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(中英)现代散文:渐 Gradualness

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2019年05月02日

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Gradualness

渐①

◎ Feng Zikai

◎ 丰子恺

The subtle factor that makes life endurable is "gradualness". It is by this "gradualness" that the Creator deceives all humans. Through the process of imperceptible gradual change, innocent kids become ambitious youths, chivalrous youths become unfeeling grownups, aggressive grownups become mulish old fogeys. Since the change takes place by slow degrees — year by year, month by month, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second, you feel as if you were permanently your same old self always seeing much fun and meaning in life, like one, walking a long, long way down an extremely gentle mountain slope, hardly perceives its degree of incline or notices the altered scenes as he moves along. You thus take a positive view of life and find it endurable. Suppose a kid suddenly became a young man overnight, or a young man suddenly became an old man in a matter of hours from dawn till dusk, you would definitely feel astonished, emotionally stirred and sad, or lose any interest in life due to its transience. Hence it is evident that life is sustained by "gradualness". This "gradualness" is particularly crucial to women. Beautiful young ladies starring in an opera or stage show will someday end up becoming grannies moping their remaining years away around a fire. This may at first sound incredible and young ladies may refuse to accept it as true. Fact is, however, all aged women you meet today have without exception "gradually" evolved from beautiful young ladies of yesterday.

使人生圆滑进行②的微妙的要素,莫如“渐”;造物主骗人的手段,也莫如“渐”。在不知不觉之中,天真烂漫的孩子“渐渐”变成野心勃勃的青年;慷慨豪侠的青年“渐渐”变成冷酷的成人;血气旺盛的成人“渐渐”变成顽固的老头子。因为其变更是渐进的,一年一年地,一月一月地,一日一日地,一时一时地,一分一分地,一秒一秒地渐进,犹如从斜度极缓的长远的山陂上走下来,使人不察其递降的痕迹③,不见其各阶段的境界,而似乎觉得常在同样的地位,恒久不变④,又无时不有生的意趣与价值,于是人生就被确实肯定,而圆滑进行了。假如昨夜的孩子今朝忽然变成青年;或朝为青年而暮忽成老人,人一定要惊讶,感慨,悲伤,或痛感人生的无常,而不乐为人了。故可知人生是由“渐”维持的。这在女人恐怕尤为必要:歌剧中,舞台上的如花的少女⑤,就是将来火炉旁边的老婆子⑥,这句话骤听使人不能相信,少女也不肯承认,实则现在的老婆子都是由如花的少女“渐渐”变成的。

It is also due to this "gradualness" that one is able to reconcile himself to his reduced circumstances. Fiction and reality abound with instances of a good-for-nothing young man from a wealthy family "gradually" ruining his family by repeated business failures and becoming in turn a poor wretch, a hired labourer, a slave, a rogue, a pauper and a thief... Since it is a process of "gradual" change covering, say, ten to twenty years, he doesn't experience any terrible emotional shock at all. Therefore, in spite of all the intense sufferings — hunger, cold, illness, imprisonment, torture, he continues to cling to the present life. On the other hand, however, if the wealthy young man were all of a sudden reduced to begging and thieving, he would definitely feel too aggrieved to go on living.

人之能堪受境遇的变衰,也全靠这“渐”的助力。巨富的纨袴子弟因屡次破产而“渐渐”荡尽其家产,变为贫者;贫者只得做雇工,雇工往往变为奴隶,奴隶容易变为无赖,无赖与乞丐相去甚近,乞丐不妨做偷儿……这样的例,在小说中,在实际上,均多得很。因为其变衰是延长为十年二十年而一步一步地“渐渐”地达到的⑦,在本人不感到甚么强烈的刺激。故虽到了饥寒病苦刑笞交迫的地步,仍是熙熙然贪恋着目前的生的欢喜。假如一位千金之子忽然变了乞丐或偷儿,这人一定愤不欲生了。

Gradualness is really the mysterious law of Mother Nature, the subtle artifice of the Creator! The unnoticed mutual replacement of opposites, the change of the four seasons and the survival or extinction of species — all is imperceptibly governed by this law. Budding spring "gradually" changes into verdant summer; withered autumn "gradually" changes into bleak winter. Though we have gone through several dozen years, yet on a winter night, when we sit around a fire or lie in bed, we can hardly imagine how we would feel on a summer day Consuming cold drinks and fanning ourselves busily, and vice versa. Th gradual change from winter to summer, or from summer to winter takes place day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second, without leaving any marked traces in between. The same with daylight gradually fading into night. When you sit by your window reading a book towards the evening, you'll find the words on each page "gradually" becoming blurred. But if you keep on reading, with the words still legible (due to the gradual strengthening of your eyesight in the deepening twilight), you'll be unconscious of daylight already transformed into night. Likewise, when at dawn you stand intently gazing out of a window into the eastern horizon, you never feel the transition from night to day. While parents living together with their children all the time never perceive their gradual growth, they may fail to recognize, however, a distant relative whom they have not seen for quite some time. I remember how, on each New Year's Eve, we used to sit by a red candle to eagerly wait for our narcissus to come into full bloom. How silly we were! If the narcissus had really come into bloom in our presence at our desire, it would have meant the violation of the law of Nature, the weakening of the foundation of the universe, and the last day of humanity!

这真是大自然的神秘的原则,造物主的微妙的工夫!阴阳潜移⑧,春秋代序⑨,以及物类的衰荣生杀⑩,无不暗合于这法则。由萌芽的春“渐渐”变成绿阴的夏;由凋零的秋“渐渐”变成枯寂的冬。我们虽已经历数十寒暑,但在围炉拥衾⑪的冬夜仍是难于想像饮冰挥扇的夏日的心情;反之亦然。然而由冬一天一天地,一时一时地,一分一分地,一秒一秒地移向夏,由夏一天一天地,一时一时地,一分一分地,一秒一秒地移向冬,其间实在没有显著的痕迹可寻。昼夜也是如此:傍晚坐在窗下看书,page上“渐渐”地黑起来,倘不断地看下去,(目力能因了光的渐弱而渐渐加强)几乎永远可以认识page上的字迹,即不觉昼之已变为夜。黎明凭窗,不瞬目地注视东天,也不辨自夜向昼的推移的痕迹。儿女渐渐长大起来,在朝夕相见的父母全不觉得,难得见面的远亲就相见不相识了。往年除夕,我们曾在红蜡烛底下守候水仙花的开放,真是痴态!倘水仙花果真当面开放给我们看,便是大自然的原则的破坏,宇宙的根本的摇动,世界人类的末日临到了!

Through bit-by-bit change, "gradualness" conceals from notice the lapse of time and the change of things, so that people are misled into believing that everything remains the same eternally. What a trick the Creator is playing on humans! Here is a story by way of illustration. There was a farmer who would jump over a ditch holding a calf in his arms on his way to work in the fields every morning and also on his way back home every evening. A year later, the calf had grown bigger and heavier, almost like a cow, but the farmer, insensible to its increasing weight, continued the same old daily routine. One day, however, he didn't go to work for some reason. And starting from the next day, he was no longer able to carry his calf in his arms in jumping over the ditch. The Creator uses the same trick to make you so obsessed with life that you become oblivious to its changeableness and hardships. You are kept jumping over the ditch nonstop day after day with the growing calf in your arms. While you suppose wrongly that life is immutable, you are in fact putting heavier burdens on yourself from day to day.

“渐”的作用,就是用每步相差极微缓的方法来隐蔽时间的过去与事物的变迁的痕迹,使人误认其为恒久不变。这真是造物主骗人的一大诡计!这有一件比喻的故事:某农夫每天朝晨抱了犊而跳过一沟,到田里去工作,夕暮又抱了它跳过沟回家。每日如此,未尝间断。过了一年,犊已渐大,渐重,差不多变成大牛,但农夫全不觉得,仍是抱了它跳沟。有一天他因事停止工作,次日再就不能抱了这牛而跳沟了。造物的骗人,使人留连于其每日每时的生的欢喜而不觉其变迁与辛苦,就是用这个方法的,人们每日在抱了日重一日的牛而跳沟,不准停止。自己误以为是不变的,其实每日在增加其苦劳!

I think the clock is most symbolic of life. It normally seems to be "still" at first sight, but, of all things artificially made, it is the most busy with its hands moving all the time. The same is true of life. We are apt to think that we are forever our own selves and unchangeable, while in fact we are ever-changing like the hands of a clock. Alas, as long as we are alive, we are completely fooled by "gradualness" into believing that we will always remain the same and unchangeable, and therefore becoming only too ready to hold on to this life!

我觉得时辰钟是人生的最好的象征了。时辰钟的针,平常一看总觉得是“不动”的,其实人造物中最常动的无过于时辰钟的针了。日常生活中的人生也如此,刻刻觉得我是我,似乎这“我”永远不变,实则与时辰钟的针一样地无常!一息尚存,总觉得我仍是我,我没有变,还是留连着我的生,可怜受尽“渐”的欺骗!

Time is the essence of "gradualness". Ordinary people have only a superficial understanding of time. They seem to know it only as regards such small matters as boarding a train or boat, but not in things concerning a lifetime. They see the trees, but not the wood. Take the passengers of a train for example. Often some passengers are sensible and considerate enough to offer their own seats to the elderly or handicapped so that they themselves can enjoy peace of mind or momentary public praise. Some, when they see other passengers falling over one another in getting off the train, purposely make room by staying behind, or call out, "Don't squeeze! We'll all make it! Nobody will be left behind!" But few will be as sensible and considerate when making the long journey of life on board a big "social" or "global" train. Therefore, I wish man would live a much shorter life. If their lifespan could become as brief as the time they spent on a train or a boat, human society would probably witness far less bitter strife, and people would be as polite and modest as on the train.

“渐”的本质是“时间”。一般人对于时间的悟性,似乎只够支配搭船、乘车的短时间;对于百年的长期间的寿命,他们不能胜任,往往迷于局部而不能顾及全体⑫。试看乘火车的旅客中,常有明达的人,有的宁牺牲暂时的安乐而让其坐位于弱者,以求心的太平(或博暂时的美誉);有的见众人争先下车,而退在后面,或高呼“勿要轧,总有得下去的!”“大家都要下去的!”然而在乘“社会”或“世界”的大火车的“人生”的长期的旅客中,就少有这样的明达之人。所以我觉得百年的寿命,定得太长。像现在的世界上的人,倘定他们搭船乘车的期间的寿命,也许在人类社会上可减少许多凶险残惨的争斗。而与火车中一样地谦让,和平,也未可知。

However, we do have among us a few who know how to correctly view life. They are great, indeed! They refuse to be fooled by "gradualness" or the Creator.

然人类中也有几个能胜任百年的或千古的寿命的人。那是“大人格”,“大人生”。他们能不为“渐”所迷,不为造物所欺。

丰子恺(1898—1975),浙江崇德县石门镇人,是我国“五四”新文化运动后很早从事散文写作的一个先驱作家。《渐》是他1925年在上海一个中学任教时写的第一篇散文。文章语言朴素自然,干净流利,内容富于哲理,流露出他早期作品中的佛教出世思想。英译时略有删节。


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