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  • So I was trained to become a gymnast

  • for two years in Hunan, China in the 1970s.

  • When I was in the first grade, the government

  • wanted to transfer me to a school for athletes,

  • all expenses paid.

  • But my tiger mother said, "No."

  • My parents wanted me to become

  • an engineer like them.

  • After surviving the Cultural Revolution,

  • they firmly believed there's only one sure way to happiness:

  • a safe and well-paid job.

  • It is not important if I like the job or not.

  • But my dream was to become a Chinese opera singer.

  • That is me playing my imaginary piano.

  • An opera singer must start training young

  • to learn acrobatics,

  • so I tried everything I could to go to opera school.

  • I even wrote to the school principal

  • and the host of a radio show.

  • But no adults liked the idea.

  • No adults believed I was serious.

  • Only my friends supported me, but they were kids,

  • just as powerless as I was.

  • So at age 15, I knew I was too old to be trained.

  • My dream would never come true.

  • I was afraid that for the rest of my life

  • some second-class happiness

  • would be the best I could hope for.

  • But that's so unfair.

  • So I was determined to find another calling.

  • Nobody around to teach me? Fine.

  • I turned to books.

  • I satisfied my hunger for parental advice

  • from this book by a family of writers and musicians.["Correspondence in the Family of Fou Lei"]

  • I found my role model of an independent woman

  • when Confucian tradition requires obedience.["Jane Eyre"]

  • And I learned to be efficient from this book.["Cheaper by the Dozen"]

  • And I was inspired to study abroad after reading these.

  • ["Complete Works of Sanmao" (aka Echo Chan)] ["Lessons From History" by Nan Huaijin]

  • I came to the U.S. in 1995,

  • so which books did I read here first?

  • Books banned in China, of course.

  • "The Good Earth" is about Chinese peasant life.

  • That's just not convenient for propaganda. Got it.

  • The Bible is interesting, but strange.

  • (Laughter)

  • That's a topic for a different day.

  • But the fifth commandment gave me an epiphany:

  • "You shall honor your father and mother."

  • "Honor," I said. "That's so different,

  • and better, than obey."

  • So it becomes my tool to climb out

  • of this Confucian guilt trap

  • and to restart my relationship with my parents.

  • Encountering a new culture also started my habit

  • of comparative reading.

  • It offers many insights.

  • For example, I found this map out of place at first

  • because this is what Chinese students grew up with.

  • It had never occurred to me,

  • China doesn't have to be at the center of the world.

  • A map actually carries somebody's view.

  • Comparative reading actually is nothing new.

  • It's a standard practice in the academic world.

  • There are even research fields

  • such as comparative religion and comparative literature.

  • Compare and contrast gives scholars

  • a more complete understanding of a topic.

  • So I thought, well, if comparative reading

  • works for research, why not do it in daily life too?

  • So I started reading books in pairs.

  • So they can be about people --

  • ["Benjamin Franklin" by Walter Isaacson]["John Adams" by David McCullough] --

  • who are involved in the same event,

  • or friends with shared experiences.

  • ["Personal History" by Katharine Graham]["The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life," by Alice Schroeder]

  • I also compare the same stories in different genres -- (Laughter)

  • [Holy Bible: King James Version]["Lamb" by Chrisopher Moore] --

  • or similar stories from different cultures,

  • as Joseph Campbell did in his wonderful book.["The Power of Myth" by Joseph Campbell]

  • For example, both the Christ and the Buddha

  • went through three temptations.

  • For the Christ, the temptations

  • are economic, political and spiritual.

  • For the Buddha, they are all psychological:

  • lust, fear and social duty -- interesting.

  • So if you know a foreign language, it's also fun

  • to read your favorite books in two languages.

  • ["The Way of Chuang Tzu" Thomas Merton]["Tao: The Watercourse Way" Alan Watts]

  • Instead of lost in translation, I found there is much to gain.

  • For example, it's through translation that I realized

  • "happiness" in Chinese literally means "fast joy." Huh!

  • "Bride" in Chinese literally means "new mother." Uh-oh.

  • (Laughter)

  • Books have given me a magic portal to connect with people

  • of the past and the present.

  • I know I shall never feel lonely or powerless again.

  • Having a dream shattered really is nothing

  • compared to what many others have suffered.

  • I have come to believe that coming true

  • is not the only purpose of a dream.

  • Its most important purpose is to get us in touch

  • with where dreams come from,

  • where passion comes from, where happiness comes from.

  • Even a shattered dream can do that for you.

  • So because of books, I'm here today,

  • happy, living again with a purpose and a clarity,

  • most of the time.

  • So may books be always with you.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

  • Thank you. (Applause)

  • Thank you. (Applause)

So I was trained to become a gymnast

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B1 INT TED comparative chinese happiness reading opera

【TED】Lisa Bu: How books can open your mind (How books can open your mind | Lisa Bu)

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    VoiceTube posted on 2013/09/10
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