What comes to mind is Wayson Choy and the story he tells about a workshop led by Carol Shields and how the participants each had to pick a slip of coloured paper from a hat and write about it. His was pink and he asked if he could switch and Shields said no. But pink means nothing to me, he said, and she said just write and he did and what happened was that pink took him to places he hadn’t thought about before, his childhood and other things he’d forgotten. Turned out he couldn’t stop writing and pretty soon he realized he had something—possibly a book. He said he believes The Jade Peony would never have been written had he been allowed to choose another colour.
—And some with a splash of yellow…
“…Confucius’ sayings, his wisdom and philosophy, had deeply influenced the way Chinatown raised first sons like me.
“What kind of human being was he to have established as one of the tenets of his philosophy, “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others”? How different the assumption that our fear of how others can harm us is the most specific and universal deterrent compared to what has filtered down to Western culture as “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” How dangerous to assume that whatever pleases you might please me. None of his teachings ever touched upon the afterlife, none considered the possibilities of a heaven or hell. His concern was with how one might live life in the present. Having survived my almost dying, I was moved by the answer he offered when one of his followers, speaking of death, asked, “But what comes next?”
“Confucius said, “If you do not understand life, how will you know about death?”
—from the memoir, Not Yet, by Wayson Choy, Random House