Bend, not Break



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Why did I read this book?

During Aspen Ideas festival, I had the fortune of meeting the author, discussing the question whether adversity in youth is good. Ping gave me a beautiful piece of advice—every person, no matter how good or bad the circumstances, will find their own struggles, this is part of human nature—and I was inspired to read her life’s story. 

Summary

A compelling narrative, documenting in parallel the threads of a girl living through China’s Cultural Revolution and a young woman building a life and a business in the United States.

Anecdotes worth sharing:

The virtues strength, courage, and resilience illustrated by three plants.

“There are three friends of winter: the pine tree, the plum blossom, and bamboo […] Pine trees are strong. They remain happy and green throughout the year. In the unbearable heat of summer and the severe cold of winter, they stand unperturbed. […] The crimson petals of the plum blossom gleam brilliantly against the white snow […] The ability to bloom in the midst of misfortune suggests dignity and forbearance under harsh circumstances. Bamboo is flexible, bending with the wind but never breaking, capable of adapting to any circumstance. It suggests resilience, meaning that we have the ability to bounce back from even the most difficult times.”

 

“He who conquers others is strong. He who conquers himself is mighty.” Attributed to Lao Tzu.

 

A beautiful Chinese story, related to the Buddha’s rhetoric question “Who can say what is good or bad?”, covered by Derek Sivers in a blog post.

“Among the people who lived close to the border, there was an old wise man who led a kind and peaceful life. Without reason, his horse escaped one day and fled into barbarian territory. Everyone in the village pitied him. But the old man said: “What makes you think this is not a good thing?”

Several months later, the old man’s horse returned, and a superb barbarian stallion accompanied him. His neighbors congratulated the old man. But he said: “What makes you think this cannot be a bad thing?”

The old man’s grandson enjoyed riding the new barbarian stallion. But one day, he fell while riding and broke his hip. Everyone pitied the old man once again. But he said: “What makes you think this is not a good thing?”

One year later, a large party of barbarians invaded the border region. All the men from the village drew their bows and went to battle, where nine out of ten died. Since he was lame, the old man’s grandson did not have to go to war. His life was spared.”