China's Mid-Autumn Festival – A time for gratitude
A child and her father guess lantern riddles to welcome the Mid-Autumn Festival at a community in Hengshui, north China's Hebei province, Sept. 22, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]
China's Mid-Autumn Festival is an annual moveable feast this year being held on Sept. 24. Historically, it celebrates the harvest, and is celebrated not only in China but by people of Chinese ethnic origin all over the world.
The festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar that produces a most lustrous full moon – thus the presence and popularity of specially-baked mooncakes at this time of year.
As the poet John Dryden wrote: "If you have lived, take thankfully the past." The Mid-Autumn Festival is also a celebration of China's continuous history and culture spanning five millennia. Similar to the American Thanksgiving, it is a time to focus on gratitude. And, as Cicero declared: "Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others."
For China, this particular Mid-Autumn Festival occurs when the country is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its unprecedented reform and opening up program. Over these four decades, it has achieved the fastest and most significant growth and development in human history.
In the process, it has enabled almost a billion of its people to escape from poverty. Over this brief time, China has transformed itself from a traditional agricultural economy and moved rapidly through the four stages of Industrial Revolution from steam, to electricity, to computers and now as world leader in artificial intelligence/big data and the Internet-of-things.
While one would never know it by all the daily negative news on the Internet and other media, there is every reason to be both optimistic and grateful to be living at this time. Today, a higher percentage of people have access to sufficient food and potable water than ever before, notwithstanding the fact that there are substantially more people on the planet. Indeed, many senior citizens in China will have deep memories of significant food shortages in the past.
Indeed, there are reasons to be optimistic about the future. This is the thesis of Swedish Economist Johan Norbert's book, Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future. He points out that, in 18th Century Europe, at least 20 percent of the people in England and France had so little food they were too weak to work.
Today, a much lower percentage of people are in extreme poverty and we are all living longer, travelling more and have greater access to education. This is also one of the most peaceful periods in human history and crime rates in most places have fallen significantly.
Norbert also notes that, taking a historical view, we are also making progress on the environment and most other vital indicators. People today have greater freedom. There is less child labor and more women than ever have the right to vote and greater economic choices.
On a personal level, I am encouraged by the words of German philosopher and theologian Meister Eckhart that: "If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough." I have so much to be grateful for over the course of my 70-plus years. While I could write a thousand pages listing the blessings in my life, here are a few:
• The gift of growing up in a supportive and loving family.
• The joy of having children and grandchildren of my own and a spouse who has tolerated me and my eccentric ways for almost half a century.
• The experience and perspectives gained by living substantial periods of my life in the U.S., Australia and China.
• Having many friends, many from China met over the course of my 20-year involvement with China's University of Political Science and Law, especially many fine students.
• Mindful of Ralph Waldo Emerson's admonition that "Health is the first wealth," I am grateful that I have enjoyed reasonably good health.
• I have received the gift of people having high expectations of me. As President Abraham Lincoln said: "I'm a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn't have the heart to let him down."
• I have had the opportunity of being involved in creating new educational institutions, innovative programs and new adventures in education.
• I have known the joy of being able to serve others. As Nigerian-American political scientist, Kalu Ndukwe Kalu, puts it: "The things you do for yourself are gone, when you are gone; but the things you do for others remain as your legacy."
• I have the joy of being able to continue to learn and the wonderful accessibility of knowledge today: I join in the chorus of American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson: "For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you."
• I am thankful just to be alive this day. When asked how she was feeling, my grandmother, who lived to 97, was fond of saying, "Every day above ground is a good day." Indeed, if we look hard enough, there is something good in every day.
• I am thankful for this beautiful, but fragile, planet on which we live. As American author Rebecca Harding Davis reminds us: "We are all of us from birth to death guests at a table which we did not spread. The sun, the earth, love, friends, our very breath are parts of this banquet."
In conclusion, on this important Mid-Autumn Festival I concur with the words of author Melody Beattie that:
"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."
(Source_title：China's Mid-Autumn Festival – A time for gratitude)