Li Bai, one of the most celebrated poets from China’s golden era, once wrote a short piece for a drinking party. He started by pointing out the world is but an inn for all the creatures that come and go. The poet concluded that given how short our lives are compared to the eternity of the universe, we shall make the most out of it in pursuit of happiness. “Life is short, drink up” he effectively said.
Fast forward some 1300 years, we now mostly agree that nothing lasts forever. Even for things like love and marriage which hopelessly get attached to the idea of permanence, do end given enough time. However, being short of permanent does not mean things should be taken as “only temporary”.
Our administration developed a habit of slapping the adjective to as many places as they can. Proposals, buildings, plans, you name it. For Li Bai, the fact that his time on earth is temporary gave him the incentive to gather your rosebuds while ye may. For our officials, making something temporary in contrast seems a good excuse of being lousy, to ignore the bigger picture, to turn away from the grand plan, to take short cuts or just as a preemption of saying “I told ya” if things turn out eventually to be a total failure.
In oriental culture, we measure the history of historic buildings often not by the age of the rock or wood beam we can see now. Instead a sense of continuity is the subject. When we say this temple has been here for 800 years, what we actually mean is that throughout this duration of time a series of construction in various forms and usage exist/ed for the purpose of the said temple. Hence any one of those buildings only lived for a shorter period but together they contributed to the much longer history of the institution. Now having realized this, temporaries can now longer be a legit reason for lack of effort, sincerity and respect to the subject matter. In contrast all various projects from Macau SAR, be it an oversized passenger pier or a tyre-themed children’s park, all share the same importance as they have equal weight in contributing to the wellness of our community. On the other hand, although each of the ministers’ appointments won’t last forever, their successes and failures all add up to one big communion, namely how we remember the regime of our time.
Now we face more uncertainty down the road and certainly much restrictive public resources. Public spenders should probably realize the good time is gone and we won’t have the luxury of try and error all the time in the future. After all if something is worth doing (or you sadly have to do it), it’s worth doing well – and doing well the first time over.
*Columnist of Plataforma