I Don’t Know Why I’m Telling You All This

They climb the white hill, four Buddhist monks
bare in mind.
The distinct crunch of snow
beneath thick Winter boots
an understated poem of patient ascent over Disquiet Earth.
Up ahead is the temple
simple in its clearing ringed with firs:
it declared itself at the outset,
right from the very first step
and was present,
both ex- and implicit,
at every point in the vista —
and the intervista
the whole way.
But you know this already, don’t you?
being one of the passionate pilgrims yourself!

The Final Next Thought

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The freckles flecking Terry Weston’s face?
Or the mood of a cloud as it grazed the back fence
before drifting down bluestone lanes? —
I’m not sure.
The stub of a white Derwent pencil
used to colour in Captain America
that vanished below a cobwebbed
bedroom window?
The unique planetary grow kindled by sun
in the heart of a green glass marble?
I don’t know.
The unspeakable perfume of a purple butterfly-bush
tortured by poor soil?
Or the sweet stink of chewing-gum
thick on a stack of football cards?
The smell of turpentine?
Orange fungus on carpet samples?
Mona Lisa and the Blue Boy? Scared birds in a classroom? Dust in a church’s stained-glass windows?
The bell of a fuchsia, dumb
by the broad side of a house?
The Temptation of Saint Anthony mapped
in a black book on witchcraft?
The bee-sting agony concealed inside humble clover?
A gnarled leaf cradling a leaf-curling spider?
An ankylosaurus grazing idyllic pages,
quarantined from inevitable carnivores?
The look of our lifetime distilled in her eyes?
What will it be, that impossible thing,
the thing that I think of last?


Photo by Tom Swinnen on Pexels.com

Will childless men like me
in extreme old age
be taunted by unborn daughters
and sons
lamenting their right
to the chance of a human form
or will Earth deep outside,
despite degradation,
in my single heirless loneliness,
with Summer-wide light —
dust in the rain — pink issued
on a vanishing cloud —
thank me imperceptibly
through the hush of landscape
for not breaking Its back
with the strain?

Learning Cantonese: Sou Hak, Private Detective of the Self

We all have split or splintered personalities according to 素黑 Sou Hak. To live well, we must acknowledge this essentially fractured state and then learn the art (as she states elsewhere) of becoming “private detectives of our own selves” who — like Jane Marple or Lieutenant Columbo — manage to get a clearer idea of what we actually are by careful observation and fiercely logical deduction.

Sou Hak has explored this process in a recent book of hers provocatively titled 《也許你真的不如你所想那樣》 (Perhaps You Really Aren’t Who You Think You Are). But it’s not anger she want to provoke but clear-sighted recognition. Without self-knowledge, she asserts, 分裂容易令人哋痛苦 | 人有必要辨認出自己 | 其中一個目的係減低痛苦 | 包括自己同埋因爲自己而導致別人嘅痛苦 = “to the self in every present moment, fragmentation easily causes pain, and one of the goals of having to see yourself clearly is to reduce [this] pain, both your own and the pain you cause to others because of what you are”. In other words, the detective work we need to do on ourselves is not just for our own good: others may benefit from it, too.

In the presentation, you’ll come across some small but intriguing grammatical issues, including the use of 透 tau3 after verbs to indicate the result of the action; a couple of instances of that very common double sentence-final particle 嚟㗎 lèih4 gaa3; three uses of 相 sēung1 as the first element in compound verbs, expressing the idea of “each other; one another”; as well as two common aspect markers, 翻 fāan1 and 緊 gán2. You can read all about it after the transcription — if you’re aspiring to Canto-connoisseurship!

Because she reads quite a bit from her book, a lot of the vocabulary is fairly literary, but since there are no hard and fast boundaries in language between formal and informal, why not accept the challenge and make the following items your own: 道德責任 douh6 dāk1 jaak3 yahm6 = a moral responsibility; 軟弱 yúhn5 yeuhk6 = weak; feeble; flabby; 前後一致 chìhn4 hauh6 yāt1 ji3 = roughly, “consistent from start to finish”; 腦結構 nóuh5 git3 kāu1 = roughly, “the structure of the brain”; 混亂不安 wahn6 lyuhn6 bāt1 [ng]ōn1 = roughly, “confused & uneasy”; 重建 chùhng4 gin3 = to rebuild; to re-establish; and 脫離 tyut3 lèih4 = to separate oneself from; to break away from.

Please scroll down for my transcription, English translation and notes. You can view the video here (subtitles in Standard Written Chinese only). Since it is a YouTube video, you can slow down the playback speed if you wish: at 0.75 and 0.5, the sound quality is still good. And remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary.

Caption: 人為什麽害怕面對真實的自己?

Caption: 素黑 | 療癒作家 | 《也許你真的不如你所想那樣》作者

人有必要辨認出自己 | 好多人表面上想睇透自己嘅心 | 更加了解自己嘅「本性」| 知道真正想要乜嘢 | 做乜嘢 | 真係走到大門前邊呢 | 偏偏又唔敢舉步行入去喎 | 有啲人又想睇通自己 | 有啲人又好怕睇透 | 人點解咁驚面對真實嘅自己嘅呢?| 其中一個原因 | 係驚睇清楚之後唔能夠再逃避 | 必須面對同埋承擔 | 有道德責任需要改善自己 | 「面對」其實係好沉重嘅擔子嚟㗎 | 有人害怕承擔唔起 | 有人唔願意負責任 | 怕辛苦、怕付出、怕努力 | 軟弱嘅人好難醫治嘅 | 懶惰嘅人係冇得救嘅 | 你都知道㗎

● 辨認 bihn6 yihng6 = to identify; to recognize | ● 本性 bún2 sing3 = natural instincts; nature; inherent quality | ● 舉步 géui2 bouh6 = cf. 舉步維艱 = have difficulty moving forward | ● 逃避 tòuh4 beih6 = to escape; to evade; to shirk | ● 道德責任 douh6 dāk1 jaak3 yahm6 = a moral responsibility | ● 擔子 daam3 jí2 = a load; a burden | ● 軟弱 yúhn5 yeuhk6 = weak; feeble; flabby

Note: The discourse marker 偏偏 pīn1 pīn1 is mainly used in writing. It indicates (according to my trusty A Chinese-English Dictionary) that reality just happens turns out the opposite of what one hoped for or expected [表示事實跟所希望或期待的恰恰相反]. Sou Hak’s meaning here is that just when someone gets to the gateway

Caption: Why Are People Afraid to Face their True Selves?

Caption: Sou Hak | Therapist & Writer| Author of Perhaps You Really Aren’t Who You Think You Are

People have a need to recognize who they are. Superficially, a great many people would like to look clearly into their own minds in order to get a better understanding of their “[essential] nature”. They want to know what they really want, and what they really want to do. But when in truth they get to the main gate [of themselves], they don’t dare step through. Some people would like to know themselves [睇通自己], but at the same time they’re afraid to. Why are people so afraid to face their true selves? One reason is that they are worried they could no longer go on evading themselves if they were they to see themselves clearly — they would have to face up to themselves and bear the responsibility. One has a moral responsibility to improve oneself. “Facing up [to oneself]” is in fact a very heavy burden to bear. Some people are afraid that they won’t be able to bear [such] a burden. Some people just don’t want the responsibility, unwilling [怕] to take the trouble, to make an effort, to strive. Weak people heal with great difficulty. Lazy people are beyond all saving [冇得救]. You too know this.

【1:00】你會問 | 我應該係一個最清楚自己嘅人嚟㗎 | 點解仲會睇唔透自己嘅? | 呢度我想講一個關鍵詞:就係「分裂」| 人好複雜嘅 | 有好多嘅分裂嘅自己合湊而成 | 冇一個前後一致、完整嘅你 | 呢一個你喺度努力 | 嗰個你又喺度退縮 | 另一個你又好善良 | 再又一個你 [又一種] 僞裝 | 分裂其實冇好唔好嘅 | 只係一個正常嘅腦結構現象 | 當人遇到難關 | 或者需要選擇嘅時候 | 嗰啲分裂嘅自己就會蠢蠢出場 | 令到人陷入咗混亂不安嘅狀態 | 當想像、慾望同埋期望相融嘅時候 | 你會對自己感到肯定同埋自滿 | 而當想像、慾望同埋期望相冲嘅時候 | 你會對自己感到陌生 | 你愈係無法自己整合自己嘅分裂

分裂 fān1 liht6 = to split; to divide; to break up | ● 合湊而成 hahp6 chau3 yìh4 sìhng4 = (?) made by combining different parts/pieces | ● 前後一致 chìhn4 hauh6 yāt1 ji3 = roughly, “consistent from start to finish” | ● 退縮 teui3 sūk1 = to shrink back; to flinch; to cower | ● 僞裝 ngaih6 jōng1 = to pretend; to feign | ● 腦結構 nóuh5 git3 kāu1 = roughly, “the structure of the brain” | ● 蠢蠢出場 chéun2 chéun2 chēut1 chèuhng4 = cf. 蠢蠢欲動 = ready and excited to have a go | ● 陷入 haahm6 yahp6 = to sink into; to be caught in | ● 混亂不安 wahn6 lyuhn6 bāt1 [ng]ōn1 = roughly, “confused & uneasy” | ● 自滿 jih6 múhn5 = usu. “complacent; self-satisfied” | ● 相沖/衝 sēung1 chūng1 = (of two or more things) to clash; to collide | ● 愈 yuh6 = to surpass cf. 愈 … 愈 = the more … the more ● 整合 jíng2 hahp6 = to reorganize & consolidate

You may well ask: “Surely I should be the person who knows what I am [better than anyone else]. Why can’t see clearly into myself [睇唔透自己]? At this point, I would like to mention the key-word “fragmentation”. People are very complicated, made up of many fragments of self. There is no overriding consistency [前後一致] in you, or a complete you. This you is striving [to do its best], [while] that you holds back. Another you is very good, while there is another you who pretends [有一種僞裝]. In itself, there is nothing good or bad about [this] fragmentation — it is merely a phenomenon of normal brain structure [正常嘅腦結構現象]. Whenever a person encounters difficulties, or needs to make a choice, these fragmented selves are liable to make trouble [會蠢蠢出場], plunging you into a state of confusion. When imagination, desire and expectations are integrated, you will feel a sense of affirmation and self-satisfaction, but when imagination, desire and expectations conflict with one another [相沖], you feel like a stranger to yourself. The greater your inability to reorganize & consolidate yourself by yourself . . .

【2:00】你愈係混亂 | 每一刻嘅你都係喺度變動嘅自己 | 你唔係要搵翻或者做翻你自己 | 而係去「辨認出」自己 | 每一個當刻嘅自己 | 分裂容易令人哋痛苦 | 人有必要辨認出自己 | 其中一個目的係減低痛苦 | 包括自己同埋因爲自己而導致別人嘅痛苦 | 認出當下呢一個你 | 呢一啲嘅你 | 喺度做緊乜 | 想緊乜 | 怕乜嘢,愛乜嘢 | 嘗試喺分裂嘅自己中平衡情緒、慾望同埋行為 | 呢啲能夠令你同埋別人舒服一啲 | 認清楚自己之後 | 重建一個整合同埋清晰嘅「自己」圖像係非常之重要嘅 | 能夠幫你成長 | 脫離困境 | 搵到喜悅同埋樂活嘅方向

● 變動 bin3 duhng6 = to change | ● 導致 douh6 ji3 = to lead to; to bring about; to result in | ● 平衡 pìhng4 hàhng4 = balance; equilibrium | ● 重建 chùhng4 gin3 = to rebuild; to re-establish | ● 清晰 chīng1 sīk1 = distinct; clear | ● 圖像 tòuh4 jeuhng6 = a picture; an image | ● 脫離 tyut3 lèih4 = to separate oneself from; to break away from | ● 喜悅 héi2 yuht6 = happy; joyous | ● 樂活 lohk6 wuht6 = (?) lifestyles of health & sustainability (LOHAS)

. . . the more confused you become. In every moment, you are a changing self. You are not trying to recover yourself or be yourself; you are evolving a self [變寅出自己]. To the self in every present moment, fragmentation easily causes pain, and one of the goals of having to see yourself clearly is to reduce [this] pain, both your own and the pain you cause to others because of what you are. Recognize the you you are at this moment — these various you’s — and what they are doing, what they are thinking, what they are afraid of, what they are in love with, and try to balance out your moods, desires and actions among these fragmented selves. These [responses] can bring you, and those around you [同埋別人], some relief. After you’ve seen into yourself clearly, rebuilding a reorganized, consolidated and distinct [清晰] self-image [「自己」圖像] is extremely important, enabling you to grow, to break away from difficult situations, and to find a joyous, healthy and sustainable life-direction [搵到喜悅同埋樂活嘅方向].

【3:00】當你有能力睇透自己嘅表裏 | 同眾多嘅分裂嘅自己相處、整合、平衡同埋協調好 | 你先至係你自己 | 你唔係嚟睇我 | 你係睇你自己 | 同自己相認

● 表裏 bíu2 léuih5 = the outside & the inside; one’s outward show & inner thoughts | ● 眾多 jung3 dō1 = multitudinous; numerous | ● 相處 sēung1 chyú2 = to get along with one another | ● 協調 hip3 tìuh4 = to co-ordinate; to harmonize

It is only when you have the ability to see into yourself, inside and out, and [can] live with, consolidate, balance and coordinate all these multifarious fragment-selves that you can be who you are. [Then], you won’t come and see me; you will see into yourself and recognized what you see [同自己相認].

Grammar Notes

A. As Yip and Matthews point out, Cantonese has an extensive repertoire of resultative particles which are added to (usually monosyllabic) verbs to describe the extent or consequence of an action (Basic Cantonese: 89). Examples include 錯 cho3 = “wrongly”; 好 hóu2 = “complete”; 明 mìhng4 = “clear”; and 壞 waaih6 = “bad; broken”. You’ll regularly encounter verbs using these particles such as 攪錯 gáau2 cho3 = “to make the wrong choice” and 做好 jouh6 hóu2 = to finish up (doing)”.

Next time you pay a visit to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Temple near Sha Tin, watch out for a small Buddhist establishment near a stream about half way up the hill. On it you will see the words: 看破放下自在, very roughly meaning = “See through [this world]. Put down [your burdens]. Be at ease”. Here, 看破 is another example of a verb + resultative particle, in which 看 hon3 = “to see” and 破po3 = “to break (through)”. If your seeing breaks through what you think of as reality, then you’re on your way to Buddhist enlightenment.

In Sou Hak’s presentation, she uses another resultative particle with a similar meaning: 透 tau3. In Cantonese, 透 is encountered all the time in 透過 tau3 gwo3 = “by means of”, but one of its basic meanings is “to penetrate; to pass through”. At 0:06, she uses it for the first time in 好多人表面上想睇透自己嘅心 = “superficially, a great many people would like to look clearly into their own minds”, putting 透 with the common verb 睇 tái2 to express the idea of “seeing into something” or “looking deeply into (oneself)”. She says it again it 0:24 in 有啲人又好怕睇透 = “they are afraid to see into themselves”, and then goes to use it again at 1:06 in a potential construction: 點解仲會睇唔透自己嘅?Since potential constructions express inability or potential to do something, 睇唔透 = “cannot see into (one’s mind)”. To express ability in this case, we would use 睇得透 = “can see into (one’s mind)”. This may seem a little obscure, but although 可以 and 能夠 are the verbs routinely used to mean “to be able” in Cantonese, 得 also has this sense in certain limited situations, reflected in the fact that 得 to this day means “OK” or (as Martin Booth reports) “can do!”.

Just to make life interesting, Sou Hak expresses more or less the same thing with two other different resultative particles. At 0:21 she uses 有啲人又想睇通自己, in which 通 tūng1 = “open; through”. For this reason, the Chinese for “old China hand” is 中國通, suggesting that the person knows China “through and through”. At 0:33 she also declares 係驚睇清楚之後唔能夠再逃避, making use of the common adjective 清楚 chīng1 chó2 = “clear” as the resultative particle (in my experiences, bi-syllabic resultatives are rare). This pops up again at 2:58 with a different verb: 認清楚 = “to recognize clearly”.

B. The double particle 嚟㗎 lèih4 gaa3 can be added to sentences and questions that are based a kind of equation: “A = B” or Does “A = B?”. My impression is that it is used to indicate permanent or defining characteristics (rather than transitory or incidental ones). Sou Hak uses 嚟㗎 in the following situations:

0:44 「面對」其實係好沉重嘅擔子嚟㗎
1:00 你會問 | 我應該係一個最清楚自己嘅人嚟㗎 | 點解仲會睇唔透自己嘅?

In the first example, she basically says “facing up [to oneself] is in fact a very heavy burden”. The double particle is added to indicate that the speaker sees the “burdensomeness” as part and parcel of the act of confrontation. In the second example, too, we also get the feeling that a kind of universal truth is being suggested: “Surely I should be the person who knows what I am [better than anyone else]”. Here are some other examples (including a question) I have collected. Note that they all contain the verb 係 haih6, which functions as a kind of “equal” sign:

呢架係二手車嚟㗎。 = This car is second-hand. (Sheik Cantonese)
點算呀?呢度係邊度嚟㗎?= Now what are we going to do? Where is this place? (Context: the speaker has been forced to get off a minibus in the middle of nowhere.) (Current Colloquial Cantonese)
噉呢一本係佢最新嘅詩集嚟㗎 = Now this book is his latest collection of poems. (《亂世講書》: 字裏光影)
其實受害者唔單止係被欺凌嘅同學呢 | 同時係欺凌者或者係,呃,呢一種,呃,排斥者呢,本身其實都係呢一種恐懼文化或者恐懼情緒嘅受害者嚟㗎 = Actually, the victims [of homophobia] are not only the students who are bullied. At the same time, bullies and those who exclude others [排斥者] are themselves victims of this culture of terror or this terrified mood. (I am ME! 我係許寶強)
= Just next to the Kwun Tong Promenade, a large number of dead fish were [seen] floating on the surface from yesterday evening. Many of them were grey mullet. (TVB)
我諗無論你哋有意定冇意 | 歌都係一個記錄嚟㗎喇 = Whether intentionally or unintentionally, I think songs are a documentation (達明一派 30 年前唱香港的命 黃耀明:我哋需要新嘅香港)

None of these examples is negative, but my search for new examples might turn up a negative eventually.

C. The character 相 sēung1 often combines with a verb to indicate mutuality. Sou Hak uses it three times, and these examples should make its usage clear:

1:44 當想像、慾望同埋期望相融嘅時候 | 你會對自己感到肯定同埋自滿 | 而當想像、慾望同埋期望相衝嘅時候 | 你會對自己感到陌生
3:07 當你有能力睇透自己嘅表裏 | 同眾多嘅分裂嘅自己相處、整合、平衡同埋協調好

In the first case, 相 is added to 融 yùhng4 = “to blend; to fuse” to indicate that imagination, desire and expectations all “blend together” or become integrated. Later in the same sentence, Sou Hak presents the opposite scenario through 相冲 sēung1 chūng1 [also written as 相衝]. Here, 冲 means “to clash”, so the addition of 相 highlights the idea that the three elements are in conflict with one another. In the final example, the verb used is 處 chyú2 = “to get along with” (but remember, 處 can also be pronounced as chyu3 or syu3 with a different set of meanings!). 相處 is one of the most commonly encountered 相 + VERB compounds, with 同眾多嘅分裂嘅自己相處 = “and [can] live with all these multifarious fragment-selves”. As far as I can see, 相 can be used for a mutual relationship involving two subjects only, or it can refer (as is the case here) with the relationship between more than two entities.

D. A few final points. Firstly, there’s a very good example of the 冇得 + VERB structure which seems to add weight to the view that it indicates absolute (“not for love nor money”) and universal (covering all modes of ability, including physical capacity, know-how, permission, the presence of favourable or adverse conditions, etc.) inability. So at 0:58, when Sou Hak says 懶惰嘅人係冇得救嘅 = “lazy people cannot be saved”, she means: NO WAY! NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES! NOT BY YOU NOR BY ANYBODY ELSE!

Secondly, there are a couple of noteworthy uses of the aspect marker 翻 fāan1. Basically, this is added to verbs to indicate that the action is repeated. However, it can be extended in other ways, one of which is to indicate “recovery”. At 1:45, Sou Hak makes use of it twice in the phrase 每一刻嘅你都係喺度變動嘅自己 | 你唔係要搵翻或者做翻你自己 = “you are not trying to recover yourself or be yourself”, my sense is that 翻 suggests a going back to some kind of previous state. The second example 做翻你自己 could literally be translated as “do-back your self”. There’s also an illuminating use of the aspect marker 緊 gán2, essentially used to indicate the you are “in the middle” of doing something. In the fragment 認出當下呢一個你 | 呢一啲嘅你 | 喺度做緊乜 | 想緊乜 | 怕乜嘢,愛乜嘢 at 2:32, 緊 is added to the active verbs 做 and 想 to mean “what you are doing” and “what you are thinking”. The essential significance here, consolidated by the addition of 喺度 hái2 douh6 is “what you are doing right at this moment”. What Sou Hak goes on to say after this has more to do with long term states, so she says 怕乜嘢,愛乜嘢 = “what you are afraid of and what you love/are drawn to” without 緊, since states by definition involve duration.

Does Anyone Wonder What You Are?

Photo by Anni Roenkae on Pexels.com

Does anyone wonder what you are?
A silver bullet for shooting stars?
Or the sunlit edge of a crisp white sheet?
A second hand ticking off clock repeats?
Or the only daughter of Deadlocked Laughter?
Ice in the tall glass cloaked with cola?
Or the twang that oms in a still guitar?
Does anyone wonder what you are?

Does anyone wonder what you are?
The twang that oms in a still guitar?
Or a kite cut-throating its own kite-string?
An oar-fish rowing through formalin?
Or the i-dot moon of an asteroid?
The overwhelmed and the underjoyed?
Or a pin-drop quiet that tap-drip jars?
Does anyone wonder what you are?

Does anyone wonder what you are?
The pin-drop quiet that tap-drip jars?
Or a change of key in the human mood?
A dress-rehearsal for blemished nudes?
Or infinity scratched on a toilet wall?
Oxygen trapped in a crystal ball?
Or a missing rung on the monkey bars?
Does anyone wonder what you are?