I once possessed a pair of canines.
One of them was a German shepherd bestowed upon me by a companion. It boasted a distinguished lineage, exuded a noble demeanor, and possessed a dignified countenance. I dared not be remiss in my care, ensuring it received daily provisions of delectable bones and succulent meat. Occasionally, I indulged it with lamb broth and milk. Over time, it grew disdainful of anything but the finest cuts of meat and the most exquisite bones, including keel bones and swine hides. It even dismissed the high-priced dog food procured from the supermarket, akin to a pampered damsel. Yet, I discerned a profound discontent and burdensome resentment within its apathetic and languid gaze.
The other companion was a wolfdog I nurtured during my tenure in the military. Burdened with an arduous workload, I could only provide for the dog perfunctorily. Whenever it crossed my mind, I would toss it some leftovers, and when forgetfulness prevailed, it fended for itself. As time elapsed, I realized that these beings I had neglected were my true “friends.” This particular friend found contentment in a simple bowl of brown rice adorned with a modest portion of meat, reveling in the bliss of forgetful joy. It frolicked exuberantly to celebrate our camaraderie, brimming with vitality, and swiftness akin to the wind.
Narrating the tale of these two canines is not intended as a commemoration, nor is it a stern critique. I merely seek to convey a truth: transitioning from frugality to opulence is facile, while retracing one’s steps from opulence to frugality is arduous. As Sima Guang has already attested.
To outsiders, it appears as though I have attained both renown and affluence, basking in resounding success. Yet, I am perpetually disheartened, for this era remains distant from my aspirations. The excessive proliferation of materialism, overpowering forces, and the convoluted fabrications of feigned emotions obfuscate and veil numerous facets, including axioms and common sense. I often muse upon the notion that our desires should be as warm and unassuming as the winter sunshine. Alas, there are always individuals, far too many individuals, who transform into moths beneath the scorching sun, willingly succumbing to the allure of resplendent flames. My melancholy does not stem from mortality. On the contrary, humans have acquired extreme means to survive, yet in equal measure, they have forsaken the bedrock of happiness—not solely humans. Such was the case with my German Shepherd, who comprehended it amidst a realm of opulent material existence. Despite the anguish, the wolfdog bestowed upon me profound warmth and distant insights. Its name, Youyuan, embodies happiness.
Simplicity begets happiness. The more unadorned it is, the fewer desires it harbors. There exists an adage, “Desire is insatiable,” which encapsulates supreme wisdom. Desires are insatiable entities. Similar to a cascade of falling dominos, one desire begets another in swift succession. Most desires prove futile, merely burdening one’s existence with needless complexities. Once life becomes convoluted, one loses their bearings. Numerous modern individuals lack introspection and fail to pose meaningful inquiries. The pace of life is relentless, affording scarce opportunity for contemplation. People incessantly rush forward, under the impression that countless wonders await them in the future. Yet, in truth, numerous treasures lie behind them. We ought to pause and await the souls we have left in our wake.
I have long held the belief that the most effective means of gratifying desires is by closing the door to desire itself. As the ancients proclaimed, “In the beginning, there was nothing. Thus, where does the dust arise?”