nonetheless, it’s the W that really matters.

Which is why the Chinese would surely applaud the women’s Swedish soccer team for knocking out the Americans at the 2016 Rio Olympics with a slow down strategy of conservative play. America’s goalie, Hope Solo, on the other hand, mocked the Swedes for leaving their womanhood in the locker room and not giving the Americans more chances to win. (I have to go with the Chinese on that one.)

  • Speed v Longevity

Everything happens faster in China. Buildings go up seemingly overnight. Online purchases often arrive the same day. Elaborate houses can be gutted and totally refinished in a matter of weeks.

In Beijing, a city of 22 million people, they recently replaced (replaced, not repaired) a 10-lane overpass, complete with lane markers, in 43 hours. (You can watch it in time lapse on YouTube.) The state of Michigan, by contrast, recently announced a construction project to improve one of the main arteries into Detroit that will last 16 years. Yes, almost two decades!

Speed is money, of course, at least in the short term. Longevity, on the other hand, can be money in the long term. If a building needs to be replaced in X years, it may not be cost effective in all cases to cut the corners that allowed you to build it quickly.

But the world is changing more rapidly every year. Who knows what our needs will be 20 or 30 years from now. That, in my mind, increasingly gives speed the edge.

  • Acquisition v Fulfillment

While the millennial generation is changing the game, Americans typically like to acquire things. It’s no wonder that personal consumption drives 70% of the US economy.

The Chinese acquire, too, of course. Newly acquired wealth, in fact, often leads to conspicuous consumption. China now represents the biggest luxury market in the world.

The Chinese, however, use acquisitions to define their success, not who they are. I’ve met some very wealthy Chinese. Many have gained and lost multiple fortunes. Seldom, however, do they define themselves by their things. In their minds, that’s just business; that’s not life.

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I’m not suggesting the Chinese are ‘better’, or even right. I do believe, however, that self-reflection is always a good thing. And there’s no better way to promote it than to immerse yourself, even temporarily, in a foreign culture. That assumes, of course, that you can do so with an open mind. If you can’t, save your money. You’ll just get frustrated.

For more about the lessons I learned in China, read my book, China – There’s Reason for the Difference. It’s available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

Contact: You may contact the author at understandingchina@yahoo.com. I am available to share my China experiences at corporate or other group events.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. A lot of Chinese architecture, and much of its culture, has endured for hundreds of years. That is part of the beautiful duality of China. You can never figure it out completely.
There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. A lot of Chinese architecture, and much of its culture, has endured for hundreds of years. That is part of the beautiful duality of China. You can never figure it out completely.

Obligation

I have often written that all of Chinese culture is built on a foundation of personal connections and the obligations that flow from them. What it took me much longer to learn, however, is that the reverse is true as well. Connection flows from obligation. And that truth, I now believe, is more important than the first.

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist (1908-1970) best known for identifying the Hierarchy of Human Needs. It essentially argues that we must fulfill four fundamental needs before we can even think about realizing our true potential or finding fulfillment in life, which he called self-actualization. (It’s what we all yearn for – Why am I here?)

The first two steps in the hierarchy cover the obvious – food, water, shelter, and a sense of safety. The third step, however, isn’t so obvious and is, without a doubt, often overlooked. I personally believe it is the single most important ingredient to all of the loneliness, angst, and general malaise that sucks the joy from much of the Western population today. (Have you been watching the US presidential election, or the European immigration crisis, or the rise of whatever extremist group lately?)

I recently published a fictional book that dealt with the topic. It’s called Now You Are Lisa, currently available in paperback on Amazon and soon in a Kindle version.

The book, however, is not the focus of the post. The book is only the catalyst.

Americans, in general, consider themselves friendly and outgoing. And most are. They greet strangers on the street. They hold the door. They smile at cute children and pat friendly looking dogs on the head.

Professional Americans are great at networking. Many members of LinkedIn have hundreds of connections on file. The same with YouTube and Twitter.

We are not very good, however, at connection. And we’re even worse at developing the sense of obligation that should flow from real connection. And that’s because our sense of connection is superficial, not obligatory.

When I left my first employer after 18 years, I had risen to president and a member of the board of directors. And when I left I did so voluntarily, but with nothing but praise for the company, and the company was doing well. Of a board of 10-12 at the time, one called me to wish me good luck and thank me for my contribution.

When I left my last company after 20 years, 11 of which I spent on the board of directors and nine as a senior executive of the company, nobody called or even e-mailed. After I experienced a small, but potentially serious, health problem, only one bothered to write.

When I wrote two novels while still employed I gave many, many free copies to colleagues and professional ‘connections’ in the US, asking only that they take a minute to write a review on Amazon since reviews are critical to sales in that model. One did. And he was Dutch.

So, it reads like self-pity, I know. It isn’t. I have long stopped defining myself by my job. You should too.

But let me ask you this: When was the last time you took time out of your schedule to do something for someone else that would provide you absolutely no personal benefit in return? And don’t answer spontaneously. Thank about it.

There are many, many exceptions, of course. And those are the good people we should all emulate.

And here’s why I write this now. The Chinese, for the most part, are an exception. They understand the value of obligation and the sense of connection it provides. I’ve been getting it backward. Their society is not built on connection; it’s built on obligation and the connection flows from there.

I left my Chinese employer nine months ago. And I still hear from colleagues, many of who have since left the company, who just want to see how I’m doing and to wish me well. And, without fail, to thank me for what they perceive I did to help them grow in their careers. (Little do they know that they helped me far more than I helped them.)

Just this past week I heard from two more – nine months after I left. These aren’t people who reported directly to me or with whom I had any kind of social relationship outside of work. One left the company before I did.

We never talk business. They aren’t calling to complain or commiserate. They are calling at a strictly personal level. They would lose face if they talked about work. They talk about me – the person.

As Americans, we tend to think of obligation as a burden. ‘I don’t want to go to this dinner but I’m obligated. It’s a client…or the boss…or someone who can help my career.’ The very word implies something we must do rather than something we want to do.

The Chinese, however, don’t look at it that way. They see obligation as an opportunity; an opportunity to enhance their connection to the people and world around them and to thus advance one more rung on Maslow’s ladder.

In organizations there is lots of talk about servant leadership. (Although it is seldom practiced in reality.) I think that’s a misnomer. It should be called obligation leadership. If we, as leaders, feel a sense of true obligation to those we are asked to lead, they, in turn, will find the satisfaction of connection. And then Katie bar the doors. They will perform like even they didn’t think possible.

Obligation. It really is a win-win. Try it. You’ll be amazed at how good you feel. And how ‘lucky’ you get in every aspect of your life.

Here’s the official description of Now You Are Lisa, by Gary Moreau:

After a long career filled with triumphant successes and devastating failures, American businessman Adam Bertrand is well accustomed to the ups and downs of life. Still, several years after starting a new life in the thriving, modern city of Beijing, China, nothing could have prepared him for the disaster that awaits him.

Now, his wife and daughters are gone—his health, ravaged by a growing alcohol addiction. With no job and no sense of purpose, Adam flounders in a sea of loneliness and despair, desperate to fix the pieces of his broken existence. But through the unexpected power of human connection, a simple touch, he suddenly begins to rediscover exactly what he was missing all along.

Now You Are Lisa follows one man’s journey as he awakens to the presence of others around him, after a lifetime of being driven by achievement and success. Inspired by the example of a poor Chinese widow who crosses his path, Adam begins to discover the truth behind a life well lived—and the incredible strength that emerges when we manage to overcome the obstacles that life throws our way.

Here’s the link on Amazon: Now You Are Lisa

Contact: understandingchina@yahoo.com

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Please, Thank You, Marriage

Notice to Readers: I am running a sweepstakes for free Kindle copies of my fictional book, The Message?, written under my pen name of Avam Hale. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. The promotion ends the earlier of May 9, 2016 11:59 PM PDT, or when all prizes are claimed. See Official Rules at Amazon Giveaway. (Sorry, US residents only.) Winners will be picked randomly by Amazon and your chances of winning are 1 in 10 until the free prizes run out. This is a contemporary tale that has all of the ingredients of a good read – a little love, a murder, some Washington politics, and a surprise ending. Click on the link below to enter:

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As a an American Baby Boomer son of two Great Generation veterans of WWII (both served in the US Navy) I was trained to say please and thank you at every turn. As a Chinese woman who has never traveled outside of the Middle Kingdom, that personal habit annoys my wife more than any other.

The Chinese divide people into two groups – those they have a personal connection to and those they don’t. Within the first group, nothing tops the connection to your children. Parents, spouse, and siblings follow, pretty much in equal order. They are all important with a capital I.

With connection comes obligation. It is assumed that adult children will take care of their aging parents. And parents will often sacrifice their careers, their personal pleasure, and their own ambitions to insure their child has the best possible chance for a comfortable life. (There is no literal translation of the concept from Chinese to English but I think the word ‘ze ren’ comes closest.)

Obligation, however, works both ways. ‘I owe you’ means ‘We owe each other’ in China. Neither side of a connection has more or less obligation than the other.

That much is pretty easy to understand. What took me a long time to truly comprehend, however, is that obligation comes with certain expectations. Intimacy is the wrong word since it denotes a certain emotional attachment that isn’t necessarily part of the equation. Perhaps oneness is a better description but that’s a little vague and open to interpretation.

The point is that my Chinese wife is continually perplexed, and more than a little put off, when I say please and thank you to her. She inevitably retorts, “Why you say thank you?” or “Why you say please?” and then looks at me suspiciously, as if I’m hiding something or just impossible to figure out.

Erich Segal, author of the book, Love Story, made the phrase “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” famous in the West. I suspect that the Chinese were a little perplexed by that. In their culture, love is not the issue. Connection is.

The beauty of that, of course, is that connection is lot easier to identify than love. Writers and poets are still trying to figure out what love means and probably always will be. You don’t need a marriage counselor to figure out what connection is.

At 62 I am far too old to break lifelong habits. I have, however, come to see the inherent beauty of the Chinese perspective. When I say please to my spouse there is an inherent implication that I am requesting something outside of the normal boundaries of obligation. With marriage, however, there should be no boundaries.

So, what am I suggesting when I say please and thank you? Am I suggesting that there are limits to my sense of obligation? And what are those limits? Defining them would be to sail into murky waters indeed.

And isn’t that where a lot of marriages fail? We start splitting hairs over things like obligation and the meaning of marriage and our role within it? Trust collapses; sex evaporates; connection dwindles; the marriage ultimately fails.

The Chinese get divorced, of course. They’re getting divorced in record numbers, in fact. Part of that, in Beijing at least, is due to the fact that the government put in restrictions on the number of homes one family could own in an effort to cool down housing prices. And since real estate is THE investment of choice in China, some couples actually divorced to create two households and double the number of homes the family could invest in. The act, in other words, had nothing to do with love or their obligation to each other.

There is, nonetheless, a certain simplicity to the Chinese perspective that I find refreshing. While Chinese customs may seem a bit bewildering to the average Westerner, simplicity is a common thread throughout Chinese culture. As Confucius said, “Wherever you go, there you are.” It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Western culture, by contrast, is fully of subtly and incongruity. And given our deductive worldview that compels us to understand cause and effect in everything, it should be no surprise that we suffer so much angst and stress in our lives. As my wife continually reminds me, “You think too much.” She sleeps like a baby. I’ve been tired my entire adult life.

In the end, I’m not arguing for one perspective over the other. I do believe, however, that the Chinese are generally a lot less stressed than their Western counterparts. They may, in fact, particularly the children, be under a lot more pressure. But pressure and stress are two different things. Stress comes, as my physician brother tells me, from the sense of a lack of control. That has been my experience but I might add to that by saying that stress comes from the sense of a lack of control or understanding.

Think about it. How much effort is devoted by Western men trying to figure out women? And vice-versa. I can’t open the home page of my Internet browser without seeing at least one article devoted to the topic. “Secrets to a successful marriage.” “How to know if your husband is about to cheat.” “What men really want.” “What men don’t get about women.” The list goes on. It’s never-ending. And after all of this effort we’re really no closer to the truth than when we started.

Perhaps that’s because there is no single truth. Perhaps it’s like The Way in Taoism; it’s just too complicated for our human minds to comprehend.

I will say that I have spent several years trying to train myself not to always try to figure everything out. Just accept things the way they are. And, as a result, I can say with conviction that I am less stressed than I have ever been. You should try it. (Be aware, it’s not easy.)

So, thank you for reading this. Unless, of course, you are a sibling or someone with whom I have a deep connection. (My wife never reads my blogs. She assumes she doesn’t have to because she is my wife and doesn’t find much entertainment in all the soul-searching anyway.) If you do fall into the latter category, well, have a nice day. I may not be polite, but I am there for you.

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Contact: understandingchina@yahoo.com