Franklin resident Yu-long Ling says he is in the third stage of his intellectual career.
The first was composed of his studies in Taiwan and the United States and his first 10 years of teaching at Franklin College.
“I read and studied other textbooks and materials, sharing the theories with my students and parroting these ideas to my colleagues,” Ling writes in his 2003 book “American Society Through Confucian Eyes.”
The second stage involved digesting the knowledge he had acquired. During this period, he published more than 50 academic articles and three textbooks.
Now in the third stage, Ling said he is exploring the complexities of human relations. One of the ways he has explored these issues is through a regular newspaper column, which he has written since the early 1980s.
A regular theme has been to examine similarities and differences in societies and cultures, not to measure one against another but to enlighten his readers and to give them a new perspective.
His newspaper columns have resulted in a pair of published collections, but Ling admits that writing the column was a new challenge when he started. One of those challenges was length.
Ling said he was used to writing academic papers, in which length was seldom a problem. He was able to explore an issue as deeply as he wanted or felt was necessary.
“But learning to write in so limited a space for the newspaper proved a great challenge,” he said recently. “In the beginning I gave my columns to colleagues to help polish them.”
Today, Ling still shares unpublished columns, but now his adviser is his son, Tony, an attorney in Chicago.
“He is a very good writer himself,” Ling said. “He feels he’s a part of my writing. It makes the relationship even more rewarding than just father-son.”
Ling said he sees his writing as a natural step beyond the classroom.
“If you don’t understand the subject, you can’t write about it,” he said.
“To me to be a classroom teacher is not enough. You can’t simply echo what’s in the book. But when I started writing, I began to find my own perspective, my own voice.”
Ling’s latest book, “Confucianism & Americanism: An Immigrant’s Journey to the West,” is a collection of newspaper columns originally published in the Daily Journal. But Ling has organized them along themes, such as cross-cultural understanding and social change. All reflect his perspective as a follower of Confucius.
“Confucianism emphasizes individual
responsibility while Americanism stresses individual rights. An individual who only has responsibility without any rights is a slave; an individual who only has rights without responsibility is egocentric,” he said. “Confucianism stresses human relations, Americanism stresses materialism. Finally, Confucianism stresses self-cultivation, family, education and responsibility.”
His essays also reflect on his position as a minority, both as an immigrant when he came to America and today.
“As a minority, there was always a smaller margin of error,” Ling said. “(But) why should I always have to defend myself. ...
“The only way I could protect myself is to do things right, legally and morally. I treat people with respect, and they treat me with respect.”
As a result, he always has spoken out about injustice.
“Any time I see something unfair or unjust, I will pick up on that,” he said.
Ling said he hopes his readers develop a deeper sense of awareness after reading his columns.
“What I hope the readers can take away from my book is that discrimination in any form is wrong. It is not easy for minority to be successful, we have to work hard in order to survive,” he said.
“Furthermore, even though America is a great country, the American way is not the only way and is not always the best way. We need to be humble and open minded in this world of globalization and interdependency.”
Even though he has retired from teaching, Ling said he plans to continue researching, writing and speaking.
“Retirement does not mean rest. A sense of involvement is important,” he said. “I want to know that I did not waste my natural talent.”