Life Enrichment 2011

Life Enrichment Club: 2010 to 2011


Sung-Peng Hsu (徐頌鵬)

April, 2011


This is the second year since the Life Enrichment Club (暢樂人生社) was formed under the Taiwanese American Senior Society on June 22, 2009.   We have held the following eight exciting discussion sessions:


Hsiu-Ying Yang (蔡秀英), “Genetics,” May 24, 2010

Joseph Shiau (蕭家竫), “Wisdom and Humor“ (笑裡藏道), June 21, 2010

Sie-Ling Chiang (姜西淋), "From Genes and DNA to the Idea of Fate” (從 Genes 和 DNA 談命), August 30, 2010

Darrell Liu (劉德勇), Hsiu-Ying Yang (蔡秀英), and Sie-Ling Chiang (姜西淋), a panel discussion on genetics, September 27, 2010

Sung-Peng Hsu (徐頌鵬), “Mahayana Buddhism” (大乘佛教), October 21, 2010

Jim Cheng or Tchaw-Ren Chen (鄭昭任), “DNA and Austronesian Formosans,” (DNA and南島福爾摩沙人), February 7, 2011

Jim Cheng or Tchaw-Ren Chen (鄭昭任), “DNA and Austronesian Formosans,” (DNA and南島福爾摩沙人), February 24, 2011

Stephen Hung (洪啟峰), You-Yen Yang (楊友垣), and Yud-Ren Chen (陳育仁),  a panel discussion on “Photography and Life Enrichment,” March 24, 2011


As stated in the basic principles of our club, our main focus is to roam in the great realms of truth, goodness, and beauty to search for something that can enrich our lives and make us truly happy.   We spent five sessions on genetics, related to scientific truth; one session on wisdom from the perspective of humor; one on the understanding of truth, goodness, and beauty from the viewpoint of Mahayana Buddhism, and the last one on beauty from the perspective of photography.


During one of our sessions last year, I got acquainted with Hsiu-Ying and Tony Yang who sat next to me.  After learning that Hsiu-Ying had worked at NIH as a researcher in the field of genetics, I asked her to lead a session on the subject.  Her presentation on the basics of genetics generated so much curiosity and enthusiasm that she did not have enough time to cover the second part on the ethical problems of reproductive cloning and inheritable genetic modification.  In this way, Hsiu-Ying sparked four more sessions on genetics after her.  The discussion of genetics made a great sense after a series of discussion on philosophy of life last year.  Many of us felt that genetics could help us understand our life better.  It so happened that just before our discussion the news media claimed that Craig Venter had for the first time successfully created a man-made DNA.


Joseph Shiau led the June 21 meeting on “Wisdom and Humor.”  The title in Chinese is a humor in itself because “笑裡藏道” (truth hidden in smiles) is a pun of “笑裡藏刀” (a knife hidden in smiles), where the word “truth” sounds like the word “knife” in Chinese.  Humor is wisdom that acts like a knife, sword, or even thunderbolt hidden in smiles.  Unfortunately, I missed the session because I had to attend our son’s wedding.  Joseph has been one of the earliest members of the LE club.  He has a mind that often popped up questions that might surprise other people but they often opened up new perspectives for discussion.  It could be part of his humor but also showed his unusually rich and active mind.  He has a website (/, where he covers many subjects, including humors, sports, stocks, news, science, religion, etc.


On August 30 we went back to the subject of genetics, this time led by Sie-Ling Chiang on "從 Genes 和 DNA 談命" (From Genes and DNA to the Idea of Fate).  After his retirement from the Federal government in the field of engineering, he became extremely interested in and concerned about the deep-rooted practices of divination and superstitious beliefs found in Taiwan.  In 2007, he published “知命開運” in Chinese, which is being translated into English as “Genetic Fate, Environmental Chances, and Your Destiny.”   The LE discussion was based on the third chapter “命與註定,” in which Sie-Ling gave “命” a new definition in terms of genes and talked about its plasticity (可塑性) for our personal growth and destiny.  I sorely missed the interesting discussion because I had to go to Chicago for an important event.


It so happened that Darrell Liu, a well-known scholar in both Taiwan and US, gave a talk on “Stem Cells” for TASS in the morning of September 27.  We took advantage of the opportunity to hold a panel discussion on genetics in the afternoon.  Darrell Liu, Hsiu-Ying Yang, and Sie-Ling Chiang accepted the invitation to serve as the panelists.   After brief words by the panelists, the meeting went into general discussion.  It was another great success, with lively discussion among the panelists and the audience.  It covered not only stem cells but also many other topics in the expanding field of genetics.  When the time was up, we were still engaged in heated exchanges of ideas.


Unable to find someone for the meeting on October 21, I filled the slot by leading a discussion on Mahayana Buddhism.  In my earlier talk on Buddhism for TASS, I was not able to cover Mahayana Buddhism due to time limitation, so I used this opportunity to cover some Chinese Buddhist schools, especially Ch’an or Zen (禪) and Pure Land (淨土).  From the enthusiasm of the participants asking questions and the need to forcefully end the two-hour discussion, the meeting could be called a very good one.   


The meeting on February 7, 2011 was specially arranged after it was learned that Tony and Hsiu-Ying Yang were about to move to San Francisco to be close to their son.  The date was chosen so that they could attend the discussion to be led by Jim Cheng on “DNA and Austronesian Formosans.”   TASS also decided to hold a farewell party for them at lunch. 


Jim Cheng is a retired professor and researcher in genetics.  During the LE meeting in the afternoon, Jim shared with us his rich knowledge of genetics like an old pro.  After his retirement, one of his main interests has been the story of human migrations from Africa, including the migration of native Formosans, some of them moving from Formosa to South Pacific islands.  He discussed the migrations of Formosans in terms of DNA and linguistics.  Since the topic excited so much interest, we decided to hold another session on February 24.  Two magazine reports about that time added more excitement and relevance to his discussion.  The first one was a report in the Discover Magazine, as one of the 100 top science stories in 2010, about the DNA test of a pinkie finger found in Siberia that points to a possible branch of human migration from Africa that had not been known before.  The other report was found by Stephen Hung in the New York Times on the on-going debates about the migrations of native Formosans to the South Pacific region.


The photo above was taken at the meeting led by Jim Cheng on February 7.  Tony and Hsiu-Ying Yang were happy to attend their last LE meeting before they moved to San Francisco.


I found the topic of genetics and human migration so fascinating that I looked for some videos for better understanding.  Three of them are particularly informative.  The first is a PBS documentary “Journey of Man” in 2002, presented by Dr. Spencer Wells.  The second is a National Geographic documentary “The Human Family Tree” in 2009, also presented by Dr. Spencer Wells as a product under the Genographic Project.  The third one is a five-episode BBC documentary “Incredible Human Journey” in 2009, presented by Dr. Alice Roberts.  In addition, Joseph Shiau found the video “Decoding Immortality” that discusses telomeres in our DNA that is involved in our aging process.  Its discoverers have been awarded a Nobel Prize.  A proper manipulation of telomeres may become the “fountain of youth” that can bring us some kind of immortality.  All these videos are simply incredible.  By using Google one can find many of them freely available online.  Even if the details are not completely accurate, the general outline of genetic discoveries represents a revolution in human thought about the world in which we live and our human existence.  I have shared the above information through group emails.  Jim Cheng has also provided valuable responses by emails.


The last LE meeting for the year is a panel discussion on “Photography and Life Enrichment,” with You-Yen Yang, Yud-Ren Chen, and Stephen Hung as the panelists.  All three are photography enthusiasts and they shared their experiences with us in their own ways.  You-Yen, one of the longest and craziest photo enthusiasts in TASS, emphasized that the most important thing was to take photos at the right time and right place, with a camera always ready for the action.  He used many of his favorite photos to illustrate the point.  Yud-Ren agreed with him and related his excitement after joining the Photo Club.  He also shared with us many of his beloved photos and explained how he took them and why he enjoyed them so much.  Yud-Ren did not think he needed the allotted time of 15 minutes for his presentation, but he failed to realize that his enthusiasm would make him forget time.  Keihong Hung is the leader of the Photo Club.  Many of us, including me, are learning different aspects of photography from him.  He explained how photography could enrich our lives, such as studying of nature, appreciation of nature, photography as an art, as travel logs, as records of our loved ones, etc.  He also covered the benefits of photography to our mental agility and good friendship.  We are fortunate to have Stephen to take the lead in our exploration of the world around us with our cameras!  For more information about this session, please read Mei-Lih Chiang’s (陳美麗 or米粒) article in this TASS Journal.


An important objective of our Life Enrichment Club is to share and create interests among our participants.  In that process, we have also developed wonderful friendship.  May everyone have a long, healthy, and enriched life!

© Sung-Peng Hsu 2011