[One Seat] Zhang Qiuzi: What is the purpose of living?

Video Introduction

Zhang Qiuzi, lecturer at Yunnan Normal University.

"What is the purpose of living? Literature cannot solve this question, nor can it answer what constitutes a meaningful life. In fact, it may only deepen the confusion by portraying the problem in a darker light. However, through the metaphor of literature, we may see life in a way that is closer to reality:
People have become like Prince Hamlet, no longer believing in the unquestionable truths of classical times. Like "The Hawthorn Tree," most people may be enveloped in the currents and mists of the era's context, accepting certain values and then bravely moving forward, living their lives in a somewhat haphazard manner. Like "Happiness," some people may vaguely feel dissatisfied with their current lives but cannot think of a better solution. Like "The Stranger," if one were to turn their back on society and invent meaning, the outcome would be tragic and the price to pay would be great.

If one day we were to live to be 90 years old, how many of us could confidently say, 'I have not lived in vain, I have lived to the fullest?' The more likely scenario is that, as mentioned in "Hamlet," after we shed this decaying flesh, in the sleep of death, what dreams will await us, causing us to hesitate and worry."

【Yi Xi】Zhang Qiuzi: What is the Meaning of Living?

I watched this video twice, and what surprised me the most was the teacher's precise use of language and description, as well as the seamless integration of literature and reality. This is exactly what I need - how to express what I have and what I have learned accurately, whether through oral or written communication. It undoubtedly requires a great deal of effort. The speech starts with everyday matters, introduces classic novels, and then presents the speaker's own viewpoint. It is neither boring nor difficult to understand.

There are a thousand ways to live, and if we rank the goals of human life as meaningful or meaningless, we will fall into a form of elitism. It reminds me of the protagonist in "The Moon and Sixpence," who, as a stockbroker, suddenly abandons his wife and children to pursue his dream of becoming an artist. Everyone thinks he is crazy for leaving behind a "good" life to pursue something seemingly intangible. The majority likes to define happiness as a fixed pattern, such as having a stable job, raising children, etc. Because everyone is pursuing this state, another completely different state becomes an admired and unattainable moon in the sky. That's why most novels have imperfect endings, leaving readers lingering and unable to forget. I remember in middle school, I was always unable to let go of those novels with "disappointing" endings.

We always like to shatter what we already have that seems perfect and then reshape it. We humans are a boring group that enjoys self-torture, and what we enjoy is precisely those broken and torn things. Lu Xun described it in "On the Collapse of the Leifeng Pagoda": "But it's just on the stage, tragedy destroys the valuable things in life for people to see, and comedy tears apart the worthless things for people to see. Satire is just a branch of simplified comedy. But tragic comedy is the enemy of the Ten Scenic Diseases, because they are all destructive, although they destroy different aspects. If China still has the Ten Scenic Diseases, not only will madmen like Rousseau never appear, but there will never be a tragic playwright or a comedic playwright or a satirical poet. All that remains are characters from comedy or non-comedic non-tragic characters, surviving in the ten scenic imitations, each carrying the Ten Scenic Diseases." This is the well-known quote that "tragedy is about destroying the valuable things in life." Yes, we always have to be in a state of "lack."

The most touching and thought-provoking line is "Should mediocre lives also be discriminated against?" We are always pursuing a meaningful life, so we regard the pursuit of spiritual needs as the highest level, ranking it above material life. Literature instills this idea into society, and the pursuit of money and fame is seen as meaningless and ignoble. Why do we have such a notion? It is because our literary works are conveying the message that reading makes people noble and sophisticated, while worldly pursuits are considered meaningless. I find this viewpoint somewhat subtle, and I can't quite put my finger on this subtlety. It seems that this kind of thinking requires us to overturn our traditional thoughts.

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