林语堂《生活的目的》 -经典文学英译-中英双语赏析

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THE END OF LIFE

By Lin Yutang

THE END OF LIFE, being the first section of the last chapter “Epilogue” of Lin Yutang’s My Country and My People, published in New York by the John Day Publishing Company, 1935.

Lin Yutang,林语堂(1895-1976), Chinese philologist and author. His My Country and My People has won for him both in America and England the reputation of being one of the ablest interpreters of China and her civilization.

In the general survey of Chinese art and Chinese life, the conviction must have been forced upon us that the Chinese are past masters in the art of living. There is a certain whole-hearted concentration on the material life, a certain zest in living, which is mellower, perhaps deeper, anyway just as intense as in the West. In China the spiritual values have not been separated from the material values, but rather help man in a keener enjoyment of life as it falls to our lot. This accounts for our joviality and our incorrigible humor. A heathen can have a heathenish devotion to the life of the present and envelop both spiritual and material values in one outlook, which it is difficult for a Christian to imagine. We live the life of the senses and the life of the spirit at the same moment, and see no necessary conflict. For the human spirit is used to beautify life, to extract its essence, perhaps to help it overcome ugliness and pain inevitable in the world of our senses, but never to escape from it and find its meaning in a life hereafter. When Confucius said in reply to a question by a disciple on death, “Don’t know life—how know death?” he expressed there a somewhat bourgeois, unmetaphysical and practical attitude toward the problems of life and knowledge which has characterized our national life and thinking.

This standpoint establishes for us a certain scale of values. In every aspect of knowledge and of living, the test of life holds. It accounts for our pleasures and our antipathies. The test of life was with us a racial thought, wordless and needing no definition or giving of reasons. It was that test of life which, instinctively I think, guided us to distrust civic civilization and uphold the rural ideal in art, life and letters, to dislike religion in our rational moments, to play with Buddhism but never quite accept its logical conclusions, and to hate mechanical ingenuity. It was that instinctive trust in life that gave us a robust common sense in looking at life’s kaleidoscopic changes and the myriad vexatious problems of the intellect which we rudely ignored. It enabled us to see life steadily and see life whole, with no great distortions of values. It taught us some simple wisdom, like respect for old age and the joys of domestic life, acceptance of life, of sex, and of sorrow. It made us lay emphasis on certain common virtues, like endurance, industry, thrift, moderation, and pacificism. It prevented the development of freakish extreme theories and the enslaving of man by the products of his own intelligence. It gave us a sense of values, and taught us to accept the material as well as the spiritual goods of life. It taught us that, after all is said and done, human happiness is the end of all knowledge. And we arrange ourselves to make our lives happy on this planet, under whatever vicissitudes of fortune.

We are an old nation. The eyes of an old people see in its past and in this changing modern life much that is superficial and much that is of true meaning to our lives. We are a little cynical about progress, and we are a little bit indolent, as are all old people. We do not want to race about in a field for a ball; we prefer to saunter along willow banks to listen to the bird’s song and the children’s laughter. Life is so precarious that when we know something truly satisfies us, we hold on to it tight, as a mother hugs her baby close to her breast in a dark, stormy night. We have really no desire for exploring the South Pole or scaling the Himalayas. When Westerners do that, we ask, “What do you do that for? Do you have to go to the South Pole to be happy?” We go to the movies and theaters, but in the heart of our hearts we feel that a real child’s laughter gives us as much real joy and happiness as an imaginary child’s laughter on the screen. We compare the two and stay at home. We do not believe that kissing one’s own wife is necessarily insipid, and that other people’s wives are necessarily more beautiful because they are other people’s wives. We do not ache to reach the foot of the mountain when we are in the middle of the lake, and we do not ache to be at the top of the hill when we are at its foot. We drink what wine there is in the pot and enjoy what scenery there is before our eyes.

So much of life is merely a farce. It is sometimes just as well to stand by and look at it and smile, perhaps better than to take part in it. Like a dreamer awakened, we see life, not with the romantic color of yesternight’s dream, but with a saner vision. We are more ready to give up the dubious, the glamorous and the unattainable, but at the same time to hold on to the few things that we know will give us happiness. We always go back to nature as an eternal source of beauty and of true and deep and lasting happiness. Deprived of progress and of national power, we yet throw open our windows and listen to cicadas or to falling autumn leaves and inhale the fragrance of chrysanthemums, and over the top there shines the autumn moon, and we are content.

For we are now in the autumn of our national life. There comes a time in our lives, as nations and as individuals, when we are pervaded by the spirit of early autumn, in which green is mixed with gold and sadness is mixed with joy, and hope is mixed with reminiscence. There comes a time in our lives when the innocence of spring is a memory and the exuberance of summer a song whose echoes faintly remain in the air, when as we look out on life, the problem is not how to grow but how to live truly, not how to strive and labor but how to enjoy the precious moments we have, not how to squander our energy but how to conserve it in preparation for the coming winter. A sense of having arrived somewhere, of having settled and having found out what we want. A sense of having achieved something also, precious little compared with its past exuberance, but still something, like an autumn forest shorn of its summer glory but retaining such of it as will endure.

I like spring, but it is too young. I like summer, but it is too proud. So I like best of all autumn, because its leaves are a little yellow, its tone mellower, its colors richer, and it is tinged a little with sorrow and a premonition of death. Its golden richness speaks not of the innocence of spring, nor of the power of summer, but of the mellowness and kindly wisdom of approaching age. It knows the limitations of life and is content. From a knowledge of those limitations and its richness of experience emerges a symphony of colors, richer than all, its green speaking of life and strength, its orange speaking of golden content, and its purple of resignation and death. And the moon shines over it, and its brow seems white with reflection, but when the setting sun touches it with an evening glow, it can still laugh cheerily. An early mountain breeze brushes by and sends its shivering leaves dancing gaily to the ground, and you do not know whether the song of the falling leaves is the song of laughter or of parting tears. For it is the Song of the Spirit of Early Autumn, the spirit of calm and wisdom and maturity, which smiles at sorrow itself and praises the exhilarating, keen, cool air—the Spirit of Autumn so well expressed by Hsin Ch‘ichi:

 

“In my young days,

I had tasted only gladness,

But loved to mount the top floor,

But loved to mount the top floor,

To write a song pretending sadness.

 

“And now I’ve tasted

Sorrow’s flavors, bitter and sour,

And can’t find a word,

And can’t find a word,

But merely say, ‘What a golden autumn hour! ‘”

 

Notes

conviction, firm belief; being convinced.

past masters, people having practiced skill.

zest, keen enjoyment; gusto; relish.

mellower, made softer or more genial by experience.

joviality, the act of being merry, joyous, or jolly.

incorrigible humor, sympathetic laughter which is so strong that it is beyond correction.

heathen, pagan; irreligious person.

the life of the present, living only for the present moment; not caring about the past or the future.

envelop, combine in one wrapper; include.

extract its essence, take out from life its essential element.

a life hereafter, a life after this life that we are living.

disciple, a follower who has learned to believe in the doctrine of his teacher.

“Don’t know lifehow know death?”“未知生焉知死,”—Confucius’s Analect.

bourgeois, of the class between the gentry and the laborers, a class addicted to comfort and respectability.

unmetaphysical, not abstract and not related to metaphysics, which is the science of being and the theory of knowledge.

scale of values, a graded system of measuring relative worth, importance, utility, desirability, etc.

civic civilization, civilization built up around a city; the civilization that has grown up with the growth of cities.

letters, literature.

robust, strong and healthy.

kaleidoscopic, varied and many-colored. A kaleidoscope is a tube in which figures are produced by reflections of pieces of colored glass and varied by rotation of the tube.

myriad, vastly numerous.

vexatious, annoying; distressing; disturbing.

distortions, twisted or pulled out of shape.

pacificism, love of peace; advocacy of the abolition of war.

freakish extreme theories, queer radical ideas, that run to extremes.

vicissitudes of fortune, irregular changes of luck; uncertainty as to how things may turn out.

superficial, not going deep; of or on the surface only; of not much true meaning.

cynial, sneering; incredulous.

indolent, lazy; slothful.

saunter, walk in a leisurely way.

precarious, uncertain; insecure; dependent on circumstances or unknown causes or conditions.

Himalayas, the mountain system 1,600 miles long between India and Tibet. The highest peak of this system is Mount Everest, 29,002 feet high. Several have been the attempts on the part of alpine climbers to scale to the top of the mountain, but as yet none of these attempts have been successful.

on the screen, thrown on the screen in a theater.

insipid, tasteless; uninteresting; dull.

farce, absurdly futile proceeding, pretense, mockery.

yesternight’s, last night’s.

dubious, uncertain; doubtful.

glamorous, of magical enchantment; of delusive or alluring beauty and charm.

cicadas, insects noted for the prolonged shrill sound made by the male.

content, satisfied.

pervaded, spread through; permeated; saturated.

reminiscence, remembrance; act of recalling past experiences.

exuberance, luxuriance; overflow; excess.

squander, spend wastefully; scatter.

shorn,the past participle of shear, strip bare;cut off as with sword or clip off as with shears.

premonition of death, forewarning that death is not so far off, that death is in the offing.

symphony of colors, harmony of colors; such a delightful mixing of colors that one color brings out the richness of another.

resignation, uncomplaining endurance of sorrow or other evil.

exhilarating, enlivening; gladdening.

Hsin Ch‘i-chi, 辛弃疾(稼轩), poet, Sung dynasty, died 1198.

“少年不识愁滋味爱上层楼爱上层楼为赋新词强说愁.而今识尽愁滋味欲说还休欲说还休却道天凉好个秋.”(稼轩词,卷四,十九页)

Questions

  1. In what way are the Chinese “past masters in the art of living”?
  2. What scale of values results from the Chinese practical attitudes towards the problems of life and knowledge?
  3. How is the Chinese viewpoint colored by the fact that the nation is old?
  4. What is the spirit of early autumn? How does it characterize Chinese life?

参考译文

【作品简介】

《生活的目的》是林语堂所著《吾国与吾民》最后一章《结语》的第一部分,该书由纽约的约翰·戴出版公司1935年出版。

【作者简介】

林语堂(1895—1976),中国语言学家、作家。因《吾国与吾民》一书在美国和英国声誉鹊起,跻身中国及中国文明的最佳阐释者之列。

生活的目的

在概述了中国的艺术与生活之后,我们不得不承认中国人的确是精通生活艺术的大师。他们全心全意地致力于物质生活,其热忱决不下于西方,并且更为成熟,或许还更为深沉。在中国,精神的价值并未与物质的价值相分离,反而帮助了人们更好地享受自己命定的生活。这就解释了为什么我们具有一种快活的性情和根深蒂固的幽默。一个无宗教信仰的人会对现世的世俗生活抱有一种粗野的热忱,并且融物质与精神两种价值于一身,这在基督徒是难以想象的。我们能够同时生活在感官世界和精神世界之中,而不认为两者一定会有什么冲突。因为人类的精神是被用来美化生活,提炼生活的精华,或许还能帮助生活克服感官世界中不可避免的种种丑恶和痛苦,而不是用来逃避生活,或在来世找寻生活的意义。孔子在回答一位弟子关于死亡的问题时说:“未知生,焉知死?”这句话表达了一种对于生命和知识问题的庸俗、具体而实用的态度,而正是这种态度造就了我们现在国民生活及思维的特征。

这一立场为我们树立了多层级的价值尺度。这种生活标准适用于知识和人生的方方面面,解释了我们喜好与憎恶某一事物的原因。这种生活标准已经融入我们的民族意识,不需要任何文字上的说明、界定或阐释。我认为也正是这种生活标准促使我们在艺术、人生和文学中本能地怀疑城市文明,而崇尚田园理想;促使我们在理智的时刻厌恶宗教,涉猎佛学但从不完全接受其合乎逻辑的结论;促使我们憎恶机械发明。正是这种对于生活的本能信仰,赋予我们一种坚定的常识,面对生活的万千变化以及智慧的无数棘手问题,可以做到岿然不动。它使我们能够沉着地、完整地看待生活,并维系固有的价值观念。它也教会了我们一些简单的智慧,比如尊敬老人,享受家庭生活的乐趣,接受生活,接受性别差异,接受悲哀。它使我们注重这样几种寻常的美德:忍耐、勤劳、节俭、中庸与和平主义。它使我们不至于发展某些怪异极端的理论,不至于成为自己智慧产品的奴隶。它赋予我们一种价值观,教会我们同时接受生活给予我们的物质和精神财富。它告诉人们:归根结底,只有人类的幸福才是一切知识的最终目标。于是我们得以在命运的浮沉中调整自己,欣欣然生活在这个行星之上。

我们是一个古老的民族。在老人看来,我们民族的过去以及变化万端的现代生活,有不少是浅薄的,也有不少确实触及了生活的真谛。同任何一个老人一样,我们对进步有所怀疑,我们也有点懒散。我们不喜欢为一只球在球场上争逐,而喜欢漫步于柳堤之上,听听鸟儿的鸣唱和孩子的笑语。生活是如此动荡不安,因而当我们发现了真正令自己满意的东西,我们就会抓住不放,就像一位母亲在黑暗的暴风雨之夜里紧紧搂住怀中的婴孩。我们对探险南极或者攀登喜马拉雅山实在毫无兴趣,一旦西方人这样做,我们会问:“你做这件事的目的何在?你非得到南极去寻找幸福吗?”我们会光顾影院和剧场,然而内心深处却认为,相比荧幕上的幻象,现实生活中儿童的嬉笑同样能给我们带来欢乐和幸福。如此一来,我们便情愿待在家里。我们不认为亲吻自己的老婆必定寡淡无味,而别人的妻子仅仅因为是别人的妻子就显得更加楚楚动人。我们在身处湖心之时并不渴望走到山脚下去,我们在山脚下时也并不企求登至山顶。我们信奉今朝有酒今朝醉,花开堪折直须折。

人生在很大程度上不过是一场闹剧,有时最好做个超然的旁观者,或许比一味参与要强得多。我们就像一个刚刚醒来的睡梦者一样,看待人生用的是一种清醒的眼光,而不是带着昨夜梦境的浪漫色彩。我们乐于放弃那些捉摸不定、令人向往却又难以达到的东西,同时紧紧抓住不多的几件我们清楚会给自己带来幸福的东西。我们常常喜欢回归自然,以之为美和真正的、深沉的、长久的幸福的永恒源泉。尽管丧失了进步与国力,我们还是能够打开窗子,聆听金蝉的鸣声,欣赏秋天的落叶,呼吸菊花的芬芳。秋月朗照之下,我们感到心满意足。

我们现在身处民族生活的秋天。在我们生命中的某一时刻,无论是民族还是个人,都为新秋精神所渗透:绿色错落着金色、悲伤交织着欢乐、希望混杂着怀旧。在这一时刻,春天的单纯已成记忆,夏日的繁茂已为空气中微弱回荡着的歌吟。我们看待人生,不是在筹谋怎样发展,而是去考虑如何真正地活着;不是怎样奋发劳作,而是如何珍惜当下的宝贵时光尽情享乐;不是如何挥霍自己的精力,而是养精蓄锐应对冬天的到来。我们感到自己已经到达某个地方,安顿了下来,并找到了自己想要的东西。我们还感到已经获得了某种东西,这与过去的荣华相比尽管微不足道,却像是褪去了夏日繁茂的秋林一样,仍然有些余晖在继续放光。

我喜欢春天,可它过于稚嫩;我喜欢夏天,可它过于骄矜。因而我最喜欢秋天,喜欢它泛黄的树叶、成熟的格调和斑斓的色彩。它带着些许感伤,也带着死亡的预兆。秋天的金碧辉煌所展示的不是春天的单纯,也不是夏天的伟力,而是接近高迈之年的老成和睿智——明白人生有限因而知足,这种“生也有涯”的感知与丰富的人生经验变幻出和谐的秋色:绿色代表生命和力量,橘黄代表金玉的内容,紫色代表屈从与死亡。在月光照耀下,秋天陷入沉思,露出苍白的神情;而当夕阳的余晖抚摸她面容的时候,她仍然能够爽悦地欢笑。山间的晨风拂过,枝杈间片片颤动着的秋叶舞动着飘向大地,你真不知道这落叶的歌吟是欣喜的欢唱还是离别的泪歌,因为它是新秋精神的歌吟:镇定、智慧、成熟。这种歌吟用微笑面对悲伤,赞颂那种令人振奋、敏锐而冷静的神情——这种秋的精神在辛弃疾的笔下表现得最为恰切:

 

少年不识愁滋味,爱上层楼。爱上层楼,为赋新词强说愁。

而今识尽愁滋味,欲说还休。欲说还休,却道天凉好个秋。

 

(佚名 译)

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