Sat, Jun 17, 2017 - Page 8

Honoring Chi Po-lin

Following the death of documentary director Chi Po-lin (齊柏林) in a helicopter crash on Saturday, there has been an outpouring of sorrow and reminiscences on the Internet and social media, with hardly any negative comment to be seen.

Ever since Nobel laureate chemist Lee Yuan-tseh’s (李遠哲) return to Taiwan from the US in 1994, numerous idols from academia and religious institutions have been dragged down from their pedestals, and Taiwan no longer has any public figure commanding such across-the-board approval as Chi.

Why has the sudden departure of a documentary director who, though well-known, had always kept a low profile, generated such a huge reaction across the nation?

Looking at Chi’s lifelong contributions, we can learn some things from the following points.

First, Chi made Taiwan his foremost concern. His documentary film Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above (看見台灣) raised our knowledge of Taiwan and its land to new heights, and changed it from two dimensions to three.

The film gave us a different understanding and imagination of the nation’s land. The positive assessments of Chi that have been made from all sides reflect a common appreciation of the way he identified with and prioritized Taiwan.

Second, Chi sought to do good without getting involved in politics. The things he did had nothing to do with the pan-blue or pan-green political camps, and he rarely expressed his political views.

In Taiwan, whenever you touch upon things of a political nature, it will cause things to go askew.

For example, one need only look at how the suicide of writer Lin Yi-han (林奕含) drew scathing comments from former diplomatic officer Kuo Kuan-ying (郭冠英), just because Lin’s father held strongly “green” political views.

People who want to accomplish something in Taiwan might consider in what other fields one could have room for expression without straying into politics.

Third, one must be in tune with mainstream values. Environmental concerns that grow out of passion for one’s homeland and sorrow for its wounded mountains and rivers are today’s mainstream values and an unstoppable trend all over the world. You might say that Chi was riding the crest of this global tide.

Finally, one must take the road less traveled by. In the words of US poet Robert Frost: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Beyond Beauty is a sword that took Chi 20 years to forge. The road he took was a desolate and overgrown track where few have ever ventured, but he followed it on and on, undauntedly.

Anyone who wishes to follow Chi’s example might ask themselves whether they have the true passion that it takes to walk alone so long and so far. It is precisely because it took so long that Chi’s work is so great and precisely because so few people would do it that it is so moving.

Chi was a true warrior who fell on the battlefield. Rather than mourning him, it would be better to pay him homage and celebrate his unique achievements.

Yang Tai-hsing