Any well-lived life is worth telling and retelling as it can help others who feel overwhelmed and defeated.” (from the Prologue)
Dr. Wong’s story is one of transformation and triumph despite tragedy, from his origins as a melancholic child in China, an impoverished refugee in Hong Kong, a fervent convert to Christianity, and a mistreated minister in Toronto — all the way to an influential professor and psychologist on the world stage who has spoken in multiple cities across four continents.
What are the secrets of his survival and success in this harsh and turbulent world? Dr. Wong’s answer may be surprisingly simple and yet complicated — the pursuit of meaning!
“There is no other motivation more powerful and more transformative. All my life, day in and day out, sunshine or storm, paid or unpaid, healthy or sick, and even now in my old age, I have struggled in my quest for meaning, with little reward or recognition. What has sustained me is the deep conviction that I can bring meaning and thus happiness to the suffering masses.” (from the Prologue)
Any well-lived life is worth telling and retelling because it can help others who feel overwhelmed and defeated by life. However, it is never easy to write a memoir. The writing of my life story has been almost 15 years in the making!
I was finally able to overcome my years of resistance to completing my memoir when I came to the difficult decision that some of the people who had caused me great harm needed to be named, the reason being so that they or people like them could not continue to inflict pain on innocent people with impunity. An even more compelling reason was that my story of overcoming would encourage others to move forward with courage, grit, and faith rather than wallowing in self-pity as victims…
Chapter 1: Is There Life After 80?
The final time I visited my father in Hong Kong, he was in his 80s. He said to me, with downcast eyes and great sadness, “My life is hopeless. I am just sitting here waiting to die.” This image has haunted me for years—is there life after 80? Can there still be hope and meaning even in our advanced years?
When I started doing research more than 30 years ago, the literature seemed to suggest that everything about the human body began to fall apart after 80. Now that this dreaded age will soon be upon me, I am very surprised to discover that, apart from the daily aches and pains, I am actually enjoying my most productive years. In many ways, I am having a second childhood. Free from any obligatory work and financial worries, I have the luxury of sleeping in and doing as much or as little as I wish…
Chapter 2: My Country, My People, My Identity
In order to make sense of who I am and what drives me, I need to return to my roots—to go back to the time and place where I was born. Such “home going” is both painful and illuminating. Perhaps my lifelong struggle with melancholy and the dark side of life can be traced back to the fateful year of 1937, when I was born in Tianjin, China, on February 20 according to the lunar calendar.
1937 was an unforgettable and dreadful year in Chinese history. In that year, Japan launched a full scale invasion of China and committed the Nanjing (Nanking) massacre—the forgotten holocaust of World War II…
Chapter 3: The Good and Bad of My Family of Origin
My life can be best understood from the intersection of three larger stories.
First, the larger drama of the contemporary Chinese history of wars and the Chinese Diaspora. My adult life represents the fears and hopes of millions of overseas Chinese struggling to survive and take root in a foreign land amid discrimination and prejudice. Second, the long history of my family of origin and ancestors. I carry not only their genes, but also hundreds of family stories, told and retold through many generations. Third, the big story of God invading human history and intervening in individual lives. My spiritual quest for meaning, first through Chinese folk religion, then Christianity, has always been the undercurrent of my life…
Chapter 4: My Father — Unsinkable...
I dare say that very few people have lived as fully, passionately, and productively as my father. Very few people could survive the highs and lows of his life without his resilience. I am most grateful to my father for teaching me by example important lessons of resilience.
By all worldly standards and measures, his life was very successful in terms of possessions, positions, and the achievements of all his children. He was able to enjoy all the fine things money could buy and indulge all his sexual fantasies. Many people would think that such a life is worth dying for.
Ironically, after living vicariously through his dream and observing the shallowness of his life and that of his rich friends, I developed an allergic reaction to the mindless pursuit of personal success and happiness. Even in my primary school, I knew intuitively that there was something missing in my father’s life…
Chapter 5: My Mother — Self-Transcendence...
Mother died in 1999, but I have never shed any tears over her death. Even at her funeral, I felt the worst pangs of sorrow and my tears welled up, but I did not cry. I still grieve the loss, but I have never been able to cross the emotional threshold of letting my tears freely flow. I still don’t quite understand why.
Perhaps it is because my sorrow has transformed into something transcendental and spiritual. Or it is because I had lived overseas most of my adult life. However, the most likely explanation is that I have never formed an emotional attachment with her. I cannot remember a single occasion of being hugged by my mother, because she was not a cuddly person and had to manage a household of eight children…
Chapter 10: Looking Backwards and Looking Forwards
Chapter 11: The Story to Live By
Chapter 12: Farewell, China
Chapter 13: Hong Kong: A Haven for Chinese Refugees
Chapter 14: A Year of Awakenings
Chapter 15: Pui Ching and Life’s Tough Lessons
Chapter 16: The Many Faces of Poverty
Chapter 17: My Conversion: The Beginning of a New Adventure
Chapter 19: The Joy and Suffering of Christian Ministry
Chapter 22: My Last Words for the Church
Chapter 25: Why I Love Taiwan: My Academic Home
Chapter 26: My Losing Battle Against Publication Bias
Chapter 27: The Untold Story of the INPM