Sunday, April 29, 2007

Danger and Opportunity

Last night, the old saw that the Chinese word for “Crisis” was made up of the characters for “Danger” and “Opportunity” came into my mind.

Curious to see if this was actually the case, I did a little searching.

According to Victor H. Mair, professor of Chinese language and literature at the University of Pennsylvania, this is not the case.

He states that the word for danger is indeed in there, but opportunity is not. However, I disagree with his opinion, because his reason for discounting the “Opportunity” portion of the equation stems from his very limited understanding of what seems to be his own native tounge.

I find this strange. Especially for someone who teaches a language as full of nuance as Chinese.

He views “Opportunity” to be only positive, and uses the definition from Webster’s Dictionary to back him up and states that “The jī of wēijī, in fact, means something like "incipient moment; crucial point (when something begins or changes)” And that the best one can hope for in a crisis is to save ones own skin.

What he does not seem to understand is that a crucial moment or moment of change is indeed a moment of opportunity. The opportunity exists for things to go very well or horribly wrong depending on how the person in the event acts.

Maybe it’s just the Taoist and swordsman in me, but I view every crisis as a shaping event in the life of the person who experiences it. It is the anvil upon which the mettle of the person in question is hammered – sometimes they break under the strain and sometimes they come out stronger and with more of their path shown to them.

I will grant that most people fear a moment of crisis and freeze up if it happens to them, but there are those of us who are able to navigate our way through it calmly. For that second sort of person, a crisis is indeed a moment of opportunity – not always welcome, but understood and dealt with to the best of our ability.

Current mood: contemplative
Current music: Alanis Morissette - Crazy

No comments: