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THE CLOAK OF INVISIBILITY (EXCERPT)

by Yang Jiang (1911 - )
English translation: Miao Guang

Britons and Americans use the metaphor of a snake pit to describe society. In this pit, there are snakes fighting to stick their heads out, pushing each other away to make themselves seen and to emerge on top of each other. They fight to stay alive, constantly struggling and competing. Sticking out one’s head is like being one of the bubbles sitting atop the ocean waves, coming face to face with the glorious sun and moonlight. Life is short; that very instant on the top of the wave could become an emblem of a lifetime’s achievement for one to be proud of. Nevertheless, while there are those who aim for the top, there are also others who choose to lay low in the mud and go quietly about life. People have different goals, and nothing undesired should be forced on anyone.

I love Su Dongpo’s “a single man hidden in the ocean of people,” and also find Zhuangzi’s “drowning on dry land” admirable. While society can be compared to a snake pit, there still exists flying birds above, and a pond of swimming fish beside it. From the past to the present, there have always been people who avoid the snake pit by going into hiding or “drowning on dry land.”

To disappear in the crowd like beads of water hidden in the ocean, or small flowers hidden inside the bush, all safe and sound, peaceful and carefree. One who does not aim high will not have to worry about falling, nor does he need to fight for power or eliminate others. Instead, he stays genuine and natural, and focuses solely on what he wants to do.

The happenings of this world are much more interesting than the bright moon and cool breeze; you can either read it like a book, or watch it like a show. Those in the most humble and lowest positions have the best view of this world in its truest form instead of a rehearsed performance prepared for an audience.

── from Yujian Sanwen Ershi Shiji Mingjia Jingdian 100 (Selection of 100 Classic Proses from the 21st Century)