What is the Point of Knowing New Friends
If we are going to part them in this world or the other some day
The death of Avicii made some of his hit spinning around again on the internet, just like how Zombies was getting viral some months ago.
We also lost Stephen Hawking last month, a liberal socialist and renowned physicist I have long admired.
There were undoubtedly many more talented physicists who did better in the realm of hyperphysics, but at the end of our current insanity, we probably would only remember a few of these great minds from the 20th century. Were I able to choose who to be remember, it probably would be him and Einstein.
Equations are cold dead, but role models and inspiring words are not. Besides, they died at the same date, making it easier to connect both of them.
There was also a Taiwanese writer less known to the world who died during my return visit to the island. A refugee from the China civil war, Auo Lee was among the few people who did stand against the nationalist government during the height of martial law. He also protected many political activists as much as he could, some of those were even pro-independence. Back then, people were more tolerant in the opposition circle because if they weren’t, they would all be put into jail.
After the martial law was lifted and democratization was realized, Lee’s pro-unification stances became more aggressive and he started to attack most of his comrades in the past.
To be honest, this was normal during the 90's and the millennium, from both side of political stances. Comrades from the past turned into rivals of today.
But his ignorance to the human right abuse in China and also to how “socialism with Chinese characteristics” could potentially harm the new born democracy on the island (as happened in Hong Kong) was what truly made me shy away from his words in his later years.
Furthermore, in a era where post-modernism activism thrived, I began to see how a misogyny he was.
Nevertheless, I still felt something from my past has gone away when I heard the news of his death.
There were three writers, whose works during the Martial Law era influenced me a lot when I was in middle school: Bao Yang, Yin Zhin Chen, and Auo Lee.
All of them went to jail for their words. All of them were pro-unification. All of them had despised modern activism to some extent. All of them have passed away.
You can one day disagree with your teachers, but they are nevertheless still the ones who have enlightened the path for you. In your words and your theorem, their influence never fades.
Just like Freud and Jung, or Hegel and Marx, or Obiwan Konobi and Darth Vader.
So I couldn’t agree more when this kind of comment popped up after the death of Chen:
The younger generation of Taiwanese activists, pro-independent by default, should give more empathy to the older pro-unification generation of activists.
The political and historical meaning of feeling a special bond towards the red motherland was different than it is today.
That special bond no longer exists. We now know there is no real red motherland, and positioning as pro-unification (annexation in reality) actually benefits yourself more from the cross strait establishments than the harm a democratic society can bring on you.
With all these news kept on coming, I came to realize that although I have never lost any close relatives or friends yet, this will one day also become a regular routine.
Then it won’t last until that day, when I become the one who others mourn for.
But to some extent, too many partings have already happened around me. Once the farewell said, many became almost trace-less later on in my non-stopping life.
The partings became another type of funeral for both of us. One that the dead attend their own ceremony.
That sad realization made me shy away from many chances to learn a new friend deeper. In fact, I actually forgot when was the last time I chat with anyone just to know her/him better.
People I now engage are those who share some common goals or beliefs with me, who have the potential to collaborate on something together.
This is not befriending but rather networking. And even that I am actually still not very comfortable with doing daily conversations during these events.
And thus all those years.
You still hope someday you will find something genuine. Out of all the networking, maybe someone might really just happen to match your appetite of humor and preference of subject, though not always agree with you.
There would be times when you really think you find one. But then, the time would eventually come and you have to part with them.
So maybe you write, draw, film, or sing, hoping that someone can befriend you in an alternative way, by empathizing the works of you. Though by then you may already cease to exist.
Ultimately you go back again to the original question: what is the point of knowing new friends?
In the end, it all comes to the need of empathy. Trying to empathize with others does not guarantee a friendship, but you still have to try to imagine how others think of the world around them.
Those who passed away, those who are still, they all have their own Weltanschauung. The whats and whys of humanity remain largely a mystery, but they also yield infinite possibilities to our limited lifetime.
Therefore we continue to reach out. The world will always be too mysterious to us, and we can only learn a little bit more about it by trying.