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一九九五年敬老節獻詞

A Speech Given on Respecting Elders Day, 1995

敬老尊賢與傳統口傳智慧的關係
The Relationship Between Oral Tradition and Honoring Elders

萬佛聖城培德中學學生胡明宇
Justin Hu, a student of Developing Virtue Boys Secondary School at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas

Good morning to all our Elders. We are assembled here today in honor of the Elders, and I supposed to give a speech about it. When preparing for this, I tried to come up with a different reason for why we should honor our elders, instead of just saying that we should repay their kindness.So, I am going to try to show the relationship between the oral tradition and honoring elders, and to prove that it is still vital today regardless of our technological advances.

諸位尊貴的長輩,您們好:今早我們在此共同歡慶敬老節。除了應該 回報 長 輩的恩德以外,我也聯想到敬老尊賢與傳統口傳智慧的關係。雖然科技昌明,敬老尊賢還是跟從前一樣重要的。


傳統口傳智慧與書寫文學是兩回事。在人類會講第一個故事開始,口傳智慧便產生了。有人類以來,一直到六千年前 才開始有了文字。大約在公元一千四百年,約漢尼斯  古登伯成功地發明活字印刷,才有所謂的「書」。

但是地球上某些地方,特別是非洲一帶,口傳還是文化流傳的最重要方法。在那個時候,如果你到那些地方,你找不 到法律典藉,你看不到聖經與佛經,也看不到孩子們揹在背包裡的數學與歷史書。

相反的,你會聽到村長借用前人留下的規則替村民解決爭執,你會聽到神媒預言神明告訴她的話,也會看到母教導孩 子生活上的一切知識。

這些文明、文化的流傳方式,完完全全依靠口傳耳聽,沒有文字的幫助。他們的法律、宗教、故事以及所有的一切都 依靠記憶力,一代又一代的傳下去。因此,他們尤其特別地倚賴長老們的指導。所有知識完全是儲藏在他們的腦子裡,不能依靠紙張。因此他們認為誰最有知識?誰 聽的故事最多?誰最有人生經驗?那當然是尊貴的長輩們了!所以,長輩在他們的社會裡,是最受到敬重及祟拜的。

今時今日,我們有了書本,有了語言記錄,我們不再那麼依靠長老們了。但是口傳還是我們生活中的一個重要部份。

我們的長輩能與我們分享許多書本所無的經驗。書本無法告訴我們老祖母做藍莓餡餅的秘方,也無法解釋老祖父如何 修補破裂的東西。又如更無法解釋爸爸如何送我們所要的聖誕禮物,以及媽媽如何馬上察知我們犯了過錯,他們有豐富的人生經驗,指導你如何做人等一切。

做為一個孩子,我們自長輩那兒知道許多直接而個別的教導。你沒有辦法從書本上,電腦或電視中學習如何辨別是非 好壞。假如你要瞭解、體會及看透一些事,有人直接提示你,你會更容易的明白。

長輩們擁有一生的經歷,與我們分享。他們是社會最寶貴的知識與經驗之寶庫。

敬老尊賢是穩固社會及文化的根本。如此一代接一代的敬重賢明長者及累積知識與經驗,社會肯定會進步及繁榮。

我謹代表育良小學及培德中學的老師及同學們祝福所有尊貴的長者,我們永遠會記住您們對這個社會的奉獻。祝您們 健康與快樂。


The oral tradition, as opposed to literature, existed ever since the first story was told. Of the 50,000 years of human existence, it has been only 6000 years since the first word was written, and it wasn’t until Gutenberg invented moveable type in the 1400s that books became more accessible.

Before this time, the oral tradition played a big role. Take Africa for instance (before the missionaries came). If you went there, you wouldn’t find volumes of law books. You wouldn’t see a Bible or a Sutra as a basis for religion. You wouldn’t see children lugging school books around.

Instead, you would hear the head of the village orally quoting the rules to settle disputes. You would hear the priestess prophesizing what the gods had told her. You would see the mother telling her children the stories of why things are.

In that culture, the absence of texts and written material required a strong oral tradition. The laws, religion, stories, everything, would be remembered and passed down through generations and generations. Knowledge wasn’t stored on paper; it was stored in people’s minds, and who would have been more knowledgeable than the elderly? Who would have heard more stories or experienced more things than the older people? No one. The Elders knew the most, and that’s why they were the most respected and most honored.

But nowadays, we have a written language, we have texts. We are not as dependent on our elders anymore. Although the oral tradition still plays a part in society, it’s not as much as before.

However, there are many things that someone older can share with you that can never be found in any book. Simple things. For example, there isn’t anything documenting Grandma’s secret recipe to make blueberry pie, or explaining Grandpa’s ability to fix everything you break, or accounting for Dad’s way to know what you wanted for Christmas, or revealing Mom’s method for inexplicably knowing what you did wrong, or more importantly, the basic lessons of human life—how to be a good person.

My point is that there are things that you as a kid eventually learn only from your elders, not texts. A certain kind of knowledge that is passed down to you.

You don’t learn how to establish right and wrong from a book, computer, or TV. And it’s far easier to understand what it’s like to live somewhere, experience something, or see something special when someone explains it to you orally.

It’s these things that you learn from your elders who have a life time of experience and knowledge to share. Therefore, elders are the most valuable storehouse of knowledge for every society.

So by honoring our elders, we are supporting the foundation of our society and culture. And as each generation venerates their elders, with their accumulated knowledge and experience, society will certainly improve and flourish.

Before it’s too late, I would like to take this opportunity to represent Instilling Goodness Elementary School and Developing Virtue Secondary School to greet the elders: Thank you for your contributions to society. May you all be well and happy.

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