Sunday Snippet: John Steinbeck

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”

The days are getting longer and everyone is firing up their barbecues. It’s not technically official just yet, but summer will soon be upon us. This means more camping, more fishing, and more playing in the sprinklers.

And a big part of why people enjoy summer so much is that it, well, only comes once a year. As John Steinbeck reminds us above, we come to like summer, because it is such a stark contrast to the cold of winter. This is the same reason why people escape to all inclusive resorts in sunnier climes. (Which makes me wonder about the experience of people who live in year-round hot climates and how they feel about the changing of the seasons… but I digress.)

John Steinbeck is best known for authoring such classics as Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. While the above quote talks about the difference between summer and winter, it really speaks to how we take things for granted. Something as simple as clean water becomes incredibly treasured when you are put in a place where it is not readily available. People who came from poverty oftentimes have a greater appreciation for the wealth that they may earn later on in life. They’ve lived the difference.

While it certainly isn’t a third world country, life in Hong Kong can be remarkably different than what I have here in Vancouver. I remember when I stayed with family about 20 years ago and I wondered how they could live in such small apartments. It fascinated me how we had to wait for the water to boil before we could take a hot shower. I couldn’t understand how they only had four TV channels, all owned by the same company. Homes of wealthier people in Hong Kong are different, of course, but where I stayed gave me a better appreciation for some of the simple conveniences that I have here.

Philosophers have argued for ages: How can we know good if we do not know evil? How can we know white if we do not know black? How can we know heat if we do not know cold? That said, it may not always be appropriate to see the world as a series of extreme dichotomies. Instead, we have to understand that everything exists in shades of grey.