Yihui Xie

What I have lived for

谢益辉 / 2005-08-29

Bertrand Russell lived for the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy–ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness–that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it, finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what–at last–I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a hated burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate the evil, but I can’t, and I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

These aims above were what Bertrand Russell had lived for, but in my eyes, they might be concluded in only one word, that is–happiness–happiness of the old, of the young, of all individuals, of the people. The ultimate aim of love, knowledge, and pity for the suffering of mankind is just happiness–mine, yours, or theirs. In light of this opinion, I have lived my life as an ordinary individual but have never stopped thinking of the happiness of other ordinary persons. I don’t believe big words, in which you must put your responsibility. However, that doesn’t mean big words are of no use. Only when I’ve seen facts generated by these words can I put my faith in them. Thus I put most of my attention to the factual contributions one has made instead of what one has said.

Everybody has a mouth together with the freedom to speak, so words alone doesn’t count at all. What have you lived for? We may hear a great many answers, among which there are sincere answers and false ones. I don’t care what you say about the aim of your life or which way you choose to live your life; the only thing I care about is just what you’ve done–whether you’ve brought happiness even to one individual.