<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Voice of one crying from the red earth</span>
After skipping school and camping out with her friends for a few days, Hui felt the need to do some thinking on her own in evaluating her involvement in the protest. In taking a step back, everything she cared for came back into focus. She began to question if the protest had strayed from its purpose or lived up to the spirit of “love and peace” when all they did, albeit politely and even apologetically, was block highways and access to the city’s financial and business hubs. As she pondered on these things a passage from Confucius’ <em>Book of Great Learning</em> crossed her mind, which was “<em>Xiu shen, qi jia, zhiguo, ping tian xia</em>” (修身齐家治国平天下):
“<em>For it is only through inward development and seeking of the light and truth that a sure foundation can be laid for a better self, a better home, a better society, and a better world, (one step at a time and in that order.)</em>”
These words spoke to Hui in her predicament of having to choose between being loyal to her fellow protesters and being true to herself. She struggled with the social pressure of demonstrators who she said could not bring themselves to explain in concrete terms why they took to the streets apart from wanting to be there for each other. “<em>We are clueless as to why our heartfelt actions and sacrifice in trying to build a better future for everyone is stalwartly opposed by the majority of the 7-million population in support of the police</em>,” she said. At the end she decided to withdraw herself from the protest and go back to school.
Hui’s voice was one that was unlikely to make history in the longest-standing large-scale protest of this century. Yet she succeeded in setting a good example for her fellow protesters in speaking up. She realized that true courage is not about toughing it out on the wrong path or enduring a war not worth fighting, but gently and firmly saying “Enough!” to friends and associates who may subject us to what we do not believe to be praiseworthy and true. “<em>There is so much I need to learn and understand before allowing myself to get too excited about pursuing such a dramatic course of action</em>,” she reflected. “<em>I feel that my place in society as a young scholar is first and foremost in being anxiously engaged in seeking the light and truth.</em>”
Confucius’ simple and straightforward counsel is relevant not just to Hui but also to youth and adults alike, in Hong Kong, London, and elsewhere in the world. The strategic preparation spoken of here is especially needful in an age of calamity and crisis, as each level of training and development helps to extend our capacity to become more self-reliant, responsible, perceptive, and measured, thus more effective in rendering service to our fellowmen. Confucius’ writings are the voice of one crying from the red earth, speaking to us as if we were present in China’s war-torn Spring and Autumn Period (770 – 476 BC). He could sympathize with the hopes and dreams of the Millennials because he had been there. He, too, had to fight hard to be heard. But he knew that there is no better place in the world to start a revolution than within oneself. He was well aware of the pressing need of society at the time – the more tumultuous the times, the more order and wisdom we need to apply in our lives in order to survive and thrive.
Although this wisdom did not kick in until Hui gave herself time to think, she did act on it in a timely manner. If we too can slow down and take time to periodically reevaluate what we have been caught up in, we can begin to pick up some of the wisdom we left behind in the hustle and bustle of our lives. After all, the beginning or the end of the year should not be the only occasions we set aside to reflect and make strategic adjustments in our lives.