This happened after Kuang and his classmates and friends celebrated their 12 years old birthdays. So far, he has received 4 invitation of Bar or Bat Mitzvah from his Jewish classmates and friends. He had joined two and will go to the other two soon. Each ceremony was very big and had large parties. There were more than 100 guests, professional bands, and good food. The initial service was held in a synagogue. Then there would be a party in a hotel, restaurant or bar.
Like the Jewish tradition Bar and Bat Mitzvah, people at my hometown, the Guanzhong Plain in Shaanxi, China (one of the regions that the Chinese culture had originated), also have a Coming of Age Ceremony for 12 years olds. Traditionally, the uncle from the mother’s side will send the nephew/niece a lantern every year in the Chinese New Year for the child to play with until the child is eleven years old. The child then will be officially a grown-up during his/her 12th Chinese New Year and he/she will no longer receive a lantern. This means that the child will not be a child any more so he/she does not need a lantern to play with. Relatives will come, give other gifts to the young adults, and then there will be a feast.
Today, many people have forgotten this tradition. But I will always remember my Coming of Age, for that was My Day. I got special attention from adults on that day. This is why I decided I would hold a ceremony for Kuang too. Good traditions hold people together, giving people the meaning of life. I wanted this good tradition to be kept: so I decided I would promote it (I have posted photos, and speeches on a Chinese forum).
I like how the Jewish parents hold the Bar and Bat Mitzvah. Since we are in America, I decided I would borrow some tips from the Jewish and add new things to my old tradition. The Jewish kids are required to read Torah and write a speech about what they have read. I asked Kuang to read from any philosophers he likes (Chinese or Western) and then write a speech. The Jewish kids are required to do good deeds, such as helping a Charity to raise money. Kuang has done a volunteer work during Obama Campaign. He has donated a little of his money to the community park; he also signed up to be a volunteer in the park. He founded his organization –the Non-violent People’s Association (NANP) to help the world to be more peaceful. He wrote to his members, most of whom are in China. He urged them to do charity work. He also urged his dad to join the Yellow River Soup Kitchen in Xi’an (the Capital of Shaanxi), which is the only soup kitchen in Xi’an and was founded by a British gentleman named Tony. Kuang also asked his dad to send his old clothes and money to help poor kids in China. He designed a T-shirt, with a lion on it, which is his symbol. There are two slogans on the shirt: in front of it is “Peace” in English, Chinese and Latin, a word summarizing his philosophy; “Respect, Responsibility and Creativity ” on the back, which are the meanings of Coming of Age. This shirt would be given to all the guests and the 12-year-old NANP members.
Then the big day came. It was a small, but a happy and meaningful ceremony. We had food, speeches, slide shows, and games. His dad and I gave him a special coming of age gift—a Chinese jade seal, for him to leave signatures on his books and important documents. A seal is a symbol of one’s reputation and promises to himself and others.
During the ceremony, I made a speech about him. One of our friends, a scholar at Columbia University also made a speech and gave him a book about Nelson Mandela. Kuang added his seal on the book for the first time.
Kuang also had a speech. I thought it was wonderful, even though it was long: he spoke almost about 20 minutes. The speech is in English, so I will post it below.
RAYS OF HOPE
I am about to give a very long speech. It is a speech that will encompass however long it shall take to express an endless gratitude. It is a gratitude that makes up every cell in my body, every person in this room, every room in this metropolis, and every metropolis in the entire world. It is a gratitude that expresses the deepest bowels of the body and even the soul itself. This magnificent gratitude, in which I shall express, is called life, and it is life that shall run through my tongue into words and which shall create joy and peace among all the human beings, plants, fungi, algae, and animals throughout this wonderful land. This gratitude of life is so endless and so, in fact (I am not lying here), boring, that I will not get angry if any of you decide to fall asleep during it. (No really, I wasn’t kidding.)
Okay, that was a joke. Now, since I am done with a joke, I shall continue with something that is not any joking matter. It is something that is so wonderfully simple that even the little bacteria in the far oceans praise its name. Yet it is so stunningly complex. This something is something that the beginnings of civilizations have revolved around, something that created, and ultimately destroyed. It is something that inspires, something that encourages hope even in the darkest and most desolate of corners. Something that has made civilizations rise and similarly, made others dominant above them. However, this something is one that makes peace, signs treaties, eliminates hunger, and yet it is also something that starts wars, unleashes famine, and puts together a great mass of homicide. I have neither the historical accuracy nor the poetic interpretation in order to explain this sheer phenomenon, and yet, I have my creativity and innocence in order to share it. Yes, it is innocence that shall be the driving force behind this most wonderful something, innocence which first brought it up, knowing the answer, whatever it was, was just a few steps away to answer, and yet, innocence was the one that was never able to finish what it started.
This speech is one about hope, it is about the hope I have for the future, and for the present. It is the hope I have for all of us, for the world to be a better place, for the people of the world to want the world to be a better place. The basic meaning of this speech is to figure out what in the world the meaning of the world is. Also, more importantly, to want to figure out the answer to that question as we age, mature, and prosper.
And so, the something that has such a great impact on our daily lives is not an object, not even a proper sentence, it is not something that is labored over decades to create, it is, however, something that is so simple that many a great men had fallen to lift it up. The something is a question, an honest question: What is the meaning of the world? Why do we exist? How has life been brought to us and why? These questions, as Douglas Adams had put it, is: The ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.
And lets face it, all our lives we have been striving to find an answer to that question. It is the same with all of us, the same urge to find, the same curiosity to discover. While we desperately try to find the answer to this question, we learn the basics of our lives, what to eat, where to sleep, who to love, how to walk, how to talk and so on. It is the same question that those who think themselves superior do not wish to ask, and so, they do not learn from what the question means, or what it is.
In fact, the ones who think themselves smart often are not, for they neglect the true facts of the world and become ignorant and selfish. The best of us are even induced into following this streak of self-gratification. When we grow up, we are deprived of asking questions, for we dislike the ones that make us look ignorant and foolish, yet we neglect the fact that we sometimes are foolish not to ask. This brings me to what I think is the true meaning of adulthood. Well, adulthood is a symbol. It is a symbol that says aloud that now the child is responsible for his or her own decisions. It says that the world is now the child’s own, and for the child to explore. The child is then encouraged to leave the secluded and cozy realms of their mother and father and go into the wide world. However, adulthood also invites selfishness, ruthlessness, and the urge to rule over others. It is often the case that something the child that had never dreamed of doing in childhood he has done in adulthood.
That brings me to the main point of my speech: What is adulthood and is it really more or less important than childhood. Childhood is a strange thing. At 2, the child knows nothing but eat and drink. In many cases, the child’s first word after mom or dad would be a cruel and unstoppable ‘NO!’ This is somewhat proof for the selfishness we have at nature. At three, the child is smart enough to walk and sometimes talk, but besides the small circle of family the child has, there is no other clue or world out there. At this age, the child is the closest to finding out the answer to the ultimate question of life and the universe, but is stopped by the adults who have them under close supervision. At this age, the child brims with intellectual stimulation and curiosity. However, over the next years, the child will stop being that curious, and become a thing called ‘mature’.
However, being mature is not necessarily a good thing, as the child becomes self-conscious and able, he also inherits the horrid things of the world into his or her mind. When I was 6, I did not know of the wrongs of the world, such as poverty, the over production of greed, pollution, in fact, my memory was such that I could not remember the dense layers of smog that surrounded my childhood IN CHINA. I thought of the world as a bright and a happy place, as a place filled with kids like me who want to make the world better both for themselves and for the sake of others. After I matured, I found that my perception of the world was dreadfully wrong. I found in fact, to some degree, that the world was a horrible and most insidious place. Filled with beggars and hungry children. I had given up hope that there will one day be a world of nicety and sincere intentions. I had thought, I had thought that we were just too plain bad for it all: that our evolutionary instincts had overtaken that strange thing called love, and our brilliance had been cut down by our greed and prejudice. Yes, that was what I thought of the world, I thought that the world was one of many bad things in a bad place filled with bad organisms. I thought that under the covers, every one was secretly plotting to do me in or kill me. It was a horrifying world for me. And yet, and yet I saw a glimmer of hope.
In fact, it was a hope beyond hope. It came from an ant, a soup kitchen, and the efforts of my parents. Ants are a strange species of animals; ants are like, well, us, only smaller and whole lot stronger. Ants think their whole and only purpose in life to save the queen, which is the only one in the entire city of ants who can reproduce. The ant is one of the only species of animals (that includes us) that can work well towards a common goal without objection and with their full attention. However, the ants inspired me even more:
I am about to tell a story, it is the story of an organization. This organization is one called NANP, or the National Association of Non-Violent Peoples. It also happens that I have co-founded this organization. NANP is an organization that is dedicated to the betterment and well being of its members. A member of NANP may not commit any acts of violence whatsoever except in cases of self-defense. A member of NANP is also required to help any other members or any person who is in need. Every occasion, NANP holds a conference. NANP has already had a conference in the summer of 2013 during which NANP has invited a Chinese girl to come and stay with us.
The ants here are a literal representation, and not a metaphorical one. NANP, the organization, needed inspiration for the founders to come up with the idea. One day when I was in second grade, my friend and I saw a group of sixth grade boys bleaching a group of ants. The ants were drowning in that horrible bleach and the sixth graders were standing there laughing in glee. Me and my friend could not stand this treatment of ants and so decided to tell the sixth graders, even though they were bigger than us, we decided to stand up to them. We told them to stop bleaching the ants. They did not stop, however, that day, an organization was born. And it is the same boy, who said that we needed to stop the carnage that gives me so much hope, the will to stop destruction and recklessness.
My other rays of hope came one day while visiting a soup kitchen in NYC. I had thought that the poor would go untreated and wandering for the rest of their lives. Then, I noticed that some people smelling of urine were visiting a nearby church. The process of the soup kitchen is one of great diligence and respect, without a word, the workers will start handing out many pieces of food, and sometimes the beggars will not even thank them. It is a truly selfless act to be in a soup kitchen. It is because of them that it is almost impossible to starve in New York. However, in Xi’an China, my hometown, there is but just one soup kitchen, founded by a Briton, he hopes to care for the growing number of poor and homeless in China. My father has volunteered for his soup kitchen. One of the guests here today, Mr. Dr. Professor. Harrist PhD has volunteered for a soup kitchen for an entire year. After doing so, I guess that he felt a sort of inner peace and happiness. It is an inner peace and happiness all of us can find if we strive well and work to our goal.
My third ray of hope came from my family members. First of all I would like to thank them all for being with me all this way. My mother studied night and day in order for a chance to bring me to America. Her studying was such that on any random day, she would empty an entire red bull box. Her studying would pay off with her getting accepted into Columbia University. It was truly a happy moment for her. It would mean that she could now bring me over to America for a better education and a world without smog. She is the reason that I am here today, and she is the reason that I have not been brainwashed by the tough education system of China. Through pain and through study, she brought me here. This gives me the most amount of inspiration, for now I know that in this world, there is someone who actually will set a goal and accomplish it, and even though that goal needed a lot of attention and work, we will still accomplish it nonetheless. It is because of this that I am inspired to write this speech, attend this ceremony, talk to you, and not back down.
So when I ask myself what I have got from these rays of hope, I get something very simple. I get the fact that there will always be someone who is nice, someone who will give, someone who will inspire, and always, even though if there is just a small minority, and maybe even just one… There will be someone who is curious, someone who want to find the answer, or just a snippet, of the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. And as long as there is just one person, the world will not be entirely bad, or wrong, or hopeless. Let’s face it; there’ll always be that one person.
That is why I like the lion. The lion is a pack animal, never forgetting the pack; they are a symbol of bravery and chivalry. They have their own unique code of honor. When the females of the herd kill prey, they always allow the male to eat it, this may seem sexist but the male will engage in deadly fights for those same females. The pack of lions take care of and make sure their young grows fully. Then, the pack will leave the cub later to fend for itself. This is a test for the lion. When it is left to fend for itself, the cub will start a herd for itself. When one lion thinks that the rest of the herd has done something wrong, they will stand up to the rest of the herd without questioning.
So, in conclusion, when I grow up, I want to be responsible, I want to be caring, I want to become respected and respect others. However I will never allow myself to forget who I really am, what I really want to do, and I will keep on searching for the answer to the ultimate question of the life, universe, and everything. Without these, I will become a hypocrite, a selfish bloke, an uncaring bastard, and turn back on my word. So, I shall promise you and have this entire event as my witness, as I mature, I will not become those who forget favors, those who are selfish and dishonest, those who manipulate others or any of those who only care for their own well being. I shall remember those who have been with me in my life. I shall remember the events which have taught me lessons or brought me great happiness, I shall remember how each and everyone of you guys helped me to achieve my ultimate goal, happiness and peace of mind. For as long as there is one, there is still hope.
I am a twelve-year-old teenager named Kuang and I thank you for being here with me: every one of you. Thank you!
(Yes, I did realize that the answer is 42, but what is the question?)