书评:《男人的一半是女人》- 张贤亮

这本书立在我的书架上很久了。我曾经被它的标题所吸引,但是翻开到第一部第一章,开头却是这样子的:

也许我过去见到过她而没有留意,也许我从来没有见到过她。总之,这一次,她却给我留下了一个非常深刻的印象。

两个月前,我从大组被抽调出来,去管水稻田。在劳改队里,我是大组长,调到田管组,我仍然是田管组组长。

我顿时失去了兴趣。这本书似乎描写的并不是我脑海中特定的画面。我就把它丢到了一旁去看我的电脑去了。但是,在半个月前的某个晚上,我实在是难以忍受电脑所散发的热量,来到了卧室书架旁,想随便找一本书翻翻。我对外国文学的喜爱程度远不及我啥事吧对英文技术书籍的热衷程度的。一个个拗口的名字不停的摧残着我大脑的记忆力:莎士比亚的剧本我一部也没有完整的读下来过,每次总是边往后看,边捏着前几页出场人物表不放,像查字典似的费力的啃着每一个字。当我的目光划过《男人的一半是女人》的时候,自然而然的我就伸手把他从书架上取了下来。

这本小说在我看来一大特点就是真实。这种真实源于作者对人性的描写。这点在以文化大革命为背景下就显得更加弥足珍贵。众所周知,人的欲望是没办法被遮盖的。这个和他所处的时代和文化背景是没有什么关系的。很多文学影视作品,在描写某个特定时间年代的时候,都会不自然的从某些特定的角度去描写。比如说,描写长征或者抗日题材的话,一个非常常见的角度就是尝试着从艰苦,人民被外敌蹂躏等角度去描写。承然这种角度本身是没有任何问题,也反映了当时的时代特点。但是,不得不承认的是,长此以往的这样描写,时代中的人物不免会固话在某种特定印象中:比如思想觉悟高,时刻准备牺牲等。这种固然会起到使人物形象高大化的目的,但是与此同时却又使人物脱离了一个正常人的正常喜怒哀乐,人之欲望等特点。变相的使形象与读者脱节,造成了一种符号化的印象。从这种角度来看,张贤亮的《男人的一半是女人》取得了某种意义的突破。虽然整个故事的时代背景是文化大革命等各种建国初期的整风运动,但是作者却从文中男主老章和女主的黄香久的感情故事入手,既反应了当时人们的心理特点和生活常态,又从侧面通过老章的所思所想,表达了作者对文化大革命等整风运动的观点。

作者的真实描写是多方面的,甚至以我现在的眼光来看,作者的描写显得露骨,有时候甚至让我觉得我在看的是一本小黄书。比如说作者在描述女劳改犯在劳改队的生活状态时,他是这样写到的:

据他们说,女人在劳改队里比男人难熬,她们脆弱的神经忍受不了孤独,她们总要寻求爱抚、支持和保护。有的女犯隔着铁窗向警卫人员调情:“班长,你的小老鼠要咂水水子么?”

这种用词读起来的感觉和我上中学时大火的电视剧《蜗居》中宋思明对海萍说的“你想吃我的棒棒糖么?”非常像。一种成人的味道从文字中弥漫出来。再比如书中主人公老章最开始是没有性生活能力的。但是,在他舍身堵住快要决堤的大坝的窟窿后,他发了高烧,书中的女主人公黄香久解开了衬衣像温暖老章冰冷的额头,描写是这样子的:

她拽开的也不是她的衬,而是她的胸脯。在我面前,两大团雪白的莲花似的乳房一下子裸露无疑,莲花中间是彤红的花蕊,花朵还在一池清水中荡漾。花朵和花蕊,都比我记忆中的更大、更鲜明、更具有神韵。

石破天惊!我骤然产生了一种我从未有过的冲动。这就是爱情?我一伸手搂住了她。。。

“你好了!” 她的声音从很深很深的水底浮了上来。

”是的。。。我也不知道。。。” 我笑了。一种悲切的和狂喜的笑,一种痉挛的笑。笑声越来越大,笑得全身颤抖,笑得流出了眼泪。

“你还。。。能吗?” 水底又浮上来模糊的声音。

“能!”我恶狠狠地说。

书中像这样的描写其实有很多。这对读者来说是一种小刺激。但是,同时我却非常感谢作者这一种坦诚。在那个年代里,可以想象,崇高理想并不会让一个人时刻保持着活下去的冲动。但是,相反,恰恰是这种人性欲望和情感需要才会让人能艰难度过那段时光。老章最开始没有性能力其实并不是老章自身有什么生理问题。恰恰相反,从这次以及老章在林子中和黄香久的一段云雨看出,老章的身体其实一点问题也没有。那么是什么让老章最开始不能的呢?其实是心理上的一种压抑。这点从老章在第一次和黄香久相遇的场景就可以看出。老章和黄香久第一次相遇是黄香久在池塘了洗澡出浴的时候。老章第一次看到女人的裸体 。长时间艰苦的劳动改造和自己的本能让老章想要与她欢愉一番(”开始,我的眼睛总不自觉地朝她那个最隐秘的部位看。“)而黄香久也摆出了一番欲迎还拒的姿态(”她并不急于穿衣服,却聊下手中的内裤,像是畏凉一样,两臂交叉地将两手搭在两肩上,正面向着我。“)。但是老章总后却没有行动,他用自己的理性战胜了自己的欲望,但是与此同时这也给老章带来莫大的内心痛苦:

就在这孤零零的土屋里,就在这张散发着霉味和汗臭味的炕上,我展开过各式各样有关女人和爱情的幻想。所以,我非常的懊悔,我失去了一个极为难得的机会;可是,我又很感自豪,觉得自己经受住了一次严峻的考验。但究竟是什么?我也说不清。啊,魔障啊,魔障!是什么阻止了我扑上前去?既然那种精神上和肉体上的饥渴同时折磨这我和她,既然我们身上都烙印着苦难的印记,为什么我们不能再苦难中偷得片刻的欢愉?

我开始蔑视我过去所受到的全部教育。文明,不过是约束人的绳索,使一切归于人,发自人的本性的要求都变得那么复杂,那么可望而不可及。如果我象那些普通的农民劳改犯就好了。但我又庆幸自己过去受了教育,是文明使我区别于动物,使我能克制自己,在关键时刻表现出了人,也只有人才能表现出的高尚行为;我有自由意志,我可以选择,因而我要对自己的行为负责。然而,倘若我迎了上去,世界也并不会因此更坏些;我转身逃了开区,世界也没有因此变得更好。我,一个劳改犯,一只黑蚂蚁,还谈得上什么用行为合乎道德规范这点来自宽自慰?何况,如果我认为自己是道德的,就必定认为她是不道德的,而我又有什么权利在心里职责她?那不正是曾在自己幻想中出现过的场景吗?我对自己的行为负责,那么谁又曾对我负过责任?社会的责任似乎就全在于折磨我和迫害我。

。。。 那么,刚刚我要是与她媾合了,我就将不成其为我,我今后的命运就可能大大改观–

据说,人一生的命运就是一连串一环套一环的因果关系。不过,我又怎能知道改观以后的命运必然更糟?说不定我还能从此割断束缚我的精神绳索,还原成一个人,一个原始的人,在这个野蛮荒唐的年代,用野蛮人的方式去荒唐地生活。。。

我对老章这番思想斗争还是颇有感触的。因为,不论在何种年代,做一个好人真的是非常非常的不容易的。有些时候,在生活中你会发现似乎最后总是坏人,不道德的人,没有那么多像老章这种精神束缚的人笑到了最后。就像老章说得那样:“我对自己的行为负责,那么谁又曾对我负过责任?社会的责任似乎就全在于折磨我和迫害我。” Google的名言是“Don’t be evil”。但是,仔细想想,这是一个多么高的道德要求:”倘若我迎了上去,世界也并不会因此更坏些;我转身逃了开区,世界也没有因此变得更好。“ 如何在面对诱惑,面对那些最后 ”be evil”然后获得利益好处的做法,保持一种不作恶的行为准则。这是多么苛刻的要求。最后,也许就像老章那样,不停地去压抑自己,去符合社会所谓的准则,去活下去。但是,这真的是“活着“吗? 我不知道,书中也似乎没有给出这方面的答案。最后,老章为了自己的信念选择了离开黄香久。这也许是老章选择的 “活着”的一种方式。那么,我们自己真正应该以一种怎样的姿态去活着呢? 我还没有一个明确的答案。

注:我真是太喜欢这种纸页泛黄的书读起来的感觉了!

张贤亮.jpg

 

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Summary of reading: May – July 2017

It’s has been quite a long time since last time I wrote a book review.  This year my goal on goodreads is to finish 30 books and I’m way behind my schedule. In addition, I have been thinking about whether to port my “book review” section in this blog to my technical blog. The reasoning behind it is that I have spending most of time reading technical books and wordpress is not very friendly when drafting a technical-heavy blog (why? see this post). However, when I actually start drafting this post, I realize that book review is not that technical: it involves the mixture of the text from writer, and thoughts and feelings from reader. So, I’ll keep it here. The really downside for keeping the reviews here is that my “bookReview” tag doesn’t really give a list of titles for quick browsing. By the way, I want to thank my work that offers me four hours daily commute that allows me to concentrate on reading.

“The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth” by M.Scott Peck

I finish this book maybe May or maybe June. I cannot remember the exact date. That has always been a problem for me because I usually do highlight when I read a book and once I finish it, I want to take note of good points for future reference. This delays the progress of my next book and also messes up my memory on what exactly date I finish the book. This problem usually happens to some book that are worth lots of re-read in the future. “The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck is exactly one of those books.

I read through the Chinese translation of the book. It’s not a thick book: only around 250 pages for translation edition. To me, this is somewhat a sequel to “There is nothing wrong with you” book even they are from different authors. The problem discuss in this book is about life and love. The theme is truly cliche on some level. When I recommend this book to my friends, some of them even laugh when I do some briefing of the content to them. However, to me, the author does mange to provide some new perspectives to the issue.

The book starts out by emphasizing one important mindset: life is hard. People may often complain about life: “Why this thing happens to me?” “Why can’t I have an easy life like John has?” There is a subtle assumption that people may not be aware of when they say those stuff: they assume that life should be easy. That’s the problem that can cause lots of people’s mental issue. I was shocked when I read this part because it was just so obvious and I had never thought about this. Once you have a really high expectation to life, you cannot easily go through the obstacles you will encounter. However, if you tune down your expectation by accepting the fact that life is hard, then you’ll be in a positive mindset when trouble happens to you because you know this is how the life really is. And more importantly, when you actually achieve something or getting some help from others or something good happens to you, you can appreciate those things to another level. You’ll feel lucky and satisfied. This will make you stronger when face the next obstacles.

Another good point the author makes is about love. Love is a term that is really hard to define. People have been trying thousands of years from many perspectives trying to define it precisely. I think there will never be a universally-accepted definition to this term but we can learn about love based upon each person’s definition. I guess that’s the beauty of love. The definition offered by the author is that one is truly willing to help someone grow. This definition is really new to me but if you take a pause and think about it, it makes sense. Parents show their love to their children by helping them from different perspectives with the hope that their children can grow healthily and have a good life. Lovers care about each other so much that sometimes they may directly point out each other’s weakness. Those scenarios shows the love. However, as pointed out by the author, love is not easy as people may think. I myself face issues with love. Chinese parents are overly critic when their children face the problem and they think criticizing is better than compliment.  That’s not the love as they may think and that causes problems like self-hate as thoroughly explained in the “there’s nothing wrong with you” book. In order to find the cure, the author emphasizes the role of psychiatrist. To the author, one can hardly get cured without the help from psychiatrist. That feels too depressing to me. The author tries to deliver this message by giving out lots of cases that show how he helps his patients to achieve better mental state. I have doubts if this is the only way to the cure especially when the problem for a person isn’t as serious as the patients described in the book.

One thing I realized lately is the role of toastmasters club. Even though the organization is described as a way to help people improve their communication and leadership skill, it can also be thought as a way for people gaining love. In the book, the author explains that listening as a way to show your focus to someone is a crucial way to show your love. That’s why the children requires parents constantly attention.  People in the club pay attention to the speaker and provide positive feedbacks to the speaker as a way to help the speaker acquire self-confidence. This is exactly how people give love to others. With the practice of speech, speakers are no longer afraid of stage is a signal for gaining love. I think the mental issue or whatever problem caused by lacking of love can be cured as long as we can acquire love from outside. Psychiatrist may be an important way but I hardly believe that it’s the only way.

The Lady Tasting Tea: How Statistics Revolutionized Science in the Twentieth Century” by David Salsburg

I know this book since the junior year of college when my PhD roommate carries this book around as a way to take a break from intense research. The title looks interesting to me and one day, I ask him what good about this book. He answers with big smile: “This book is all about gossip in statistics”.  I know back that time he is also taking a statistics course in sociology.

Four years after that conversation, this book never appears in my life again. However, for no reason, his comment about this book, especially the word “gossip”, is engraved on my mind. So, I give it a try once I’m done with “The Road Less Traveled”. This book looks a good fit to me because based upon his comment, it’s not a really technical book that may require a silent study room, pencil and paper. Also, it’s about statistics on some level is exactly what I need because I’m always attracted to the machine learning, which has deep root in statistics.

To be honest, this book is probably not best described by the word “gossip” because there is not really a lot of gossip involved. Although, I do learn that R.A Fisher really dislikes Jerzy Neyman and his “overly-abused” hypothesis testing; Egon Pearson overthrows his father, Karl Pearson’s work. To me, this book is more like a survey of the field with the aim to tell general audience about the development of mathematical statistics. I myself is also part of general audience in the sense that I’m not really into a mathematical-formula-dense book on a noisy subway. From this perspective, I think the author does a very good job by delivering idea of mathematic term without invoking mathematical formulas.  This is particular useful for me because I can get an overview of each component in the field and their connections without studying a great deal of math. Lots of intuitions are actually from seeing “big picture” instead of worrying about some tedious calculation. Another good point of this book is that you can feel the excitement of the development of the field. Scientific development is motivated by the problems. This is especially true with statistics because statistics is essentially about using mathematical tools to discover the true nature of the data. Here, “the true nature” invokes lots of controversy in the field. The author does a good job to naturally develop the story and motivation behind the argument. Each chapter isn’t too long and it is self-contained as a complete story.  One takeaway from reading this book is the idea about mathematical tools. Formulas are just formulas and unlike computer program, I never think about those mathematical formulas as “tools” for statistician to query the data. This has psychological impact on me because thinking about formulas as tools are just not as intimidating as thinking of formulas as formulas. Another good point about this book is that it lets me realize the assumption behind some mostly-commonly used technique, like hypothesis-testing. Every tool has its assumption, and it’s danger to abuse it without knowing what’s the motivation behind the invention of the tool.

This book is definitely the book I’ll revisit a lot and I think it can be used to its full potential while you taking a class in statistics when you read the book.

 

Book Review: There Is Nothing Wrong with You: Going Beyond Self-Hate

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这本书其实我在4,5月份的时候就已经读完了,在从5月份到7月份这期间,甚至我还拿这本书做过一次Toastmaster club speech。如果你有兴趣,这是我当时做演讲用到的slides。之所以拖到这个时间才去写,原因主要有二:

  • 之前两个月我忙着去考GRE
  • 像这种功能书,如果刚读完就去写的话,难免会有概率误人子弟。为啥呢?如果我刚放下书就跑到这里胡扯,而不是亲身按照书上的方法去实践一下的话,这不是误人子弟还能是啥?!(那你为啥还去做演讲呢?这看到本好书难免会激动要去和别人安利一番嘛)
  • 现在时间刚刚好。自己实践了两个月,可以稍微有资格去评价一下书上的观点;脑子里记得关于这本书的感想也行将淡去,是时候付诸文字记录一下了。

缘起

做程序员的多多少少会有一些完美主义。作为土生土长的中国人,这点可能会更为强烈一些。在只许成功不许失败的家庭教育下,在社会上编程大神日益成为网红的时代潮流下,我,一个还算有点上进心的中国程序员,难免会有一些焦虑,自责,乃至自我厌恶——you suck because you’re bad.

终于在某一天的晚上,出于一个记不清的理由(估计是又遭到老妈针对我某件事做法上的批评),我自我厌恶情绪达到了顶点。同时,另外一个从来没出现过的声音出人意料地也在我脑袋里响了起来——老子今晚就要以暴制暴,好好处理一下内心中另外一个我。所以,我想到了之前在reddit上看到的一个post: [Text] Self- loathing is poison. It leads to escapism, procrastination and and depression. Stop focusing on what holds you back. 并想从中获取一些对抗自我厌恶的手段。于是,我就发现了这本书。

详细谈谈这本书

其实你如果不抱着一颗打破沙锅问到底的心态去对self-hate进行全方位剖析的话,这本书给出的针对self-hate的解决之道非常简单,那就是meditation,也就是中文的冥想。如果你能定期(每天一次或者一周一次)去坐下来,慢慢得去聆听自己的呼吸,很多东西就会不然自明。换句话说,你完全可以不用去读这本书,只要去冥想,去接近自己的内心,慢慢的你就会和自己平常所感受到的self-hate达成一种平衡。你就会慢慢的去接受self-hate,接受他的存在,进而做到与之共存,最后将他作为你自己的一部分慢慢吸收进来。正如书中讲到的:

You could just sit down and face a wall and eventually you would understand all of this (what is self-hate, how self-hate is formed …). It’s all available without having any intellectual understanding of it.

但是,如果一本书这样去写,肯定不会有人去读它。因为我们现在处于一个快节奏的社会,人们更希望把时间分配到能立竿见影的事物上面去,如果说一本书告诉人去做冥想就能摆脱self-hate,但并没有告诉人们为什么这个方法会有效的话,我相信很少有人会抱着一种怀疑的态度将书中的方法坚持到底的。所以,书的作者从self-hate的形成原因入手,慢慢地引出mediation,使读者在读完整本书后会有一种完整体系的感觉,从而有信心和动力去贯彻书中所提到的方法。

再细节的地方我不想一一去谈。我就说说这本书给我留下印象比较深的地方。

字体,排版,与插图

下面这张图是我随机从书中挑出来的一页。jfszhxd说实话,我上一次看到这种字体,这种排版,还有这种插图的是在我小学和幼儿园的时候。所以,这本书给我一种亲切,童真的感觉。一种我只要翻翻这本书就会减少很多烦恼的感觉。这也使得我在读这本书的两个月来,每天上班坐上地铁,就会迫不及待的去打开这本书去读。读的时候,书中的字体并没有给人一种严肃说教的感觉。相反的是,你会感觉是一个非常熟识的朋友在一个非常放松的环境下,给你提出的一些真诚的建议。从这个角度上讲,这本书可以非常快得抓住读者的心。

 

 

看问题角度的改变

这本书给我了一种不同的角度去看待self-hate。而看似复杂困难的问题,往往因为角度的转变,解决起来也会变得迎刃而解。比如说self-hate的产生。我过去认为self-hate是一种追求完美的体现,但是我从来没有去深究,self-hate的产生是否是由于追求完美。但是这本书告诉我:self-hate的产生是因为童年并没有被满足的需求。

举个例子来说,假如泽远小的时候特别想要台电脑,但是当我这个请求向父母提出的时候,我得到的回复是”NO”。这个时候,在我的潜意识里就会得到一种判断,那就是: 我的请求之所以没有被父母采纳,是因为我本身不够好,如果我做的更好的话,父母就会给我买电脑。在那个时候,我并没有意识到父母有可能存在问题的可能性(比如他们不给我买电脑并不是因为我做的不够好)。在我的眼里,他们就是权威,而且我的生存也强烈依靠他们。因此,他们不给我买电脑肯定是因为我自身的问题。因此我决定通过不断指责我自己的方式来“追求完美”,从而希望我的需求最后能被父母满足。这种追求完美的心态就渐渐促成了self-hate。

当书中将这件事讲明白的时候,我就突然意识到我平时的一些默认的假设并不是“神圣而不可侵犯”的。比如说,我是否得到父母的认可其实和我本身的完美程度往往并没有直接联系。换句话说,我脑海里越有希望得到他们的认可的这种期望却又得到满足的时候,我下意识就会说我确实不够好,如果我再自己变得完美一些的话,父母就会认可我。可是,我并没有意识到也许父母他们本身并没有存在通过语言等方式去表扬你认可你这种意识。这和你本身是否完美并无关系。即使你做得再好,如果他们没有意识去通过直接的方式认可你的话,你还是依然会陷入自己不够好的死循环中。

明白了这一点,我也就渐渐学会去和父母处关系了。过去,我往往想要指出他们的不足,指出他们应该去多多表扬我,认可我。可是当他们还是保持原有的默不作声的话,我就会感到焦躁。可是,上面这个例子告诉我,我不一定要通过父母去满足我这种需求。比如说我将“你是最好的!”这句话录下来,每天放给自己听。听这句话的本身其实就是一种满足自我需求。而当自我需求被满足后,上面提到的死循环才有可能会被打破。

再引申一步讲,遇到任何困难,比如说表白被拒,找工作不顺,这些往往并不是因为你自己有问题,而是因为这些事本身就是有难度的。换句话说,就是Doing bad at something is not because you’re bad. It is because the thing you are trying to do is hard in itself. 因此,换个角度,就有可能以一个更加积极的态度去看待问题。而不是始终被self-hate所控制,暗无天日,陷入一种消极的状态中。

Too obvious to ignore

我常常会发现有些东西明明摆在那里,但是往往因为它太简单,太不需要去刻意去观察,我就会去忽略它。而被忽略的这个事物却往往会成为解开心结的关键。

书中举了一个非常生动的例子。假如你突然有一天想开始跑步,这时候突然有一个声音蹦出来叫道:“你穿成这样就跑步?你居然敢声称你要跑步。。。” 同时,又有另一个声音向你说道:“你已经做的很好了。就这样跑下去。你跑得非常好,继续加油!”。你仔细想想哪种声音是真正想让你跑步的?而哪种声音是装作给你提建设性意见 让你跑步,但其实是在阻挠你的?

没错,self-hate往往就是以一种建设性意见的姿态出现在你的内心,假装是为了你好,实际上却是在万般阻挠你前进。再试想一下,如果这两种声音不是出自你的心声,而是出自你的两个朋友的话,估计你已经早已离开那个不停向你提出“建设性意见”的朋友远远的了。可是,为什么我们不能对self-hate采取同样的办法呢?仅仅因为self-hate是存活在我们的内心,并没有具体的形态,我们就可以对他听之任之了吗?! 不!

讲到这里,你应该多多少少感受到这本书独特的切入点和看事情的角度了吧。

再多说一句。对于你总给你提“建设性意见”的父母,就因为他们是你的父母,你就应该对他们的意见不假思索的全盘接受了吗?不,因为他们是被他们提“建设性意见”的父母抚养长大的。所以,他们并不知道除了提“建设性意见”,还有什么样的方式来帮助你。现在仔细想想,他们所谓的“建设性意见”有多少是帮助你在人生道路上奔跑,又有多少反倒是泄了你的气,让你每走一小步都觉得无比艰难呢?同理,我曾经幻想去改变我的父母这一点,但是,正如书中所言,如果他们能改,他们早就已经改掉了。只有当我意识到这一点,我反倒能放下我的抵触情绪,以一种包容的心态去看待他们的“建设性意见”。因为我知道,他们是可怜的,他们是被他们的父母以“建设性意见”这一self-hate的表现形式所抚养长大的。

这本书像这样的例子还有很多。我就不一一列举了。最后,我想说,如果你也面对着像我一样被self-hate搞得痛不欲生的话,看看这本书,哪怕你不坚持做meditation,这本书也会改变你看待事物的方式,从而让你获得心灵上的解脱。