Friday, November 24, 2006

A Story Our Mother Told Us

I heard some discussion on radio 938Live this morning about family values and filial piety and that sort of thing. I am reminded of a story my brother, Chun Chew posted in the comments section of one of my earlier posts about Cheng Meng. In case some of you missed it, I reproduce it here.

Tomorrow I am giving a talk to the senior citizens at Queenstown Library about blogging. I intend to tell them that one of the aims of this blog is to educate the young about Singapore of yesteryears. I guess no harm in sneaking in a bit of moral education.



Once upon a time, there was this unfilial farmer who often beat up his aged mother at his whim and fancy, especially when she brought his lunch (food) to him late.

One day the farmer saw a mother goat suckling her kid. The baby kid had to kneel down in order to suckle the milk from her. This incident made him reflect on his atrocious behavior towards his mother. So when his mother came to serve him lunch the next day, he rushed forward, this time thinking of assisting her. The mother on seeing her son running towards her, mistakenly thought that the son was again going to beat her up for being late, panicked and fell into a pond, and drowned. The farmer was so remorseful over his misdeed that he mourned over his mother's grave for three years.

The moral of the lesson is that we should be filial while our parents are alive and not to regret after their passing. Here's our mother's favourite quote:

树欲静而风不止,

子欲养而亲不在.

- Confucius




"Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be prolonged upon the land ... " - The 5th Commandment, Exodus 20:12

12 comments:

chun chew said...

Though my father, my siblings and I are all educated in English, our thoughts are very much influenced by my Chinese educated mother who told us many Chinese stories especially of ancient China, emphazing on Chinese culture and values. The baby held in my mother's arms was David. From late nineties to year 2001, when my parents were in and out of hospitals, David wherever he was posted either in Thailand, Indonesia or Australia (migrated to), he would came back to see my parents either alone or with his whole family. We really appreciate his filial piety. He even bought a flat at Farrer Court for my parents to recuperate in comfort (support by two maids). Thanks to my mother who instilled Chinese values into us through her stories.

Alan Heah said...

Dear Mr Lam (Chun See),

We are also grateful to our mother,
for firmly enforcing exposure,
to both English & Chinese
languages & cultures,
when we were young.

Without purposely intending to,
she has made me & my brother
more enriched in both spheres.

And so,
although I think in & use English
so much more often,
I agree with you that
our deeper values, as Singaporeans,
remain Chinese & Asian.

It feels great to be a
firmly rooted & open minded
hybrid.

And we gratefully thank
our forebears for our legacy!

Still, I do not fully grasp
the Confucius saying you quoted.
My best shallow understanding
of it is:

The tree wishes to be still
but the wind does not stop;
The child wants to be raised
but the parents are
no longer around.

What is this saying's
inner meaning?
I humbly seek clarification
from one who can give it.

zen said...

The tree wishes to be still but the wind does not stop - correct.

The second verse should be: The children want to look after their parents, but unfortunately they have already passed away.

Chris said...

Yes, I remember the comment Chun Chew made about the unfilial son and the poor mother. Kids these days are quite unlike our time. Many of them are very spoilt and rotten with no respect for the elderly. Yes, some moral education would be good, Chun See. But I'm afraid most of your audience would be those that are not so young?

One suggestion Chun See - post more of such articles on filial piety and respecting the elderly. You know you've quite a number of young fans. I'm one of them mah. Hahaha.

Cool Insider said...

Thanks for the beautiful story Chun See.

I have a slightly different view about whether kids these days are more filial or less to their parents. Part of the root cause are the ways their parents have been treating them. Maids, money, and material gifts are used a proxies to replace their personal attention and care.

We can't really blame the parents too as earning money is really not easy and few have the luxury of living in a single income household.

I am sure all of you have heard of the song "Cats and the Cradle" where the son ends up exactly like how his father had been.

heather said...

Hi! I came to your blog through Ivan. That was a good story :) And I like your nice black and white pictures, also those in other entries. cheers for all mommy and daddys out there. :)

Victor said...

When I was young, my father worked a full-time job while my mum supplemented the family income by working as a part-time seamstress from home. I grew up closer to my mum. Hence what Walter said above has some truth in it.

Lam Chun See said...

Yes Walter, I am familiar with that song and I really appreciate its powerful message.

Good thing I am self-employed and have greater control over my time. I make special effort to support my son in his kayaking competitions - videoing and sharing with his teammates; sometimes giving them lifts. When we go to Ipoh, we go fishing; often 'suffering' together (no bites whilst those around us caught so many). With the girls, it's slightly different but the same principle applies.

What's the use of climbing to the top of the corporate ladder and losing out in the most important things in life.

eastcoastlife said...

haiz.... seeing so many spoilt brats around us really makes me worry for the future of Singapore. I'm very strict with my son's upbringing but the friends he mixed with are undoing my work!
My son is in Japan now, hope he can learn something good from the Japanese.

Lam Chun See said...

I read an article entitled, Love To The Last Breath by Jeremy Lim, a 16 year old boy in TODAY this morning.

Jeremy's father spoke about this guy who was telling of the joy of taking care of two pet dogs and how much effort he had put into it, but placed his father in a home of the aged. He also said, "I have seen adults cry their hearts out when their parents passed on. They spend exorbitant amounts of money on offerings and elaborate funerals. But when their parents were alive, they treated them like dirt."

I guess Confucius was addressing people like this of his day. I suspect the tears were tears of remorse, and the money was more to satisfy their own conscience.

chun chew said...

We kampong kids were not endowed with nice things like story books, toys, holidays, clothings and a host of other things. Therefore we kids provided our own entertainment such as collecting cigarette boxes, climbing trees, catching spiders and fishes. Hence for us it was a luxury of having a educated mother telling us Chinese stories imbued with moral values. Of course my father was a white-collar worker, but his wide range social activities (not a fault) which he spent a substantial portion of his pay, leaving a smaller amount for mother to spend as household expenses. I really appreciate my mother's ability to budget this meagre expenditure even though she complained a lot. Here was an account of my mother loving nature: One day she took me to Lim Toa Tow market to buy some food and beside the market there were few food stalls. She ordered my favourite Mee Pok (dry) and watched me eating and did not order anything for herself despite appearing hungry. As a kid, I noticed nothing unusual until in the later years. I realised she was in fact trying to stretch here dollars.

Victor said...

Chun See, sorry for this comment which is not related to the topic of this post. But my curiosity is killing me.

What's the advertisement containing words "Dragon Fable", "Free online RPG" and "Play Free" doing on the right side-panel of your blog? Are you earning advertising revenue already? Or are you using it to attract more young people, especially gamers to your blog? Not quite like you leh. Doesn't go very well with the theme of your blog either. Don't tell me someone hacked into your account and put it there?