To Be or Not to Be Our Parents

A young Ned seen with his beatnik parents
A young Ned seen with his beatnik parents (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We grow up to be like our parents. Is that true? Could be. The better question is, “Do I want to grow up to be like my parents?” I am as unsure of my answer for that question as I was for the first one.

I have always maintained that the whole of myself is the best of both worlds that my parents each represent. My father, for instance, is forward thinking and very intelligent. When he sits quietly looking out at the lawn or at the fish tank, I know he’s thinking about the future. I know because once I asked.

“Nothing is wrong, Dad?” I asked in Cantonese. He was staring at the fish tank for such a long time, not reading his newspaper as usual.
“No. I am just thinking about the family’s house.” He was always worried about how the mortgage was to be paid. The family depended so much on him, the money that he worked so hard to bring home.

Being a child, when he told me of his troubles, I knew not what to do. There was not much I could do but be a good boy — and I don’t think I succeeded at that very well, either. Well, I am more eager to be a good son now if I was not much of one back then. More importantly, the point I was trying to make is that I am also very forward-thinking. And, being a good son is a goal in which its value would not have been realized if I did not have my dad’s critical self-reflection.

My dad has a coherent code of ethics because of that self-reflection. He doesn’t adhere to the rituals of the family’s religion, Mahayana Buddhism. No words actually declare this, but his behavior and facial expressions clearly say it’s a “crock of shit.” About the rituals of any religion, I have also come to the same conclusion: they are perfunctory. I think I inherited the same cynicism towards religion that my father has. Yet, even without the fallible guidance of a priest, monk or rabbi, I have developed a code of ethics of my own that I live by.

My mother has a high interpersonal intelligence. She is honest and does not put on any air of superiority (probably because she hasn’t the riches to justify it, hehe…). She is sincere. That sincerity in her actions with other people make trusting her a very comfortable thing to do. This sincerity, I think, I inherited from her.

My mom is also empathetic. She is no Gandhi or Mother Theresa, but she feels for other people’s suffering as (what I have come to learn) good people should. Without this influence from my mother, I don’t think I can cry at sad movies or care about the many disenfranchised people in this world.


So, there are many good characteristics of my parents that I like in me. Yet, I fear I might have inherited some bad traits, too. Don’t we all?

My anger, for instance, is very explosive. My dad’s anger, likewise, is very explosive. Neither one of us is physically violent. My father has never hit my mom, and I am vehemently against domestic violence. Yet, our loud, deep voices become very threatening when we shout. The tension in and the extreme contrast from our general jovial faces both have a very imposing effect to the receiver in a conflict. I never liked my dad when he was mad. He was scary. Similarly, the few people who have seen me angry have commented on its intensity.

My mom is very emotional. When she gets stressed out, she cries. When I get stressed out, I cry. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but crying isn’t very manly, either.

There is a point that I am trying to make, but the night is getting late and I want to go to bed. I suppose I conclude that I like how both my parents are, but I am concerned about certain traits such as my dad’s anger and his stonewalling when he argues with my mom. I want neither to be unconstructive with my anger nor stonewall my significant other when in conflict. Is recognizing the tendency enough to keep it in check? Perhaps. Wanting to be a good husband, I certainly hope so. Divorces will get pretty expensive in the years to come.

“Senioritis,” the Fear of Success, and Dawkins’ Memes

The King of Masks
The King of Masks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I turned in my film analysis for Relational Communication Theory today. The film that I used was The King of Masks. Unfortunately, I had to skip work and the class itself in order to finish it. The paper was, at least, well done.

There are some concerns with my Relational Comm class. I began the semester thinking it will be the easiest class to handle. The material is simple enough to understand, but the work is piling on top of me. For instance, I owe the professor three discussion papers and two abstract papers. The discussion papers are on the reading — something that I don’t do until the three or four days before an exam. The abstract papers, unfortunately, I have no excuse. I simply did not want to do them because they were pointless busywork. The reason why the professor assigned them were so we would start the research on our projects. I have already done that, so doing the abstracts serve no other purpose other than wasting my time.

My grade is on the line, and that is what is bothering me. One would think that I would be compelled to do even menial busywork if I was concerned about my grade. So, why procrastinate? Am I truly infected with “senioritis”? I hope not. There is still so much work to do.

My cousin Sheila called me the other night. That was an unexpected surprise. Her life is preoccupied by her sorority and, apparently, that has had a small effect on her grades. Though that may be true, working at a major in which she really isn’t passionate about doesn’t help either. I suggested for the millionth time that she change her major to music.

“I would like to,” she says. “But, how am I going to make any money? You have to be famous to do that.”
“Don’t you want to be famous?” I ask.
“Yes….” She pauses. So, I finish the sentence for her. “But, you don’t think you’ll get famous.”
“You shouldn’t think that.”

But she does, as we all do. We all fear not achieving our goals. Sometimes, that fear is strong enough to keep us from trying. This is my fear of success, and I’m sure others can relate, as well. We are people who seek happiness. Many of us don’t even know what would make us happy. For those lucky ones who know what they want, there are still problems. What do I have to do to reach those goals? What if I don’t know how to do what’s necessary? Those are legitimate fears. They are the very chains which bind so many of us who have goals to achieve.

“You needn’t worry about money,” I say to my cousin, finding those words ring hollow from my mouth. “Remember, you are a part of a Chinese family. You will never be without a place to live or food to eat.” Now, that, I do believe. One aspect of the Chinese culture that I would like to preserve in my family is mutual assistance. There is great security in knowing you have people who will help you when you are down.

There is a problem with that tradition, though. How do I deal with the freeloaders? When I become wealthy, how do I prevent family members from being reckless? Knowing that the family will bail them out, they might behave irresponsibly. This fear is not unfounded. There is precedence. My third family perpetuates this exploitative meme. [A “meme” is analogous to a gene. It is a term coined by Richard Dawkins in his book, The Selfish Gene. He defines a meme as “a unit of intellectual or cultural information that survives long enough to be recognized as such, and which can pass from mind to mind.”] Back in the day when the sixth family was well-to-do, they agreed to stand in on the title for the house that the third family wanted to buy. In other words, on paper the sixth family owned the house, but in actuality the third family was making the payments.

One day, corporations decided to downsize. My sixth uncle was laid off, and he lost all his fringe benefits. Luckily, they had some money saved, but they were without any healthcare. If any one in his family got seriously ill, they would be in deep trouble. No one in the family has the free cash flow to pay for large medical bills. Needless to say, the sixth family was stressed. He wanted the third family to claim the house so his family did not look wealthier than it really is, but the third family refused. Not only did they refuse, but they had no sympathy for the sixth family’s situation. They did not even attempt to lighten their burden, knowing full well how much the sixth family has helped them in the past.

This is a meme that cannot be replicated. Families are supposed to help each other, but the security of mutual family assistance is threatened when a family that takes advantage of the group is not punished.

There must be a solution?

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