A Little Bit of Heart
Shen's Teahouse

Dim sum is literally translated as a little bit of heart or a touch of heart. They are appetizers, not the main course. What I offer here is dim sum of Chinese culture. I hope they are enough to wet your appetite for more.

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Numbers And Who I am

How does one talk about oneself in 6 minutes? First I thought about being philosophical, trying to make the most eloquent statement about myself that I could. Then, there wasnít any eloquent statement that came into my mind. As one gets older, one gets duller too. Grand ideas and philosophy fade in a simple daily life of coffee, tea, and desserts. As my life becomes simpler and simpler, all I can recall that is said eloquently about oneís self is what Dr. Phil said in Oprahís show. He said: oneís life can often be explained by the 10 defining moments, and 7 critical choices, and 5 pivotal people in your world and how have they shaped you.

The beauty of this statement is the jingle of the numbers. I donít know if anyone else in this world loves to summarize complicated ideas into simple jingles of numbers as much as the Chinese. The first jingle I learned in Chinese is the 3 obedience and 4 virtues. That is the Confucius teaching for Chinese women to first obey their fathers, then, after they are married, to obey their husbands, then, after their husbands die to obey their sons. The four virtues are related to what women should be in terms of their appearance, their language, their work, and their deeds. Other jingles include the 3 pillars and 5 supports which is also a Confucius teaching about the 3 most important relations in society, and the 5 supportive emotions that go along with them. If you are familiar with modern Chinese history, the number jingles exploded during the Culture Revolution. One of the most famous slogans was the 5 talks and 4 beauties. It was talking about civility, order, and cleanliness and about the beauty of the mind, language, action and environment, and so on. However, after so many slogans and teachings, people began to fill in their own versions of the number jingles. These days, soccer fans use the same idea to talk about players, referees, fans, media, and so on. And then they added 3 passions on top of this, passion for sex and passion for money, and passion for fame.

Being conditioned by these number jingles I sat down and seriously started my exercise. I listed 10 of the most defining moments in my life, and 7 critical choices, and 5 pivotal people that influenced me. To my surprise, I discovered that the last 3 critical choices of my life are to undo the first 3 critical choices, and the 4th choice is something that I cannot undo. That is the choice of having my daughter, Stephanie. I love my daughter dearly. Even though I have my doubts sometimes, I cannot imagine a life without her. Then I looked at the 10 most defining moments of my life. The first one was when my mother transferred me from a public school to a private school in 3rd grade. That was the first time I sense the inequality of class difference. Then, the sudden burst of intelligence in the 5th grade - thatís when I first sensed the quality of myself being an individual. This lead to the troubled years during Junior high school, and thatís when I sensed the inequality of being a girl. In another words, my behavior did not fit the 3 obedience and 4 virtues rule. I was severely punished for that, and I then learned how to hide myself and behaved like a proper Chinese girl. The next defining moment was moving to the United States. All of sudden itís ok to express your opinions, itís ok to be outspoken, and I have all the ďismsĒ to support my feelings, such as socialism and feminism and liberalism. Soon, I realized that I have to unlearn what I learned in China as an obedient girl without a voice. However, intellectual awareness does not translate into psychological healing. That is why Iím still struggling with the fear of speaking in public, and end up here talking to you as a toastmaster.

Finally, I looked at the list of 5 pivotal people. I listed mother, father, daughter, husband, and teacher. Looking at my role in relation to these 5, I realized that what I really am is a good daughter, a good student, and a good mother. No wonder Confucius loved to look at human relationships. It seems one can often find oneself in relation to others if one has trouble finding the absolute self. Dr. Phil listed Oprah as one of his pivotal people. I guess if I can list a celebrity on my list, then I could be a good celebrity too. However, I am quite proud as who I am, and I canít imagine I want to be anything else. So, after 10 defining moment, and 7 critical choices, and 5 pivotal people, I conclude that I only have one hope to add, that is to keep doing what Iím doing, to learn and unlearn, to do and undo, so that I will be a better person tomorrow than I am today.

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