Tale of three monks
In the beginning there was one monk on a mountain. There was a lake at the bottom of the mountain but his studies were at the top. When he was thirsty, and he usually was from carrying the water so far, he had to hike down and carry the heavy bucket all the way up the mountain.
At some point a second monk arrived and they lashed the bucket to a bamboo rod and balanced it between their shoulders. Their studies improved and they were less tired.
Thinking that more of the same would be a good thing when a third monk arrived they rejoiced but found that there was never any water when they wanted it. Everyone trekked down the mountain at some point but there was always some conflict about who would stay and rest while the other two hiked.
This is a loose telling constructed from what Ben told me. It may have missed some of the points but it came up when we were talking about why the dishes never get done. I believe the numbers are approximate and pretty much always work for numbers > 1. We see this all the time when we live alone versus living with one or more others.
What is the moral? Find a way to lash the task to a bamboo rod so that it is easier no matter how many people are in the house/group. When everyone works together at once there is no conflict. Of course this doesn’t scale at all unless by some fluke everyone in the house is home and not exhausted at the same time (a rarity in most college houses I believe).
There’s a lot of depth to this, lots to think about.
Ben suggests that maybe the answer is to sign a contract or kick one of the monks off the mountain. Watching him smile after he’s launched a very successful joke is just about the best thing I can think of.
Warm feet, cool head
This was something that Ben hadn’t heard of but when I told him about it he said that it made perfect sense considering the Chinese views on foot warmth.
The meaning is roughly that the way to success isn’t through rash actions but can be achieved through calmness and good self-care (self-care is a major part of Chinese life). The feet are the locus point for many acupuncture points and as such if they are cold perhaps your organs are suffering.
Interestingly enough, my Econ teacher independently confirmed the value of good foot care recently as well. He mentioned that in pre-college and in many areas of life sandals are considered poor form, not just because of the obvious fashion formality problems, but also because it shows a lack of respect to the person speaking. If you don’t take care of your organs then you can’t pay attention which means you don’t really care enough. So sandals are a sure-fire way to piss off your teacher and show them just how you feel!
This isn’t a proverb, just interesting. When people started migrating to the cities for increased wages they say that the only people left in the towns were members of the 773861 army.
- 77 is a symbol for old people. Possibly related to the first day of the second Sino-Japanese war but I’m not sure about that. Ben says this is a plausible explanation but he’s also unclear.
- 3/8 is women’s day
- 6/1 is children’s day
China is cool. All those things about getting in trouble because of some weird thing are really true here. Also, never mention pork in Xi’an, there’s actually a chance that you’ll get beaten to death. It’s happened before.