Mon, Jan 07, 2019 - Page 9 News List

USING IDIOMS 活用成語

Anxiety, 1894, Edvard Munch.
《焦慮》,一八九四年,艾德華‧孟克作。

Photo: Wikimedia Commons照片:維基共享資源

Chinese Practice

杞人憂天

(qi3 ren2 you1 tian1)

the man of Qi fears the sky

和《道德經》、《莊子》並列為古中國三大道家經典的《列子》,原被認為是列禦寇(春秋時期鄭國人)在西元前五世紀所著,但學者現認為此書實編纂於西元四世紀左右。《列子》的〈天瑞〉一章中有則故事說道,杞國這小國中有一個人認為天將塌下來、地將崩裂。在這描述莫名其妙的憂慮、有些令人莞爾的故事後,該章隨即討論宇宙會存在多久,並說明去擔心宇宙消亡後會發生什麼事,是很荒謬的。

這故事說道,那神經質的杞國人擔心天會塌下來,讓他無處可居。有人開導他說:「天其實是氣體聚積而成,氣體本來就是無所不在,你現在已經是整天在這團氣體裡活動呼吸了,怎麼會擔心它崩塌呢?」這杞國人接著開始擔心,如果天只是聚積的氣體,那麼就會支撐不住太陽、月亮和星星,它們就一定會掉落到地上。那人再開導他說:「太陽、月亮和星星也不過是氣體中發亮的部分,即使墜落也不會傷人啊!」然後這神經質的杞國人又開始擔心地會塌陷,那人又再解釋說,地並不會塌陷。於是這故事皆大歡喜──那杞國人得到滿意的答案,而我們也得到了成語「杞人憂天」(或作「杞國憂天」、「杞人之憂」),意指毫無根據且不必要的憂懼。

耐人尋味的是,該章接著寫道,哲學家長廬子聽說了這杞國人的事,便質疑對世界末日的恐懼是否真的那麼沒道理,因為畢竟所有事物都一定會有終結的時候。而長廬子確也承認宇宙極大,也可能會存在很久。列子接著提到自己對這故事的思考,說我們並無法得知世界是否會滅亡,去擔心世界的終結,或者宇宙消亡後人要住哪裡是荒謬的,因為我們也會隨著宇宙的消亡而消失:世界終結後生命是否仍會存在,那神經質的杞國人其實一無所知,但他誤以為自己在世界終結後仍會倖存。當他自身都不存在了,就沒有理由去害怕了。

《列子》中這個故事令人聯想起一則歐洲民間故事,這故事描述毫無根據的偏執妄想和極度的歇斯底里,並有荷蘭語、英語、蘇格蘭語以及後來的美語版本。儘管主題有所不同,但都是有關一隻神經質的雞,牠的名字有不同版本,但都押韻,叫做「Henny Penny」、「Chicken Licken」或「Chicken Little」等。這隻雞被一棵掉下的橡樹果實打中,便認為天正塌下來。這隻雞研判,最好去稟報國王,說天空正在崩塌;在牠去找國王的途中,陸續吸引了雞鴨鵝等一群朋友跟隨。最後,這群禽鳥被一隻狐狸所騙,某些版本的結局是,牠們會被狐狸吃掉。故事中反覆出現的片語是「the sky is falling in」(天正塌下來)。這故事的寓意──至少是不幸版結局的故事──是勸人不應人云亦云、盲目從眾,或對所聽聞的事照單全收而不去求證。

任何提到「Chicken Little」、「Henny Penny」或「the sky is falling in」的說法,都是指毫無根據地去相信災難即將發生。

(台北時報林俐凱譯)

擔心機器人會搶走飯碗並非杞人憂天,因為人工智慧近年的發展有很大的突破。

(Fears that robots will steal our jobs are hardly unfounded, given the major breakthroughs in AI over the last few years.)

有人認為婚姻平權會敗壞道德、毀滅世界,也有人認為這是杞人憂天。

(Some people fear that marriage equality will lead to a breakdown of morals and to the end of the world as we know it; others believe these concerns are unfounded.)

英文練習

the sky is falling in

The liezi, an ancient Chinese philosophical work initially attributed to Lie Yukou from the 5th century BC but now believed to have been compiled around the 4th century AD, is considered, together with the dao de jing and the zhuangzi, one of the three Taoist classics of ancient China. The tianrui (Heaven’s Gifts) chapter includes an anecdote about a man from the small state of Qi who thinks the sky is about to fall on his head and the earth crumble about his feet. What starts out as a mildly amusing anecdote of unfounded anxiety quickly progresses into a discussion on how long the universe will exist and the absurdity of worrying about what will happen after it ceases to do so.

According to the story, the neurotic man from Qi was worried that the sky would collapse, leaving him with nowhere to reside. Somebody tried to calm him, saying that the sky was simply accumulated air, present everywhere, that he breathed day in, day out: how could he worry that such a thing could collapse? The neurotic then started worrying that, if the sky was a mere accumulation of air, there was nothing holding up the sun, moon and stars, and these were sure to come falling to the ground. The other person again attempted to calm him, saying the constellations were simply parts of the air that emitted light, and even if these did fall, they would not harm anyone. The neurotic man then started worrying that the land would subside, and the other once again explained the ground was going nowhere fast. With this, both men were happy, as are we, because the story gives us the idiom 杞人憂天 (the man of Qi fears the sky), also written 杞國憂天 (state of Qi, fearing the sky) or 杞人之憂 (the fear of the man of Qi). It means “to have groundless fears.”

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