Zhi Mian the Good Times
I know a few words of Chinese. I can ask for the bathroom and I can ask for a cup of coffee. Basically, if you can do those things in any given language, you are going to be all right wherever you are. But I also know the words zhi mian. These words have several interconnected meanings, two of which are given here:
1. To sit facing one another. That is, to be in full few of the other, and have the other in full view of you. This has strong supportive connotations: to not just sit with but to accept the other.
2. To face (confront) directly. Meaning, to see things as they really are, courageously.
A friend recently reminded me to spend some time looking at what is going right. I spent some time resisting this idea mostly out of sheer spite and contrariness. But, he is essentially right.
Thanks to state-dependent memory, depressed people are more likely to recall sad events than happy ones from their lives, and more likely to interpret current events in a negativistic manner. That is, to see the worst in everything. Depressed people are also more likely to be right, to give accurate appraisals of their situations. Optimists, on the other hand, tend to overrate their chances of positive outcomes. If you want to be right, depression is for you. But if you want to be functional, take your depression in moderation.
We all need a little self-delusion to get up in the morning. What we do will probably make no difference, yet we need to believe we are important, deserve to be treated well, can get what we want if we work hard. Otherwise, the paralysis of despair, however accurate, will have us taking to bed.
Is it possible we can zhi mian the various injustices of life, look courageously into the void so long that we forget to do the same with the ordinary uplifts of daily living? For my part, I am resistant to thinking about things in these terms because I don't want to distract myself from those injustices. I don't want to take my soporifics and go back to sleep, even for a second. Even now, while trying to take a second to say “remember life can be good also,” I find it hard to come up with the words.
But some parts of life are good, and without these parts of life, the various injustices lack meaning. To see the good in life is an essential part of life, what keeps despair from growing into cynicism. What would it mean to zhi mian the positive aspects of living? It’s something to think about.
-- Jason Dias