Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Wei-t'o and Being Flexible

My sister sent me this through SMS, from The Te of Piglet. An alternative translation from this site (The Complete Works Of Chuang Tzu Translated by Burton Watson, Terebress Asia Online) is:
Duke Huan was hunting in a marsh, with Kuan Chung as his carriage driver, when he saw a ghost. The duke grasped Kuan Chung's hand and said, "Father Chung, what do you see?"

"I don't see anything," replied Kuan Chung.

When the duke returned home, he fell into a stupor, grew ill, and for several days did not go out.

A gentleman of Ch'i named Huang-tzu Kao-ao said, "Your Grace, you are doing this injury to yourself! How could a ghost have the power to injure you! If the vital breath that is stored up in a man becomes dispersed and does not return, then he suffers a deficiency. If it ascends and fails to descend again, it causes him to be chronically irritable. If it descends and does not ascend again, it causes him to be chronically forgetful. And if it neither ascends nor descends, but gathers in the middle of the body in the region of the heart, then he becomes ill."

Duke Huan said, "But do ghosts really exist?"

"Indeed they do. There is the Li on the hearth and the Chi in the stove. The heap of clutter and trash just inside the gate is where the Lei-t'ing lives. In the northeast corner the Pei-a and Kuei-lung leap about, and the northwest corner is where the I-yang lives. In the water is the Kang-hsiang; on the hills, the Hsin; in the mountains, the K'uei; in the meadows, the P’ang-huang; and in the marshes, the Wei-t'o."

The duke said, "May I ask what a Wei-t'o looks like?"

Huang-tzu said, "The Wei-t'o is as big as a wheel hub, as tall as a carriage shaft, has a purple robe and a vermilion hat and, as creatures go, is very ugly. When it hears the sound of thunder or a carriage, it grabs its head and stands up. Any one who sees it will soon become a dictator."

Duke Huan's face lit up and he said with a laugh, "That must have been what I saw!" Then he straightened his robe and hat and sat up on the mat with Huang-tzu, and before the day was over, though he didn't notice it, his illness went away.

I may have to change my perspective to accept my predicament - or move to the other side of the mountain.

I'd like to see myself as flexible, as discussed in CareerJournalEurope.com:
As a rule, highly flexible people are able to stay loose and to choose and explore a wide variety of approaches to problems, without losing sight of the overall goal or purpose. During problem solving, if new developments or changed circumstances demand, flexible people can easily drop one line of thought or an unworkable approach and take up another.

They show resourcefulness in their ability to shift gears, to discard one frame of reference for another, to change perspective and to adapt quickly to new developments or requirements. As the late professor John E. Arnold of Stanford University put it, "Flexibility is obviously facilitated by having a great many tricks in your bag, knowing lots of techniques, having broad experience."


Also known as "uptight," "rigid" or obsessive-compulsives, inflexible people tend to see changes or challenges as threats, not opportunities. They have little openness to the new, the unexpected or the unpredictable. As a result, they aren't readily able to adapt or adjust to new situations and are reluctant to abandon old ways of thinking or do things differently. Some even prefer to freeze the world of flux and make believe nothing is changing.

It must be pointed out, however, that since inflexible people are strongly committed to the presentation of the status quo, their use of traditional information and accepted methods allow them to solve most kinds of routine business problems efficiently and effectively. But when it comes to problems where innovative solutions are called for, their chances of succeeding are slim. Since their thought processes are jammed with stereotypes, they lack the capability to look for new directions, new perspectives and new ways to approach problems where no precedent for solution exists.

Is there a difference in these two viewpoints? Not necessarily. I could remain flexible, change my perspective, but the fundamental change is to drop the training here and find a better alternative elsewhere.

I'd rather not delude myself into thinking that things will change for the better here. I saw the insides of other private hospitals and wondered to myself how it is to work without worrying about the supplies, antibiotics and diagnostics you are going to use for the care of the patient.

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