That foreign concept of prioritization

In my earlier youth, I once heard my childhood friend mention to me that he knows the solution to all my problems:

“You have to learn to prioritize, Huan!”

he said, full of confidence…. I heard this for the first time in my life. He speaks of my not having a gf in college. He’s much more westernized than I am, dating multiple women at once, clubbing with a different one every night…

“What’s important in your life? You have to prioritize your life.”

Later, I start to realize that prioritization should not be so foreign to me… Even if he is more westernized in his womenizing ways, he has firmer grasp of the Chinese culture than I. The Chinese culture is full of hiearchies and prioritizations.

One obvious one is this list of things one is to do in sequence:

…修身 齐家 治国 平天下…

from 《礼记·大学》. It says, one is to excercise the body, get a wife, serve the country, and bring the peace to the world–in that order. The ancient scholars beleived that that was the right approach to life, and that each preceding action is a prerequisite for each action following it. i.e. You must have a good body in order to get a wife, and you must have a wife before you can serve the country.

Of course, one can microscopically argue that this is not exactly true. But, in the large, this statement of dependency and life style is what people (western or easter) actually live.

… What made me realize this today was when I explained to co-workers how Chinese men will take their wife home on Chinese new years eve, then goto her home the next day, then goto other relatives home in order of age in the following fifteen days to bid them new year wishes of fortune and health…

It suddenly dawned on me. I think this way very explicitly… despite my not having realized the fact explicitly…

Of course, I’m not arguing that this is for the best or not. My childhood friend is doing well in life, better than myself. But ultimately, I guess, self awareness is what I have gained.

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