May 28, 2009

Discovering Judge Dee

Posted in Books tagged , , , , at 2:37 pm by myrlinn

I recently found myself hooked on the Judge Dee detective series. I had never heard of Judge Dee, until I happened to spot The Chinese Gold Murders: A Judge Dee Detective Story at the local library. I’ve since read quite a few more of the Judge Dee series, and I’ve enjoyed them all.

What I really like about this series is that the novels are really adaptations of old Chinese detective stories, and gives you a glimpse into Chinese culture and the stories enjoyed by the Chinese some centures ago.  The author, Robert Van Gulik, was in fact a diplomat serving in Asia who himself discovered Chinese detective novels through his interest in Asian culture and literature. He didn’t start off wanting to be a writer of fiction, but decided to try his hand at it after realising that the stories deserve a wider audience. And that probably contributes quite a bit to the charm of the series — Van Gulik, being more of a scholar than a writer of fiction, tried to be as faithful as he could to the style and tone of the original Chinese detective novels he himself had enjoyed.

May 28, 2008

Sharon Stone, and belief in divine justice

Posted in Musings tagged , , , , , at 8:00 pm by myrlinn

This is all over the news today:

Actress Sharon Stone has sparked criticism in China after claiming the recent earthquake could have been the result of bad “karma”. The US star, speaking at the Cannes Film Festival, linked the recent disaster to Beijing’s policy on Tibet. She said: “I thought, ‘Is that karma?’ When you are not nice, bad things happen to you.” (BBC News, 28 May 2008, Anger over star’s quake remarks).

I see lots of commentary already about the inappropriateness and insensitivity of her remarks. And I’m not going to add to those (although I personally believe such a remark is very insensitive, and I wonder if she’s applying the concept of “karma” correctly).

What’s interesting to me is the fact that this is not the first time that someone has attributed a disaster or tragedy to some kind of divine judgment, a punishment as it were.

Is there a divine force which rewards our good deeds and punishes our bad? It’s something that’s definitely comforting to believe in, when we see injustice happening every day around us, and we want to “know” that the people who are hurting others will get their come-uppance somehow.

But I’ve never been able to convince myself of the idea of divine justice or retribution. It seems to me that bad stuff is just part and parcel of the mystery of life, where good doesn’t seem to be able to exist without bad. Disasters involve loss, but it also provides the potential to manifest the positive; for isn’t it in times of tragedy that people are jolted to think beyond themselves to reach out to their fellow human beings; that courage, perseverance, love, compassion, all the better sides of human nature, are seen in sharp relief?

I’m especially wary of the concept of divine justice when applied in the opposite direction, when certain religious organisations try to say that God rewards the faithful in material wealth. I can’t get beyond this: shouldn’t your “reward” be something in the order of inner balance and peace?

Well, as you can see, all I have are questions, and I’m still searching…