PODCAST GROUP: Donovin, Evelyn, Angela, Rachel, Madison
- Suk Han Lietzow (Mother of Rachel Lietzow. United States immigrant from Hong Kong. Teacher at Mann Elementary School)
- John Pina (Undergraduate student, University of Kentucky)
- Dr. Vincent Cassone (Head of the Biology Department, University of Kentucky)
- Jamal Lewis (Father of Donovin Lewis, 33:10-44:00)
- Flora Hogner (Interviewed by Leora Kahn, Voices of the Holocaust Oral History Project: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, 44:10-52:50)
(drawn from PHI 343, in which students studied and discussed elements of Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, and Zen Buddhism)
DONOVIN LEWIS: Hello! I would like to thank you for joining us once more, as our Asian philosophy class based out of the University of Kentucky continues to identify central ideas or topics and interview individuals that are integral components of our lives to break down large ideas and relate them back to their roots within Eastern philosophy. I’m Donovin Lewis, and in this podcast, Madison, Rachel, Evelyn, Angela, and I interview a diverse selection of individuals concerning their perspective viewpoints on the pursuit and acquisition of satisfaction, and the role it plays throughout society. So, sit down, lean back, and enjoy the ride.
SECTION 1: Rachel Lietzow
INTERVIEW: Suk Han Lietzow (Mother of Rachel Lietzow. United States immigrant from Hong Kong. Teacher at Mann Elementary School)
RACHEL LIETZOW: Hi everyone, this is Rachel Lietzow. I decided to interview my mother to learn about her perspective on satisfaction, in comparison to the various Asian philosophies’ views on the same topic. She was born and raised in China, coming over to the United States as a college student.
RACHEL LIETZOW: The theme for our conversation today is “satisfaction.” Do you have a story about satisfaction that you can share with us?
SUK HAN LIETZOW: My original concept of satisfaction comes from Hong Kong. If one does not have a successful job and is thus not well-off monetarily, he or she will not be content. This also infers that if you do not study well in school, you will not end up happy with your life. Honestly, I went to the extreme every day to achieve this goal. Because of this, I spent most of the day studying for school. Many might even call me crazy, because after an exam, I would always get a feeling of disappointment and lostness. Never would I get a feeling of satisfaction and it almost seemed strange to not have to study. This sudden extra time almost put me in a daze.
RACHEL LIETZOW: Did your idea of this change?
SUK HAN LIETZOW: It definitely did change; after studying so painfully for so many years in Hong Kong, I was accepted into college. Being accepted by a university in Hong Kong is extremely difficult. The competition is so fierce that getting into college resembles being drawn for a prize in the U.S. Because I overcame this challenge, I thought for sure that I would be extremely satisfied. I had thought of satisfaction as equivalent to contentment and happiness. However, being accepted into college, I still felt disappointed for some unknown reason.
RACHEL LIETZOW: From your account, it seems that you have encountered a loss of satisfaction. From your perspective, why did this happen?
SUK HAN LIETZOW: I had thought that satisfaction would come with the achieving of a goal, especially after much hard work and suffering. But I didn’t have this feeling, so I knew I must have been wrong. In other words, my hope for satisfaction and the true results did not end up matching up. I was left disappointed. Perhaps meeting one goal was simply the beginning of another one, so it overwhelmed the little satisfaction that I had been given at the time.
RACHEL LIETZOW: After you discovered this, what did you do to try to gain contentment?
SUK HAN LIETZOW: When I was still living in Hong Kong, I was unable to be satisfied. Then, I thought of going to the United States to study. I had heard that the U.S. gave much more freedom in terms of education. Students would have more opportunities to pursue their own fields of interest.
RACHEL LIETZOW: Do you personally think that your cultural background had any effect on your idea of satisfaction?
SUK HAN LIETZOW: Coming from a Chinese background impacted my idea of satisfaction for sure. Hong Kong, perhaps since it is a busy city, has an overall “gold-worshipping way of life.” Satisfaction in Hong Kong was tied to success in terms of career, family relations, and learning. If a person did not have a deemed to be worthy career, others would look down upon him or her. Lacking money and ability is seen to be the cause of discontentment. This culture affected me greatly. Being surrounded by this culture constantly plagued my thoughts with “what-ifs”: for example, what would happen to my future if I did not study well in school? Would I be looked down upon? Would I even be employed? My state of satisfaction largely depended on what others viewed satisfaction to be. So even if I was achieving all of my goals, I could not be satisfied.
RACHEL LIETZOW: What do you think affects the satisfaction of those with Chinese heritage, especially the people residing in China?
SUK HAN LIETZOW: I can immediately think of filial piety as an important factor in determining one’s satisfaction. It is a value that has been carried down for countless generations. For instance, parents would be very involved with their children’s education. Putting in so much effort into raising their children properly, they hope that their children can “give back” to the family in the future. Parents also genuinely wish that their children’s standard of living is higher than their own. Chinese children in general are thus expected to perform in academics and strive for monetary success in their futures. This is a way to not disappoint their parents that had worked so hard to raise them. Because of this, education is extremely valued in China. The desire to learn can bring future benefits, and hopefully a reliable career. Children are oftentimes a subject of parents’ pride—when having conversations with friends, these parents are often given comfort in discussing the success of their children. Sons and daughters should treat elders and authority with respect, fulfilling their roles as useful citizens. This is a way to save face for the entire family. In a way, I escaped this by coming to America. The lifestyle was a bit freer here, and allowed for a more independent style of learning. Even though I had still thought about my parents’ approval of my choices, I no longer rely on others for contentment. My current job of teaching at an elementary school may not be the highest paying, nor the most powerful, but I am able to help others through it. This role in society leaves me with true satisfaction, that I had not known as an adolescent.
RACHEL LIETZOW: How would you currently define satisfaction?
SUK HAN LIETZOW: Satisfaction is when you discover your purpose in life. Achieving goals may provide fleeting moments of satisfaction, but true contentment comes from the individual’s inside and spreads outward. When a person finds meaning in life, it connects with values and morality, not a particular salary, career, or position in society because these things can change, while morality is from the inside out, so it doesn’t.
RACHEL LIETZOW COMMENTARY: It seems that my mother’s perspective best relates to Confucius’s teachings. He stated that “A young person should be filial when at home and respectful of his elders when in public. Conscientious and trustworthy, he should display a general care for the masses but feel a particular affection for those who are Good. If he has any strength left over after manifesting these virtues in practice, let him devote it to learning the cultural arts wen 文.” (1.6). One of the most important values my mother was instilled with was filial piety. She came from a fairly traditional Chinese family that took the respect of authority and elders extremely seriously. She described how her satisfaction stemmed largely from her desire to please her parents, almost a way to repay their hard work in raising her. Filial piety is described by Kongzi as the “root of Goodness” (1.2). My mother’s idea of satisfaction was definitely affected by the idea that Goodness is reflected through filial piety. Another aspect of Confucius’s teachings is the importance of constantly pursuing learning. However, learning is not to be used as a stepping stone for “success”. Instead, it is the virtue of wisdom alone that enriches the individual. In Kongzi’s words: “To learn and then have occasion to practice what you have learned—is this not satisfying?” (1.1). This doctrine emphasizes the need for balance: excelling only in learning does not translate into Goodness. Learning should be paralleled by natural inner value. This relates to my mother’s final achievement of satisfaction through a balance of her inner and outer self. She did not possess a high status in society, nor the abundance of material goods. However, her career choice and lifestyle were built upon benevolence. This goodness towards others is fundamentally Good and natural: it does not possess other motives. Therefore, in various ways, my mother’s outlook about satisfaction aligns with that of Confucius.
SECTION 2: Madison Howard
INTERVIEW: John Pina (undergraduate student at the University of Kentucky)
MADISON HOWARD: Hi guys, it's Madison Howard. I thought it would be interesting to interview a college student so I decided to interview my boyfriend, John Pina, who also attends the University of Kentucky. Since everyone has their own definition of satisfaction, I thought it would be interesting to hear it through the eyes of a younger person.
MADISON HOWARD: How do you define satisfaction?
JOHN PINA: Satisfaction, I guess, would be the fulfillment of small wants, desires, or goals that make you happy.
MADISON HOWARD: How has this definition changed throughout your life?
JOHN PINA: I guess when I was a kid, I thought satisfaction was when, you know, you were happy for your whole life and that you were happy with every little nuanced detail of your life. But now, I would just say it's these small little independent events that, when a majority are fulfilled or completed, you gain this "satisfaction".
MADISON HOWARD: Do you have a story of how you've tried to reach satisfaction?
JOHN PINA: So, I guess when I told my parents that I wanted to be a doctor regardless of their opinions because they're both physicians and kind of didn't want me to be one, but I knew it was something that, at the time anyway, I had thought I had wanted to do even if they wished me not to, and so I felt satisfied that I could actually stand up and speak out to my parents and it was the first time I kind of felt like an adult as well.
MADISON HOWARD: What's the most extreme thing you've done to reach satisfaction?
JOHN PINA: The most extreme I guess would have to be last semester when I was fairly depressed and I would go to the University of Louisville a lot and see my friends who- I guess my only friends at the time, and they were just like- the only thing to do there was drinking, so I would just go there and get really drunk but it ended up not really even being satisfactory because, you know, it would just really suppress my feelings and then I wouldn't have to think about them, but then, when I would come back here for class or whatever, I would still have to think about those things and I never actually attained any goal, I just kind of pushed them back.
MADISON HOWARD: Have you ever become lost on the path to satisfaction?
JOHN PINA: I guess I technically would have, but not in the same way that I defined it. So, I still have no idea what I actually want to get out of my career even though I said that it was satisfactory to stand up to my parents, I find that, you know, those two things- my career path and my standing up to my parents because I thought I had an idea of what I wanted to do- are independent of one another. And so, you could say, if you define it differently than the way I did I've become lost, but in the way I've defined it for myself, I would never consider myself lost on the path to satisfaction.
MADISON HOWARD: What's the method that you use to obtain satisfaction?
JOHN PINA: The method I use to obtain satisfaction is the same way I would define it, and I guess that's to treat each event independently and so you can focus on the small details of your life that can set the framework for the big picture. And I guess like right now that would be for me jus to kind of figure out, you know, what I want to study but that, the figuring out what I want to study, doesn't necessarily dictate every other choice I make in my life, it's its own independent event.
MADISON HOWARD: Are you satisfied?
JOHN PINA: In the way I defined it, I would say yes, because most of the actual goals or tasks or wants that I would want fulfilled in each small little event, whether it be having a girlfriend or being environmentally active or whatever, these little things I've set for myself, I feel like I've done them for the most part except for try and decide what it is in school I want to study now that I don't want to become a physician anymore.
MADISON HOWARD COMMENTARY: This interview was done with John Pina who is a student here at the University of Kentucky. A lot of the responses that John gave reflect the basic themes and overall concepts of Daoism. His definition of satisfaction was basically to find happiness in the little moments, whether it be reaching a goal or, you know, having a good day, and to take those good moments with the bad and kind of to just let what will be, be and not dwell on the bad things in life. This can be seen in the Daoist writings of Zhuangzi. In Basic Writings on page 57 in the second paragraph, he says "Just go along with things and let your mind move freely. Resign yourself to what cannot be avoided, and nourish what is within you. This is best." I think this goes back to wha John was saying in his original definition of satisfaction, to just, you know, kind of let things be and try and make the best out of a maybe not-so-great situation. This idea is also reflected a lot in the Dōgen school of Zen Buddhism. And so, in our Zen Sourcebooks on page 56 in the third section, first paragraph, it says "The way the Self arrays itself is the form of the entire world. See each thing in this entire world as a moment of time." And then, in the fourth section, second paragraph, it says "Since there is nothing but just this moment, the time being is all the time there is." And so again, this goes back to, you know, his idea of living in the moment and, you know, taking the good with the bad and so fourth. Which, of course, is also a major idea of wu wei. You know, this kind of just effortless, spontaneous action in every moment, not dwelling on the past or the future. I would say it definitely would be a stretch to say that John was defining satisfaction as being spontaneous, but there is definitely that element of living in the moment and for the now rather than dwelling on the past or the future. He also describes a little bit of yin and yang. Again with the taking the good with the bad, he demonstrates an understanding that you have to have bad in order for there to be good, so just the idea of living with both and not dwelling on the bad things. He also, however, references reaching small goals as a means to set the framework for a bigger, broader goal, which is majorly a Confucianist concept. If we use the metaphor of the ladder, a lot of Confucianism is reaching one step at a time, one goal at a time, in order to reach the top of the ladder, or, you know, a bigger overall goal. Kind of everything building on each other, which I think is kind of what John was getting at there. So it seems that some of his answers might've been at odds with others a little bit, but overall, he demonstrates themes of Confucianism and Daosm, as well as wu wei and yin and yang.
SECTION 3: Angela Jones
INTERVIEW: Vincent Cassone
This is Angela Jones. I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Vincent Cassone, the head of the Biology department here at the University of Kentucky. A key to this interview is the importance of satisfaction as it pertains to research and science in general. Dr. Cassone seems to agree with Confucius on the importance of learning to satisfaction. However, and interesting discovery of finding satisfaction in unexpected places; something that leans more to the Dao or Zen schools of thought.
How would you define satisfaction?
That's a good question. Uh.. It's kinda like how would you define time. It's difficult to.. Everybody knows time is, but if you ask someone what it is they can't tell you. So, I would say I would define satisfaction in the sense that you feel that you don't have to go further. That you can go further, but you don't have to. In anything, whether it's in the search for food, sex, love, career, anything. That if you come to a point where you don't have, you do not feel you have to go further, then you're satisfied.
Have you found, or did not find satisfaction?
Well, OK, so I do compartmentalize. So there is, there's certainly personal satisfaction, which is, I would say, would be derived if I knew all of my children were happy and safe. And so, in that case, right now I would say I'm reasonably satisfied. But um, always worry about it so that's a big, big deal for me. Then from a professional perspective, I would say my satisfaction is a work in progress. That I have achieved a reasonable level of satisfaction in the sense that I've achieved a lot in terms of research, and have been instrumental in developing and creating two really departments of Biology, one at Texas A&M University, and one here at University of Kentucky. But, those are always works in progress, and you always worry that there's a degradation in what you've created so that's worrisome. It never actually can be completely satisfied. And then in terms of my research career, I would say that's never satisfied. That the truth is that once you've solved one research problem you then have to work on another one, or I do, and there's always a searching for the next question. And as a consequence of that, I think that scientist's curiosity is in and of itself a kind of a satisfying career, but it's end is not satisfiable.
Dr. Cassone in his perceptions of satisfaction seems to mirror Confucius. As one Analect states “to learn and then have occasion to practice what you have learned, is this not satisfying?” In the same way, Dr. Cassone refers to a scientist’s career as being satisfying work. However, he also makes the point that the end is never satisfying, something that we also see in Confucianism. Confucius himself states that “If I were granted many more years, and could devote 50 of them to learning, surely I would be free of major faults.” In Confucianism and science, there is never a conclusion of work. In fact, there is the fact that there will always be more to learn, more to discover, and more to perfect is what drives forward science and Confucianism alike.
What's the most extreme thing you've done in your search for satisfaction?
Wow! There's a bunch of those. Well I mean I went to Australia because I was interested at the time in whether marsupial mammals had extra-ocular photoreceptors. And so I was interested, I studied mostly birds in my career that have photoreceptors in their brains, and so as a young postdoc, I had the opportunity to go to Australia to ask that question. And so, I picked my family up, and we went to Australia, and we asked whether a little marsupial mouse had photorececptors in its brain. And as it happens that, it turns out the answer is maybe. It was not satisfying, because, and the reason it wasn't satisfying was not that the answer was unsatisfying, it was that I had within my grasp the ability to answer the question, but the Australian government wouldn't let me ask the question. Because I had a very finite time I could keep these animals.
Would you say that that experience was actually unsatisfying?
Well, no, because going to Australia had its own satisfcations. When I was young I played a lot of rugby, which is why I had to have my knees replaced, and coincidentally my rugby friends had moved to Australia at the same time, so I played rugby down there, and I was an unofficial coach at one of the Australian rules football teams, so it was a great adventure, it's just scientifically, and I got other scientific research done that kinda made my career because I discovered during that period of time that if you injected this hormone melatonin every day for long periods of time in a rat, you could train their circadian clock.
And that's what you're working on now?
And in some sense, I've continued to work on that for years and years and years. Yup.
Dr. Cassone addresses the fact that satisfaction comes at surprising and unexpected moments, something that seems to line-up with the Daoist ideal of non-action and even wu-wei. This specific trend is seen in his experiences in Australia. He was looking for satisfaction in a certain pursuit, but that search led to disappointment. However, Dr. Cassone found satisfaction in his personal life and in an unexpected discovery which opened up new doors of research. Here Dr. Cassone leans closer to lining up with Daoist ideal that instead of searching for satisfaction, you should simply let it come, or not come. As the Daodejing states, “Gaining the world always is accomplished by following no activity.” While not completely expressing nonaction, Dr. Cassone found his satisfaction in the areas where he wasn’t exerting himself. He found the most satisfaction when not acting.
Are you satisfied?
Umm, by and large, yes. In most things, yes. You know, what I typically say is, you know, people say "How are you doing?" I say "Not as well as I would hope, but as well as I expect."
How would you evaluate that satisfaction?
That's hard, but I think that that requires some self-reflection. That you have to actually sit down, in the absence of any other kind of stimulation, to think about and decide consciously: am I really satisfied? It's a mindfulness, I think so.
In his discussion of how to evaluate one's own satisfaction, Dr. Cassone directly mentions that satisfaction is found in “mindfulness” and that one must sit down in silence and evaluate it for oneself. This ideal is very strongly correlated with Buddhism and Zen Buddhism. In the Establishing Mindfullness Sutta, Buddha states that “his mindfulness that there are qualities is established so that there is knowledge and recollection in full degree.” In addition, Lin-Chi of Zen Buddhism states that “Instead of looking outside, you should turn your inner light upon yourself… This is called attaining the Dharma”. Dr. Cassone definitely lines up with these two viewpoints in proposing that one should sit in a quiet place, and thoughtfully consider one's own level of satisfaction.
Dr. Cassone’s viewpoints provide an interesting agreement and disagreement relationship with much of Asian philosophy. On one hand, he states that science is driven by dissatisfaction, and it’s only a search for that outward satisfaction that drives innovation. This implies a direct search for satisfaction which is not seen as desirable in the Daoist and Buddhist schools of thought. However, when this drive for satisfaction in knowledge is viewed through the lens of Confucianism, a closer agreement is seen. As
Confucius states “To learn and then have occasion to practice what you have learned--is this not satisfying?”
However, later, Dr. Cassone does seem to align with Daoism, in his discovery that the most satisfaction he obtained from his journey to Australia did not come from what he was searching for, but what he found unexpectedly, and without search.
Finally, Dr. Cassone shows agreement with Buddhism and Zen Buddhism on how he evaluates satisfaction. He specifically mentions that one must sit down and look inward, something found in Zen. He also mentions that it’s “a mindfulness” which basically sums up the teachings of Buddha.
All in all Dr. Cassone beliefs of satisfaction show a fascinating relationship with much of Eastern philosophy. Although his levels of satisfaction differ in various parts of his life, one thing is certain. Science and innovation are driven by dissatisfaction.
SECTION 4: Donovin Lewis
INTERVIEW: Jamal Lewis (Father of Donovin Lewis)
DONOVIN LEWIS: The individual that I am interviewing today is my father, or esteemed forebearer as he told me to call him, Jamal Lewis. For some prior background, he is a 45-year-old African-American man with a bachelor’s degree in child psychology who was born in Chicago, Illinois and lived there for 17 years with his mother, stepfather, and three half-brothers before leaving home to make his mark on the world. He now is content with the life he has cultured now with a wife, two children, a large home, and two cars and is currently living in Paducah, Kentucky. Today we are going to be talking about Satisfaction as it pertains to the modern Western World and how it evolves overtime as people grow by living through the various experiences that make up their life.
DONOVIN LEWIS: So, what are the methods through which you have gone through to attain satisfaction throughout your life?
JAMAL LEWIS: Well. As I grew up, I noticed some of the shortcomings of that my family had, for instance, the lack of a traditional home with the same mother and father for all kids. And one of the things I strove to do was to try to have a traditional home, if at all possible.
DONOVIN LEWIS: Now when you talk about moving towards attaining satisfaction, what about the actions that you undergo to attain satisfaction? If they’re done in a method in which you are actively pursuing satisfaction, is this wrong?
JAMAL LEWIS: GIven how you are taught as a child, right from wrong, you should be able to distinguish and be driven by things that are considered right and that you know from your own personal experience are right and feel right. So part of the reason why we have emotions in this realm is simply because we have physical senses. So if you do something wrong to someone or you get hurt, you can easily relate to how that feels, and of course that can also become a mental feeling, not just something that is triggered by physical stimuli. And so, you should be propelled to do good things based on not only how society sees things should be done, but how you and your individual family have set forth for you to accomplish. Then of course over time, it’s not just how you were taught, but again, your experience, the way things physically feel and mentally feel start to overlap and hopefully propel you in the right direction.
DONOVIN LEWIS: So what is this duty that you are insinuating arise from to initiate or fulfill your role as a traditional father?
JAMAL LEWIS: The duty arose simply because even though I had father figures in my life, none of them were very focused on my entire wellbeing. Occasionally, they would participate in things with me , for instance, the man who married my mother, in my opinion, does the bare minimum required to be called a father. And I wanted to make sure I went far beyond that in order to be a father.
DONOVIN LEWIS: Okey dokey, how do you evaluate your own level of satisfaction as you progress through life or how has your satisfaction changed over the course of your life?
JAMAL LEWIS: As a child, children are very satisfied with the things that they have- toys, and other things that amuse them. As you get older, those things are less amusing to you throughout the course of your life and you find more fulfillment in things that are less tangible instead of physical items that make you feel good or do things for you or entertain you. You become a little bit more spiritual and existential, if you are wise enough to attain that kind of level.
DONOVIN LEWIS: So what would you say this wisdom in order to attain satisfaction- this wisdom that changed your level of satisfaction as you progressed through life- where do you say this came from? Is it experience or was it simply always there and you never saw it as a child?
JAMAL LEWIS: It had to come from experience, simply because a child’s eyes aren’t as wide to various perspectives as an young adult or as an older adult. The older you get, the more wisdom you should attain- if that matters to you. If it doesn’t matter to you then you’ll never reach any other level other than “how many things can I have to amuse me and what does it takes to get those things?”.So, it’s a matter of experience as well as education as well. I sought to be as educated as I could and at all costs, which could’ve been sort of a bad move given my college history- although I obtained a bachelor’s degree, I came out with quite a bit of debt. So, I wanted satisfaction and I was taught that satisfaction would come through education first and foremost and so that’s what I did. And I continue to do that- each day, I continue to try and learn something new.
DONOVIN LEWIS: How did your upbringing influence how you evaluated satisfaction and how this changed throughout your life?
JAMAL LEWIS: Well as we mentioned before, when we talk about upbringing, I was raised mostly by women- although there were father figures in my life- they’re the ones who helped teach me right from wrong. I’ve also got the opportunity to learn morality through a couple kinds of church: both catholic and evangelistic which helped me start to wonder about things other than what’s tangible and the things that you can purchase and strive to get physically. Now as far as what changed, well overtime you grow not just physically but mentally and hopefully spiritually so that you become a better person for yourself and others. And contribute to society and conform to the ways society expects you to conform. If you do not, then society will punish you.
DONOVIN LEWIS: Correct me if I’m wrong, but what you’re saying is that satisfaction is a derivative of how society says you should gain satisfaction.
JAMAL LEWIS: It’s not just that- it also depends on your sense of being: what fulfills you just like when you eat a plate of food. If it’s nasty, you will know you are full physically but you still yearn for more of something that would’ve been better. And so the same thing applies here, when you talk about satisfaction, it has to be a certain type of satisfaction and each person’s satisfaction could be slightly different from the others, so that’s an important thing to distinguish when you talk about satisfaction.
DONOVIN LEWIS: So do you believe that you will ever fully attain satisfaction?
JAMAL LEWIS: In this life, it’s a goal you seek out throughout the entirety of your life. If you ever become totally satisfied, it would be a first. I don’t think anyone here on this planet, on this plane of existence is completely satisfied for any length of time.
DONOVIN LEWIS: After interviewing Jamal, I found what his point of view of satisfaction to be very connected with the ideas of satisfaction and duty as they are outlined within the Bhagavad Gita. While his personal approach to satisfaction directly opposes, the ideas outlined by Krishna, he naturally developed the mindset necessary to reach satisfaction as dictated within the Bhagavad Gita. Due in part to his upbringing, my father is ready to do whatever it takes to protect his family or the idea of a traditional family as it applies to his household, believing it his duty to work to uphold and protect this idea of a traditional family. Whereas Krishna states within the Bhagavad Gita that when one can act “with no attachment to the fruit of action, always satisfied, independent” they shall become enlightened, my father believes the exact opposite, that only through creating and maintaining an attachment to the ideas that he strives to achieve can he ever hope to reach his highest state of satisfaction. Along with this, he also believes that the measure of satisfaction is attained in different ways to every individual and changes throughout the course of one’s life rather than simply gained through the act of straying from attachment. Rather than duty to a deity as described by Krishna to Arjuna within the Bhagavad Gita, Jamal considers duty to his family to be supreme. However, like how Krishna describes satisfaction to Arjuna, Jamal believed that the self is “satisfied by knowledge and insight” overall and it is through understanding and learning that we get closer and closer to becoming satisfied. And, like Arjuna is loyal to Krishna, Jamal is willing to do anything without question or second thought when it concerns the well-being of his family. This state in and of itself, while it may harbor selfish intentions, lies within the domain of Wu-Wei because he is ready to act effortlessly when it comes to that which endangers his idea of a traditional family, even if he is not spiritually concerned with how this will affect him otherwise and I believe this is a method through which one can work to achieve Wu- Wei in a modern sense- by making oneself be able to do whatever it takes to fulfill their intended duty within the greater world or nature of things.
SECTION 4: Evelyn Hudson
INTERVIEW: Digital archive interview with Flora Hogner (Holocaust survivor)
EVELYN HUDSON: The following interview is that of Flora Hogner, a Holocaust survivor. For the majority of the interview, she discussed being saved by essentially being orphaned by her own mother to be put in a convent, then being adopted by a catholic family, then a protestant one, then finally by a Buddhist one. Flora claims to be the “Expert of conversion, but this is not without trauma. Obviously, she has dealt with many conflicts of identity, and did not even know her real name until much later in life. In the following segment, Flora discusses this conflict and her lack of satisfaction and her search for it through research, through finding and connecting with people, and through coming to terms with everything that she’s been through.
LEONA KAHN:Um… Looking back on it now, having done all this research, spent all your life trying to understand professionally these traumas, has it changed your perspectives on what happened to you? I mean, has it helped with your rage—“
FLORA HOGNER: You mean having done all this? Well—
FLORA: I think it has helped, I mean because I… it’s helped me because you know I’m still angry about it, because you know, I had to do it. I’m angry because I had to do it, because I had no choice. I mean, I’m glad I did it; I’m glad I found the way, you know, in the since that you know it made me feel better about myself that I found the way. I mean I had to find the way. And, uh, I think I feel better because I’ve started to somehow come a little bit to terms with my identity conflict. And… uh… Being Jewish and trying to like it.
LEONA: Was it had being Jewish after--
FLORA: Oh yeah, well, it still is. I mean it’s just it’s very conflicted. I have a seder now. I used to have a seder on Easter, you know, so. Everyone used to laugh at me—I used to have a lot of people come through and say “what is this seder?” But that’s what I liked best about Judaism, it made me feel like a Jew when I first came here. I remember my aunt—I mean the first seder I ever had, I didn’t even know what a seder was. I mean, you have to remember, my adopted mother didn’t know what a seder was. She probably didn’t even know how to spell it. And when I heard the story of the Jews’ escape from Egypt, well then I knew I was a Jew, because that was my story. That really made me feel like a Jew. And over the years, uh, I learned things about Jews that I like, that I don’t like, but it’s always it’s either trying to become part of it or being part of Christianity. I mean, I worked in the Christian school for many years. I used to go to the service all the time, I mean, I knew the songs better than anybody else. So, uh, well that’s another story, but um, so, you know I grew up with a Christmas tree. I mean, I’ve got friends that are horrified I don’t have a Christmas tree, but I grew up with a Christmas tree. I celebrate—I call it the Hanukkah bush, but I mean I celebrate. And my (?) and my friends and my patients they all think and they look at me like you know like that want to (kill?) me or something. So but it did help me to try, at least to try to find a way to redecorate the whole thing. I mean I can’t say I have totally succeeded, but I mean I do my best, you know. I do my best. And you know, that’s me. I’m not the person (?) who wanted to be all these different conflicts, but I still, it still, it’s a vulnerable contingency for me to say I’m a Jew. I mean to say it in French, to say it outside of here, and (?) you know I don’t have any children and I’m very sad about it and I think part of the reason why is that I’d never know what they were. My children would be totally confused. But I mean I’ve worked a lot with kids and my friends have a lot of kids so (?). But You know I’ve always asked myself, you know, what would I do if I had a child? You know? Would I light the candles on Friday? Would I have a (?)? Everybody would love to know I’m a Jew. And I had to acknowledge that. Because, I don’t have a Jewish name, my name was Hillel, and I find myself if I knew, you know, my name was Flora Hillel I’d be terrified. And you know (Even still?) I mean yes, even still! You’d think I’d get over it but it’s this, this is terror, you know, when you’re a Jew. I want to be able to hide it whenever I want. And, it was terrible, it was ridiculous—
LEONA: I mean, no, given that you had your name ripped off your clothing, you know?
FLORA: Right. But...
EVELYN HUDSON: Flora brings up a couple aspects of our search for satisfaction that we haven’t touched upon yet in other aspects of our podcast: namely, the difficulty of finding The Way towards contentment and the importance of rectifying names. Through our studies, the way is portrayed as both difficult, as we see within the failures of Confucius’s students and his statement that he will never meet one who follows it well enough; and easy as seems to be implied by the clear notion of simply letting go and again more specifically when Confucius remarks that the way is like a door: it is the only way out of the room, unavoidable, and easy to see, and all must pass through it. Flora’s journey toward satisfaction reflects the difficulty. Her journey even towards inner peace is marred by conflicted identity. Much of this conflict arises from the incongruity of who she has been told she must be, or, in some cases, who she should avoid being. This reflects the anxiety and confusion that plagues a society whose names have not yet been rectified. So far in the podcast, we haven’t deeply touched on the rectification of names in a just, satisfactory society. Flora’s story functions as a warning. The rectification of names is a doctrine originally in feudal Confucianism by which by calling things as they ought to be called, and designating them appropriately, society will behave accordingly to achieve social harmony. According to the doctrine, without such accordance, society would eventually crumble, and undertakings would not be completed. From the perspective of our podcast, one may hear this as “without such accordance, society does not have sufficient means to ever be satisfied.” Instead, we float through life in unease, searching for identity as we have seen through Flora’s illustrations.
DONOVIN LEWIS: After hearing the words of five extremely different individuals—whether being our peers, family members, or mentors—, we found that their perspectives on satisfaction each unknowingly expressed a particular aspect of Asian philosophy. Although the interviews were quite different, there seems to be a consensus that satisfaction connects learning and success, and the attachment, or lack thereof, to those.
EVELYN HUDSON: We just heard from Evelyn’s interviewee, or the archive, that Flora’s experience of satisfaction is one of searching, and without the rectification of names, can be very difficult.
DONOVIN LEWIS: Rachel’s interviewee, her mother, matches Confucius in a different sense: she finds her purpose in life, and thus satisfaction, by reaching a balance in her inner and outer virtues, whether through filial piety, or through learning. Meanwhile, Madison’s interviewee, John, reflects a viewpoint that relates more to Daoism and a piece of Zen Buddhism. He believes in satisfaction by living in the moment and letting moments flow by, as he remains unattached in both the positive and negative. Angela’s interviewee, Dr. Cassone interestingly brought up various schools of Asian thought throughout his interview, though his overall perception of satisfaction focused mainly upon the importance of continuous learning: in his situation, scientific discovery is fueled by a constant goal to learn. One can connect this to Confucius’s value for learning as a means of finding satisfaction. Finally, in my interview with my father, one can find a combination of both traditional ideals from the Bhagavad Gita and Confucianism. My father emphasizes both one’s duty to family and learning as factors of one’s satisfaction. Although our various interviewees seemed to line up with different schools of Asian philosophical thought, they all agreed that satisfaction is shaped by experience.
Works Cited and Applied
Addiss, Stephen, Stanley Lombardo, and Judith Roitman. Zen sourcebook: traditional documents from China, Korea, and Japan. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co., 2008. Print.
Cassone, Vincent. Personal Interview. 21 November 2016.
Confucius, and Edward G. Slingerland. Confucius analects: with selection from traditional commentaries. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub. Co., 2003. Print.Flood, Gavin D., and Charles Martin. The Bhagavad Gita: a new translation. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012. Print.
Gethin, Rupert. Sayings of the Buddha: a selection of suttas from the Pali Nikāyas. Oxford: Oxford U Press, 2008. Print.
Ivanhoe, P. J., and Laozi. The Daodejing of Laozi. New York: Seven Bridges Press, 2001. Print.
Lewis, Jamal. Personal Interview. 27 November 2016
Lietzow, Suk Han. Mother of Rachel Lietzow. United States immigrant from Hong Kong. Teacher at Mann Elementary School. Personal Interview. 24 November 2016.
Pina, John. Personal Interview. 28 November 2016.
Recording, Interview with Flora Hogner. Interviewed by Leora Kahn, Voices of the Holocaust Oral History Project: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History. Online: https://kentuckyoralhistory.org/catalog/xt7bzk55hm3q. (Accessed Nov. 24, 2016).
Zhuangzi, and Burton Watson. Zhuangzi: basic writings. New York: Columbia U Press, 2003. Print.