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The Patterns of Life

by Wu Ming, 2004-01-13

There are patterns of life in everything in Nature, and so it is with our lives.

In nature, after spring, there is summer, and the four seasons repeat their patterns year after year.  The farmers, in accordance with this cycle, perform their chores, from planting the seeds to harvesting. We in our journeys through life experience the pattern of birth, aging, sickness, and death.

Since childhood we live according to the patterns prescribed by adults: be a nice kid at home, study well in school, pass the entrance exam to get a proper college education, get a decent degree from a graduate school, and find a great job.  So thirty years of our lives pass by, propelled by the prescribed values of society; so we are told by our teachers and counselors; right or wrong, they believe in what they preach.

If life can be pre-programmed, we might as well just follow what’s prescribed to us.  Is that really the case? Can we really follow a prescribed path? I don’t think we can.  Despite our best efforts, we trip and fall all the time. We try to actualize a plan held in mind but in the end, it turns out to be something totally different from what we expected.  We then have no choice but to start over from the beginning.

Courtesy: Wu Ming

The patterns of life are so unpredictable, and every individual so different, the outcome of a pre-programmed path cannot be easily predicted.  In modern life, however, it seems we have no choice but to follow the patterns, or even embrace other’s prescribed patterns as our own.

In Taiwan, on February 14th, it is Valentine’s Day in the West and we feel obliged to give flowers or chocolate to a loved one.  In March, it is Japan’s “White Valentine” and girls are expected to give gifts to boys. Then there is July 7th of the lunar month for Chinese Valentine’s Day; in August it’s Mid-Autumn Festival; in December it’s Christmas…we follow the commercial advertisements and pre-programmed expectations like puppets, and worry about gift giving all year long!

I wonder if we can even follow our own patterns of life anymore?  Go get a great meal not when I am told to but when I feel like it.  Give a gift to anyone I please any time I want to. What holiday is it today? What’s in fashion now?  Who cares? Maybe we would be happier if we were in control of our lives, living our lives the way we want to and not how we are told?  If we could, then we would no longer need to worry about what other people think of us!

If everything in nature has its own pattern of life, shouldn’t we? Why should we repeat what others say, think what others say, think, and act according to the prescribed patterns of others?  Why not figure out our own patterns of life, do what we really want to do every day -- from cooking, doing the laundry, to reading some books -- so that we will grow as a person and might be wiser?  Why not take a walk, climb a mountain, play sports, look up at the stars or down at flowers and plants?

Why not let life finds its pattern, instead of caring too much about others’ models of successes?  Our journeys in life can be long. No one can predict what we shall encounter along the way! Let the scenery we see on our journeys change through the seasons!  Follow your own patterns of life and stride bravely forward!