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《菩提田》

 

BODHI FIELD

舊說新語
Modern Interpretations of Ancient Expressions

【十五、 踏水車的老人––誠意篇】

15. Chapter on Making the Mind Sincere—The Old Man Who Pedals the Water Wheel

□   孫秀美 文
By Sun Xiumei


老天爺是不會絕了人的生路的。
Heaven will not cut off people's chances to live.

揚子江的水靜靜地迴繞著這座小村莊,好像無始來就是這麼流著,也不知會流到哪個世紀?老人仰起了滿是皺紋的臉,歲月毫不留情地刻劃著痕跡,卻掩不去他眼角眉梢的那一抹堅定與醇厚。望望那懶洋洋倚著西山的橙黃日頭,老人習慣地走向水車。有六十個年頭了!他就這麼日日踏著水車。旋轉的車輪,帶動了水力,也帶動了他的活力;然而沖流而去的水,也沖走了他的青春。雖然孫兒已大到取代了他踏水車的工作,但每到黃昏,老人還是要來踩一踩水車,溫一溫他的舊夢。

六十年前,他還只是個十五歲的小伙子。每天他踩著水車,偶而叱喝一下這邊的水牛,那邊的山羊。過往的行人總愛逗他:「小柱子!唱個山歌吧!」他就嘻笑著拉開大嗓門,把太陽唱得從東山滾落到西山去,一天就這麼快活地溜走了!小柱子變成了大柱子,又變成了老柱子,依然是整個村莊的「柱子」。天生的樂觀進取,似乎不曾隨血氣的衰微而消歇,就猶如過去,他也不曾因為任何天災人禍的艱難而畏縮一樣。

有一年的乾旱,水位已低到難以踩水車了,他踏著空輪,抿緊了厚實的兩片嘴唇,眼定定地看著火紅的太陽:「老天爺是不會絕了人的生路的。」就憑著這一股信心,激發他無限的力量,繼續去踩動他生命的車輪。小柱子仍然每天去江邊,他把河床的淤泥挖起,一畚箕一畚箕地搬開,直到水淹上了輪子,他又可以踩水車了。可是沒多久,持續的乾旱又使得水位低下來,他再挖泥!就這樣挖泥、踩水車,踩水車、挖泥,人人喊他「傻柱子」。「老天爺是不會絕了人的生路的!」傻柱子說。終於,也不知是他的傻脾氣拗過了行雨那條龍的龍脾氣?雨開始下了,乾旱解除了!傻柱子趕著水牛去泡水,一面又起勁地邊踏水車邊唱山歌,把火紅的太陽嚇得掉落西山,天轉涼了!

又有一回,行雨的龍又使起龍性子,硬是連月嚎啕大哭個沒完沒了。大柱子頂著斗笠,披著簑衣去挖水道,再很費力地在滾滾決流中踩著水車,利用水力把多餘的水逼往其他水道去,人人又喊他「傻柱子」。可是傻柱子還是天天去挖水道、踩水車,踩水車、挖水道。終於他的傻性子又拗過了龍性子,雨停了,水退了!「啊!老天爺是不會絕了人的生路的!」他快樂地把一團團爛泥巴往空中拋,「啪啦啪啦」地,泥巴又掉入水中,彷彿在討饒地說:「怕啦!怕啦!」

「老柱子!你別傻了!有福不享,又跑出來踏水幹嘛?」老人回頭看看那微弱聲音的主人,原來是老秀才。老人打量著這個昔日的兒伴,瞧他顫巍巍柱著柺杖的樣子,一身的長袍掩不住馱起的背。老人挺直了依然像牆壁似的背:「老朋友呀!能健健康康地活到老、做到老,才是真有福呀!」老秀才像被擊中要害,顫抖的身更是搖搖欲墜。半晌,才文謅謅地搖頭幌腦說:「『誠之者,擇善而固執之者也』,『唯天下至誠,為能盡其性』,其子之謂乎?其子之謂乎!」

The Yangzi River quietly wound its way around this small village. It seemed to have been flowing in that way since time without beginning, and who knew for how many more centuries it would continue to flow? The old man lifted his wrinkled face, which had been ruthlessly marked by time, but still retained its determined, gentle and kind expression. Gazing at the golden sun setting lazily over the western mountains, he walked towards the water wheel out of habit. For sixty years, he had been pedaling the water wheel day in and day out. The turning wheel set the water moving, and it also stimulated his vitality. However, as the rushing water flowed away, his youth had also flowed away. Although his grandchildren were old enough to take over his work, he still came at dusk every day to pedal the wheel and reminesce about old times.

Sixty years ago, he was just a fifteen year-old kid. Every day, he would pedal the water wheel, and occasionally he would holler at a water buffalo here or a mountain goat there. The people walking by loved to tease him, saying, "Little Pillar! Sing us a folk song!" He would then laugh and sing at the top of his voice, from the time the sun rose above the eastern mountains until it sank over the western mountains. In such joyful gaiety, the day would slip away. Little Pillar turned into Big Pillar, and then into Old Pillar. He was still the "pillar" of the whole village. He was optimistic and progressive from birth, and these characteristics didn't seem to lessen as his vital energies declined with age. Similarly, he never became discouraged in the face of hardships posed by natural and human disasters.

One year there was a drought, and the water level became so low that he could hardly pedal the water wheel. Pedaling the empty wheel, he pressed his full lips together, gazed at the fiery red sun, and said, "Heaven will not cut off people's chances to live." This faith inspired boundless vitality in him, enabling him to continue pedaling the wheel of life. Every day, Little Pillar went to the riverside as usual and dug up the mud from the riverbank. He moved basketful after basketful of mud away, until the water covered the wheel and he could pedal again. However, after a short while the ongoing drought would bring the water level down again. He dug the mud again! He alternated between digging and pedaling, pedaling and then digging. Everyone called him Silly Pillar. "Heaven will not cut off people's chances to live!" said Silly Pillar. Finally, who knows if it was his silly temper that overcame the dragon-temper of the dragon in charge of the rain, but it started raining, and the drought was over! Silly Pillar drove the water buffalo to soak in the water, vigorously pedaling the water wheel on the one hand and singing folk songs on the other hand. The fiery red sun was scared into sinking over the western mountains, and the weather cooled off!

Another time, the dragon in charge of rain lost its dragon-temper and cried hard for several months without stop. Big Pillar put on a straw hat and straw coat and went to dig the water channel, and then pedaled the water wheel strenuously in the rushing stream, using the power of the water to force the extra water into another channel. Again, everyone called him "Silly Pillar." Nevertheless, Silly Pillar still went every day to dig the channel and pedal the water wheel; pedal the water wheel and dig the channel. Finally, his silliness again overcame the dragon's stubborn temper. The rain stopped and the water went down! "Ah! Heaven will not cut off people's chances to live!" Happily, he threw handfuls of soft mud into the air. "Pala! Pala!" The mud plopping back into the water sounded as if it were pleading for forgiveness, saying "I'm scared, I'm scared!" in Chinese.

"Old Pillar! Don't be so silly! Why don't you enjoy your blessings at home, instead of coming out to pedal the water wheel?" The old man turned around to see who was the owner of that feeble voice. Oh, so it was the Elder Scholar, the one who had placed first in the county civil service examination. Sizing up his childhood companion, who leaned on his staff shivering, his long robe failing to hide his hunched back, the old man straightened up his own back, which was as even as a wall, and hailed, "Old friend! Being able to live and work healthily into old age is a true blessing!" The Elder Scholar appeared as if he'd been struck under the belt, and his shivering body seemed on the point of collapsing. After a long while, he nodded and said, "'A sincere person is one who chooses what is good and adheres to it.' 'It is only he who is possessed of the utmost sincerity that can exist in the world, who can give his own nature its full development.' Isn't that talking about you? Isn't that talking about you!"

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