Life is more than success
Every time I go to the R. H. Stafford Library, I always stop at the new book shelf near the entrance to check what new books are there.
Recently, I happened to see the autobiography by Lang Lang, "Journey of a Thousand Miles: My Story" ((Random House, 2008).
I had heard about Lang Lang and read articles about him.
Lang Lang, from China, is considered one of the greatest pianists of our time. He has played with the leading orchestras in all major concert halls throughout the world.
I was interested in reading more about him. The 256-page book proved to be an easy and interesting read.
"Journey of a Thousand Miles" reveals Lang Lang's journey from his early childhood as a prodigy in the industrial city Shenyang in northern China to his difficult years in Beijing to his success today.
As a Chinese person, I am familiar with the competitive mind he embodies and talks about in the book.
"In the culture of my childhood, being best was everything. It was the goal that drove us, the motivation that gave life meaning."
Number One was his mantra. Lang Lang was driven by his own desire to be the number one, to win competitions.
He was also driven by his father who was considered mentally and physically abusive, certainly by American standard.
He did become number one time and time again in various national and international competitions, thanks to he and his parents' hard work, determination and sacrifices.
Since Lang Lang has established himself as one of the greatest pianists, he lived a life of excitement and glamour.
He traveled all around the world, from the Golden Globe Awards ceremony to Nobel Prize ceremony, from the World Cub to the Beijing Olympic Games. He played at the White House and the Kremlin.
He performed for presidents, kings, queens and other dignitaries.
Lang Lang had a difficult childhood. He lived in poverty before reaching success. His story was very touching and inspiring.
But what impressed me the most in the book was his confession of having depression after reaching success and prosperity.
Despite his fame and success, he felt depressed.
"I couldn't seem to enjoy my success," Lang Lang confessed, "Depression had been looming over me since my professional career took off. I'd felt constantly unmoored, always completely alone in spite of the crowds that clamored for my attention."
This is a sad statement, yet not so surprising for me.
I know many people can easily identify with this feeling.
No matter what our own personal stories are, no matter how different our life journeys are, no matter what big, small or no successes we have in life, we all experience times when we feel completely alone in this world.
Success alone does not make our life fulfilling and meaningful.
At the end of the story, Lang Land did find some meaning in working as an International Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations Children's Fund UNICEF. In that role he traveled to different parts of the world and advocated for the children.
Lang Lang developed a foundation to support the education of classic music, to help children realize their dreams, with music as a starting point, to improve the world by improving the lives of children through music.
He saw his role as that of a cultural ambassador who can build bridges between cultures and foster peaceful and respectful cooperation.
Now in addition to sharing his talent as a pianist and sharing music with the world, he also lent his support to environmental issues China is facing now.
In the end Lang Lang understood that as an artist, his responsibility goes beyond music. His music must serve people and peace. He found more meaning in life.
I hope Lang Lang will look not only beyond the world of music, but also beyond this world, to see what he can not see with his eyes and hear what he can not hear with his ears, to find true and eternal meaning in life.
Lang Lang's story reinforced in me the lesson that there is more than success in life. Finding meaning in life is a life long learning and searching process.
The book ends with the saying of Lao-tzu: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
Every one of us has to start our journey with a single step.
Why not make the beginning of this New Year the beginning of your journey, whatever that journey is, in your life right now!