Thoughts for Everyone

Principle of relativity

“Plum blossoms, please send my way your scent with the blowing of the easterly wind. Do not forget to bloom when spring arrives, even though I am not with you. [my translation]”

 

This is a very famous traditional poem in my homeland written by a 9th-century scholar. He was not of high social status but had great success because of his unparalleled wisdom. However, some got jealous with the wealth and respect he received, and accused him of a false charge that got him sent off to a land far west of where he made fame. The poem was written as he was leaving his house to head west. He never returned east and passed away on this date.

 

After his death, a plague broke out, a drought persisted, and a thunderbolt struck the palace that killed many. People were terrified that his curse led to these events and began to ease his soul by praying to the God of Thunder. With time, the terror dwindled and he became remembered more for his wisdom, honesty, and benevolence. Nowadays, we worship him as the God of Academia and celebrate his life on this date.

 

In my mother tongue, “easterly wind” is a seasonal reference for spring. It is a warm wind blowing from the east that melts the snow and persuades plum blossoms to bloom. It is also sometimes very strong, and is used as a metaphor of things that urge times to change for the better. By and large, it is taken to have good connotation in my mother tongue.

 

But as I was doing some research on “easterly wind,” I found that in other parts of the world, it is sometimes interpreted to be a sign of bad things to come.

Maybe it is cold and bitter, representing doom.

Maybe it is stormy and messy, implying danger.

Maybe it is hot and dry, suggestive of suffocation.

 

So then, maybe it is not that “easterly wind” is intrinsically good or bad, it is to whose “east” the wind comes from that gives it meaning. It is all relative – it has to be understood in relation to reference points, like you and me. I suppose there is no absolute frame in which we construe the world, how we experience our time in it, and what moves and motivates us living in it. Deceptively simple principle, but difficult to grasp. I would have to keep reminding myself of it.

 

But I hope it is not wrong of me to still wish that my “easterly wind” will carry your way a lovely scent of the plum blossoms today. No matter how far you are from me, you and I live in the same world and we see the light the same way, according to modern physicists like the great A.E. It would be nice to share with you this twinkly feeling that lit up my heart!

 

Plum_at_Y_Shrine

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