We all knew there was much more useless stuff and information circulating through media than the internet emails or blogs now a days. As a researcher engaged in an ‘intelligent search engine- MWsearch’ two decades ago (www.mwsearch.com), I always value 'proactive' search (search engine trying to understand beyond your search words or phrase before searching the databases) using thesaurus, filters and comparisons. Recently I was pleasantly surprised to have found a profound story using Baidu, a Chinese search engine to look for essays on philosophies. The following short story deserves to be retold in English and shared with today's young people.
A serious religious young man contemplating to be a monk (priest) went to a famous 'knowledge guru' living in a temple on the top of Huang Shan*(*One of the tallest mountains in Mid-South of China famous for its scenery, sharp peaks, exotic trees and odd shape rocks hidden in the clouds or misty fog depending on the time of day and season) to ask a question that had troubled him, ‘What is the value of my life?’ The guru read the young man’s puzzled face and pondered his question, then he said to him: On this mountain, go find the nicest rock you can carry and bring to the morning market in the village below and sell it, but just raise your two fingers if anyone wants to buy it. Don’t haggle over price and don’t sell it. Just hear the offers then bring the rock back to see me after you have received some offers. We will perhaps discuss your question.
The young man went to the morning market with his rock, finally near the end of the morning, an old lady asked: Young man, are you selling this nice rock, how much? He raised his two fingers. The old lady said, two dollars? The young man shaking his head raised his two fingers again. The old Lady said, twenty dollars? Well, I could use this rock to press tofu (that is how tofu is made), but I won’t pay more than $20 for it.
The young man didn’t sell it and brought the rock back to see the guru. The guru said, very well, you shall bring the rock to the city museum tomorrow and sell it again, but don’t haggle, don’t sell just get the highest offer and bring your rock back to see me and we will talk. The puzzled young man did what he was asked to do. He sat in front of the museum to see whether anyone will buy his rock. Lots of people going in and out of the museum and some curiously stopped to look at his rock. Then one curious gentleman asked, are you selling this old rock? How much? The young man raised his two fingers. The gentleman asked, 200 dollars? Shaking his head, the young man raised his two fingers again. Then, the gentleman said, perhaps it is worth $2000, will you sell it to me?
The young man did not sell his rock and went back to the guru. The guru said, very well, you got $2000 offer for your rock. I want you to bring your rock to sell it again in front of the famous Mr. Wang’s antique and auction company tomorrow. Do the same thing you did today then I will give the answer to your question when you come back.
The young man was wondering why a gentleman would offer him $2000 for a rock he found on the mountain, but he knew the guru’s reputation. He was anxious to get an answer from him. He followed the instruction and went to the city next day. He wore his best cloth and sat by the entrance area of the famous auction house with his rock. Many people came by carriages and cars, but they walked by him without even paying attention to him entering the antique auction company. Then the young man heard the shouting commotion of the auction but patiently sat there. After a few hours the auction was over, all people came out, a few with happy face but many with a disappointed face. Then a businessman noticed the young man sitting there with his rock placed over a piece of silk, he asked, this looks like a very old rock, are you selling it? The young man raised his two fingers. The businessman said, $20,000 dollars? The young man just raised his two fingers again. The businessman looked at the young man for a while then said, I should have known better, you mean $200,000 dollars, right? I will buy it if you tell me where and when did you find this old rock. The young man was shocked when he heard the $200,000 dollar offer, but he did not sell it. He wrapped the rock with the silk and rushed back to the guru while the businessman was shouting behind him: don’t go, let’s negotiate….
When the young man climbed back up Huang Shan, the mountain with more than ten thousand steps, and told the guru in a gasping voice that he had gotten an offer of $200,000 dollars for his rock, the guru said to him in a stern voice: “Calm down, young man! The value of your life is just like this rock. It depends on where you place it, how people perceive it and how much you really want it to be!”
This story may sound simple but it indeed contains a profound philosophical meaning. A young man or a young lady may not know the value of his or her life, but if he or she really takes an effort to think and seek an answer, the answer will be revealed by the effort. This story tells everyone that life has many opportunities, one must be patient and must make the effort to find the opportunities to realize the highest value. Haggling does not bring the highest price.
This philosophical story also says anyone or anything has a value, but the true value, like beauty, is in the eyes of the perceiver. This applies to international relations. America First or American Exceptionalism must be appreciated and perceived by others not by claiming or haggling. The U.S. was indeed perceived as exceptional, a dependable rock, during WW II, in the fifties, sixties ...perhaps even nineties, but the U.S. has changed for the worse unfortunately. The perceivers in the world have changed as well with higher value system. Today, the U.S. is facing a rapidly rising China, eagerly seeking independence Europe, a determined recovering Russia and a diligently striving Asia, South America and Africa, the U.S. must find true value in others' eyes. Does the U.S. really offer a rock of security and peace or chaos and war? Does Democracy offer a $20 dollar utility value, a $2000 museum piece or a $200,000 eccentric collector's worth? The U.S. must understand the perceivers to appreciate its rock or improve its rock to meet the changing perceivers' value system.