06 September 2010

Parental "Love" and Friendship

Michel de Montaigne
If Chinese folk wisdom assures us that we should listen to our parents, it is perhaps because life experience is the anchor of the wisdom of life. Friendship is undoubtedly very important in childhood. It not only allows children to harbour a sense of friendliness and mutual equality, but it also tends to display versions of ourselves which we adults who are driven by financial necessity long to side with but can't, rendering cynicism unfavourable. Out of all parents from around the world, the Chinese parents are perhaps the best role models in this aspect.

Back in childhood, our parents clearly understood the importance of friendship. Rather than letting us select our friends based solely on our subjective criterion of what is favourable, our friends were often subject to the rigours of rational examination of who they really were. This exquisite enquiry heavily involved with a spirit of philosophical research, an endeavour to acquire a thorough understanding of the genesis of our friends, and most of the time, even their families. Our parents forcefully reminded us of the darker side of human nature, that things in the reality tended not to operate as what we used to read in those fairy tales. Therefore, a range of historical questions (that might trace far back to the time of their forebears) were necessarily provoked before we could legitimately open our intimate selves up: "Where do you come from?", "What do your parents work?", "Where do you live?", "What are your hobbies and interests?" and the like. How easily our autobiographical longing might find its outlet for the most genuine expression.

This tradition has been passed on down to this day. Behind the love of parents lies the art of how to select friends properly, inviting modern children to form a new coil of thought to reflect on what an ideal friend should be like: material success rather than its spiritual equivalent. Whenever they hit on a difficult problem in friendship, they are likely to be assisted by the possibility of turning to their parents, who offer them advice after they investigate the matter into the depth of waters, until the children can unravel their confusions without pressure.

Hence status and wealth are the promise of a good character which must necessarily nurture an ideal friendship. The young have been taught to value a friend for what they possess rather than who they are. It induces them to marvel at the belief that status and wealth can actually clear out the rough edges that one's character originally clings to, that people who come from such background are perhaps the best aids to bring them back into contact with emotions and ideas that are of supreme importance to them.

Moreover, Chinese parents also invite the young to harbour a feeling of suspicion at heart after they meet new friends. It's not just because they are too young to acquire the ability to separate illusions from the reality, but it's also because the Chinese tend to be critically cynical of the inherently good nature of the human species. Whenever their children meet new friends, they are likely to generate assumptions that throw their children on the negative versions of human nature, forcing them to suspect the unusually superficial friendliness displayed by their newly acquired companions.

Having analysed the Chinese parental approach to friendship, can we not conclude that parental "love" has enormous impact on how the young might deal with the one of the most complex elements of life called "friendship", that it actually helps shape the character necessary for the path children have to embark on in this commercial world? The French essayist Michel de Montaigne once remarked that "each friend has to give himself so entirely that he has nothing left for others." Chinese children are deprived of the chance to live according to this maxim. Small wonder why many Chinese don't want to be Chinese.


1 comment:

  1. Yes it is true, I have been living happily with my husband of the 'arranged' marriage by our parents. He is kind, rich and generous and give me all the things I want in life.


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