How to understand Xiong Hao's concept of "Moonlight Spirit" in the "Insightful Dialogue"? Is the "Moonlight Spirit" a weapon for modern people to resist anxiety?

In the Zhihu “2024 Insightful Dialogue,” Xiong Hao first introduced the concept of “Moonlight Spirit,” suggesting that modern individuals have to fulfill their daytime responsibilities and can only return to themselves under the moonlight when night falls. These “moonlight moments” can to some extent alleviate mental anxiety. How do you interpret the concept of “Moonlight Spirit”?

The Spirit of Moonlight: A Journey Through Late Nights

The Spirit of Moonlight is Essentially Cultivating Oneself Through the Night

The story of the Moonlight Spirit begins with a poem.

Absolutely everyone in this world works based on their Time Zone.
People around you might seem to go ahead of you,
some might seem to be behind you.
But everyone is running their own RACE, in their own TIME.
Don’t envy them or mock them.
They are in their TIME ZONE, and you are in yours!
Life is about waiting for the right moment to act.

I also know this poem, not from Weibo, but from helping children prepare for college entrance exam essays.

And the college entrance exam is a “social clock” that everyone must face. I’ve also specifically talked about how to train in essay writing while tutoring children.

However, for friends answering questions on Zhihu, I suppose this social clock no longer confuses you.

The concept of “social clock” is not really a notion that only became popular in 2023, but a long-existing social phenomenon that has been condensed into a term. This term didn’t start to make people feel like they have become mechanical time punchers; it has been like that for a while. On one hand, we are wrapped up in endlessly multiplying data, becoming part of the pyramid’s internal strife; on the other hand, we seem to have to complete actions under certain established rules.

But, I have to say, please wait.

This romantically colored description has one oversight—in my view, the “social clock” is actually an effective means of resisting “involution.”

The “social clock” is a “rough scale that provides vague references for our personal growth.” That is, as long as we meet this vague scale, we don’t have to continue devoting ourselves to the elusive involution—although of course, this scale is quite unnatural, such as the impact of age 35, the impression of education level, and the guarantee of work hours and experience—but isn’t it better to have a scale than not?

Take, for example, the topic of Zhejiang’s new residents' children’s school admission based on parental points, where parents can score points by donating blood or charity. It seems there’s no social clock, but parents have to engage in endless mutual involution to obtain admission quotas for their children. In contrast, what about the story of “Blood Donation Sister”? They seem unrelated, but the common point is “blood,” which is the most tangible aspect of “flowing life.”

This reminds me of a passage by Professor Kong Degang when he was writing about the image of vampires:

Since “Dracula,” the act of “obtaining blood” has become more complex and humanized. If Dracula and Nosferatu are still lurking under the guise of nobility, luring girls to the castle for a sit-and-wait approach, still standing in the position of the villain, modern vampire novels have diversified and “decriminalized” the ways vampires obtain blood: Anne Rice’s vampires, although occasionally out of control and intoxicated with killing the innocent, when they are rational and sober, treat “hunting” as a kind of “night vigilante” Batman act, picking on thieves, murderers, and ruffians in the deep night streets to alleviate their unease about killing and to meet moral standards of humanity; and the way vampires feed in 21st-century vampire literature has become completely “modern” and “everyday”: first of all, they are increasingly not afraid of sunlight and can live normally during the day.

This issue is something that Dr. Xiong Hao’s three prescriptions cannot solve—because fundamentally, this is not a conflict between “oneself and oneself,” it’s a conflict between “people and ideology,” a conflict that completely fills the vacuum after the “social clock” breaks down.

Dr. Xiong Hao’s three prescriptions are:

① The first prescription is to enrich your cultural literacy.
② The second prescription is to solidify your inner self.
③ The third prescription is to deliberately create a kind of contrarian leisure

In my opinion, the second prescription is more effective.

The first prescription has two areas of misfocus.

One is the majority who cannot resonate with cultural literacy, and the other is those who already possess ample cultural literacy.

In the first prescription, Dr. Xiong Hao cited an example of “with whom to sit in the pavilion.” This example is fairly friendly, but it faces the problem of lack of cultural literacy when shifting to Su Shi’s “moon, breeze, and me.” For this poem to be effective, a major prerequisite is that one must first learn it. If it’s the first encounter, not to mention moving from the pavilion to poetry, even “understanding” it is a big problem.

Even now, with high college admission rates, many students cannot truly “see” the implications behind poetry and are just a ruthless scoring machine.

The second prescription’s beauty is turning the “fleeting moment” into “repeated rumination."

“Do not let go of this emotion easily, do not hang above this emotion, but enter into it.”

This statement seems to counter common sense, but actually, it allows us to better recognize the unchanging things behind emotions.

You are particularly concerned about having a piece of free land in the spiritual realm, so you see the anxiety in the emotion is actually leading you to see your real needs and hopes.

The anxiety in emotions is a manifestation, but what lights up behind the anxiety is the core.

This is something that everyone can genuinely do, and it is also a focus of our aesthetic studies—the essence of aesthetics is the study of sensibility, meaning that every emotion needs to be attended to, every turbulence and change in emotion is crucial.

Whether the emotion comes from somewhere, goes somewhere, or stays somewhere, all these changes are worth observing, not just staying on the surface, but also looking at what driving force is continuously turning it.

The third prescription is the Moonlight Spirit, corresponding to the Daylight Spirit.

What is the Daylight Spirit? It’s the day-to-day repetition, turning polyphony into monotony. Marx said this is the alienation of laborers; they turn human nature into mechanical nature on a long assembly line of production. Humans become parts of this assembly line, forcibly fitted into this big ideological machine called modernity.

But what further alienates people? I think it’s intelligence. It’s not that humans become a part of intelligence, but as intelligence approaches humanity, it causes humans to feel the anxiety of being replaced. If humanity loses its uniqueness and mechanical nature becomes fragmenting, then people can only be at a loss.

But is this only possible under the “Daylight”? I don’t think so. Or perhaps daylight is a literary metaphor for endless illumination—think about how, after technological advancements, artificial light increasingly robs the night, which was originally a space for poetry and leisure. As this big machine of modernity continuously moves forward with its horn blaring, it will never think there is too little darkness; it wants to be a “Snowpiercer,” always moving, as long as it’s moving, artificial light can replace natural daylight as something that always illuminates.

From this perspective, Plato’s allegory of the cave can be reversed: after leaving the cave, people can never return to it, they must bathe in the so-called “truth” of daylight, always remain dizzy, always see each other’s nakedness.

So, those who prevent people from entering the cave to spread daylight are the poetic night watchmen.

Now, we have more daylight, which is the existence called the internet, a virtual world that never stops discussing, a cyber marketplace that keeps rising in the world, like in “The Girl with Freckles and the Dragon”, where the freckled girl will always sing, as long as there is singing, there will be attention, there will be endless possibilities.

And rebellion itself is a “curtain,” a Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak.

The Moonlight Spirit is not about the stars favoring the traveler, but the stars favoring the moon gazer

I don’t quite think the Moonlight Spirit is the internet; I think it might be the other way around now. Moonlight Spirit is living now, it’s having a corporeal experience, it’s from the complete sensation of the body. And the Daylight Spirit is the ever-churning internet, it’s the tide, the road, the arena, the net, the pipeline—the popular phrase from years ago “You also surf the web!”

However, this really reminds me of the difference between the spirits of the Sun god and the Dionysian god. The spirit of the Sun god is that Apollonian rationality, while the spirit of the Dionysian god is that Dionysian spontaneity.

The spirit of the Sun god is to create an illusion—covering the painful truth of the world, thereby finding pleasure in life within the illusion.
The Dionysian spirit breaks the surface illusion, lifts the calm veil of the Sun god, removes all boundaries of daily life, frees the individual from constraints, and returns to the eternal life of Mother Nature

This reminds me of another movie, “Moonlight Samurai,” directed by Hong Ying this year. In the movie, the moonlight seems to symbolize an unchanging night, precisely because the night can cover the daytime’s modern constructions, appearances, and work, and at the same time cut off the dependence on the internet, it becomes a protector. This is the Moonlight Samurai.

However, if you look at the number of works created, Dr. Xiong Hao still can’t be considered a Zhihu answerer, or perhaps a more wonderful concept would be a “Zhihu blogger.” There’s a big difference between a blogger and an answerer; bloggers are more about sharing daily life, while answerers are more about solving doubts about the world.

I also participated in Dr. Xiong Hao’s “experimental debate” once, and I wrote a very long answer on Zhihu. Actually, in this experience of “experimental debate,” Dr. Xiong Hao led us to experience another completely detached from daily life, from the heavy mortal world, purely is a kind of “leisure philosophy.”

Participating in experimental debates is what kind of experience?

Interestingly, “leisure” and “cultivating immortality” are homophones in Chinese, and sometimes “cultivating immortality” can indeed be equivalent to “leisure.”

We often say “staying up late to cultivate immortality,” but why stay up late? I think the key lies in waiting for that moonlight, because it’s in the process of staying up that we realize the gaze of the day is fragile, seemingly omnipresent, but actually drowning, because it hangs in the air, so it has the simulation of drowning—this is the most panic point of those gazes, so they transfer these panics through gaze, but panic is inextinguishable, just like the song “Drowning” says: I advocate letting go if you can’t stop it. Why not let yourself become the moonlight?

So to say, we find that daylight is continuous scorching, is ceaseless attention and being attended to. Moonlight is refraction, is self-enjoyment, is not needing to be anxious about not being illuminated.

The Importance of Balancing “Functional Self” and “Authentic Self”

In life, it is essential for individuals to have a space where they respect their own feelings and prioritize their thoughts.

The concepts of “sunlight” and “moonlight” mentioned here correspond to the psychological concepts of the “functional self” and the “authentic self.”

The “functional self” is a pattern we develop from childhood to perform tasks:

For example, greeting people, doing household chores, memorizing lessons… As adults, it involves completing work, interacting with others, taking care of family, raising children, and more.

In parallel, our sense of identity is also defined by various functions: when we introduce ourselves, we mention our occupation and relationships with others. Essentially, we are introducing our functionalities.

However, the functional self has a downside—it requires ignoring certain feelings to accomplish specific tasks. If this state persists for too long, problems can arise, and it becomes challenging to adjust.

For instance, when a doctor is treating a patient, they often need to isolate feelings of fear or disgust. But if these feelings are isolated for an extended period, a person may start to feel insecure or lose the ability to perceive others' vulnerable emotions. This can result in a poor experience in intimate relationships or a sense of meaninglessness in life.

At such times, the “authentic self” becomes necessary. It requires us to value our own feelings to understand what we lack and to empathize with others' feelings.

However, although human feelings exist from the beginning, conceptualizing one’s own feelings—developing the authentic self—is an advanced function of the brain. It’s not just about acting according to one’s own instincts but involves being aware of, integrating, and managing one’s true experiences to a certain degree.

The functional self can also serve the authentic self better. For example, earning more money can enable individuals to buy what they desire; completing tasks and learning can bring a sense of achievement. Occasionally, temporarily setting aside one’s own feelings can lead to a better understanding of others and earn their trust and understanding.

The problem arises when people excessively develop their functional self at the expense of their authentic self. This results in a person’s world being filled only with functional attributes, leaving no room for their own feelings. This is often observed in some mature children who constantly seek to please others but don’t know how to make themselves happy. Consequently, their emotional coping abilities may be lacking.

The Importance of Various Types of “Separation” for Psychological Well-being

One crucial aspect of maintaining psychological health involves various forms of “separation.” This concept aligns with what Mr. Xiong Hao discussed as the “moonlight moments.”

Specifically, it’s essential not to generalize the emotional loops and mental states from work into one’s personal life.

Perhaps, certain roles and emotional patterns are assigned to us in our professional roles. If we turn these into habits and generalize them to every aspect of our lives, it can lead to numerous difficulties.

On one hand, it might mean carrying over work-related emotions and concerns into personal life. After work, one may continuously dwell on work-related challenges and workplace interpersonal issues, leading to anxiety and internal conflicts.

On the other hand, some communication patterns that are not suitable for family life might unconsciously be applied to family members. This can result in strained family relationships or a lack of tolerance.

For example, a teacher, naturally authoritative in the classroom, may not be open to questioning during class. If this pattern extends to personal life, it can lead to an excessive desire for control and a lack of empathy, taking on a paternal or maternal role.

Therefore, after work, it’s essential to establish a clear boundary between emotions and professional roles, achieving situational separation and allowing oneself to transition into a non-work life state. This is a necessary habit.

Work-related worries and challenges can be contemplated during work hours on workdays.

Apart from “situational separation,” other forms of separation such as “topic separation,” “role separation,” and “ought-self vs. actual-self separation” are equally important.

In the past, we have all, to some extent, experienced these separations.

When we are in distress, most likely, these separations are not well-defined.

This aspect is crucial.

It can help alleviate most everyday psychological troubles.

Harnessing the “Moonlight Spirit” to Combat Anxiety

Thank you for the invitation.

I believe in the power of the “moonlight spirit,” and I have been using it to combat anxiety.

Every day, from 12:30 PM to 2:00 PM, I have an unwavering lunch break.

The purpose of this break is to grant myself more “moonlight spirit” and “moonlight time.”

I can’t say I love or hate my daytime job.

I often feel like a factory worker, unable to change certain things I dislike and unable to indulge in what I enjoy.

However, when it’s 9:30 PM, and my wife and children are all asleep, I find solace.

I’m accustomed to spending hours alone in my study, often for several hours.

During these “moonlight hours,” I can refrain from doing things I dislike. I read, write, learn, interact with my fellow knowledge-seekers, and reply to messages from fans. Of course, most importantly, I can introduce potential partners to everyone.

I find this immensely meaningful.

Over the past few years, utilizing these nightly “moonlight hours” has allowed me to get to know all of you and become one of the top 100 answerers on Zhihu. I’m also proud to have played a part in connecting 83 couples.

As they say, “The difference in the future between a person and the people around them lies in the time after 9 PM.”

So, no matter how anxious the daytime job may be, when I return to my “moonlight spirit” in the evening, I grit my teeth and persevere. After all, the nighttime is still something to look forward to!


Embracing the “Moonlight Spirit” in Life

During my time working at the museum, writing novels was my “moonlight time.”

Later, writing novels became a task, and work became my “moonlight time.”

The concept of the “moonlight spirit” is about allowing oneself enough leisure time and ample relaxation.

I strongly agree with Mr. Xiong Hao’s concept of the “moonlight spirit” as discussed in “Insightful Conversations.”

As I understand it, the essence of Mr. Xiong Hao’s viewpoint lies in strengthening one’s spirit.

A person with an insufficiently strong inner self cannot embody the “moonlight spirit,” even if they acknowledge its significance.

Compared to moonlight, sunlight undoubtedly shines more intensely. When massive societal pressures and public opinions converge on an individual, it’s common to feel overwhelmed. Conforming to the ebb and flow of society is considered normal in life. However, during the quiet darkness of the night, when those pressures temporarily recede, we may find ourselves uncertain about what we should do or what we truly love.

Therefore, we must strengthen ourselves, and the best way to do so is by enriching our inner selves, as advocated by Mr. Xiong Hao.

As a film and television blogger, I deeply resonate with this notion.

The magic of movies lies in their ability to create a fantastical world and allow you to witness every detail within that world. When we immerse ourselves completely in this world, the pressures of the real world suddenly diminish.

When I wholeheartedly engage in the process of watching and analyzing films and TV series, as well as creating content related to them, I effectively have no extra mental energy to dwell on the societal pressures. Concentration makes you forget your worries, and creativity requires the utmost focus.

Of course, this doesn’t only apply to movies and television; it extends to reading and painting as well.

When we have something to anchor ourselves, a task that demands our full attention, the external distractions naturally fade into the background, becoming inconsequential.

The Notion of the “Moonlight Spirit” - An Aspiration, But Not a Panacea

The “moonlight spirit” is a direction to follow, but it’s not a cure-all.

Because a remedy is something that only concerns the person who takes it. Once you’ve taken it and improved, it doesn’t matter what the external world is doing. Whether it’s raining, cloudy, or a clear sky, it doesn’t interfere with the effects of the medicine you took, like a painkiller.

However, as social creatures, humans can’t treat their inner selves in isolation; they can’t create a true remedy. After all, you’re not just responsible for your inner self; you’re also responsible for your external self, your societal self. And in some cases, you might even have to be responsible for your parents, your spouse, your children, your second aunt who asked you to run errands, and your cousin who mocks you during family gatherings.

When you can’t resolve external demands, internal adjustments become like castles in the air for most people.

This is a beautiful vision, and the concept is noble, but for many, it’s simply unattainable or even inconceivable.

At the core of the “moonlight spirit” is the practice of contractual spirit. Finding a boss who truly doesn’t bother you after work, securing a job with a fixed quitting time, and having a family with boundaries—these are not easy things for middle-aged individuals. And very few people have the courage and determination to strictly adhere to the “explicit provisions,” often ending up as the party that breaks the contract, forever compromising. So, where does your “moonlight” originate from in such a scenario?

This idea is good in theory, but difficult to implement in reality. Its primary role may be to remind us that this is the right way to live. It’s a simple concept but hard to execute. It’s akin to what elementary school teachers say, “Being honest is what good children do.” But how many people can genuinely uphold this throughout their lives, never telling a lie, an achievement so rare it could be made into a movie?

Because anxiety isn’t caused by “not having the ‘moonlight spirit,'” it’s the result of the overall societal environment, family circumstances, and individual values. The impact of individual values is, in fact, the least significant factor. Even for those with independent thinking, when faced with a hungry child to feed or a hard-won government job, it’s challenging to maintain the “moonlight spirit.” Unless you’re someone like me, completely detached, living day by day without a sense of responsibility. I even do my own thing when I’m at work.

Regarding the “moonlight spirit,” we should aspire to it, but we shouldn’t expect it to become widespread. The “moonlight” only shines on a few. Most people have the “Nordic spirit,” where life remains bright for only the first few years, and then it turns dark in an instant.

I am the Monkey Master.

End of the text.

The Essence of the “Moonlight Spirit”

Throughout history, humans have toiled during the day—a reflection of our biological clocks and nature’s imprint on our will.

But the night belongs to “childhood.”

One of the characteristics of childhood is not bearing societal responsibilities, being highly self-centric, and satisfying one’s own needs.

I greatly cherish the night, as do many authors and creative individuals.

During the day, I tend to be anxious, angry, restless, constantly needing to urinate, eat, complaining of heat, and then cold.

Essentially, discomfort leads me to seek distractions.

If I’m not anxious, I must be working—work is just work, devoid of any illusions.

In general, daytime can be quite bothersome.

Within a fixed framework, I repeat familiar actions, even social interactions feel deliberate and carefully calculated.

During the day, I am nothing more than an NPC (Non-Playable Character).

Increasingly, I’ve come to view this planet as nothing more than a game, Earth Online.

Perhaps the player controlling me is also helpless because the game’s settings are as follows: during the day, your character can only perform predetermined actions, you cannot engage in anything extra, as it’s highly risky and might lead to the character’s life falling apart.

But the night is different.

At night, we have “freedom.”

I can play games, dance freely in my home, sleep, wake up, drink water, and go back to sleep. I can create. My room is colder and smaller than the office, but it’s my creative space. I can type on the keyboard as loudly as I want without disturbing anyone.

Most importantly, my mind is liberated from work, and my creativity soars like a moonstone does for Pokémon:

From head to toe, from every strand of hair to the tip of my tailbone, I’m immersed in thought and intense emotions.

In that moment, I am certain: I am human.

The “moonlight spirit”? It’s nothing more than the free soul that awakens only at night.

The Battle Against Anxiety: Understanding and Coping

In essence, it’s about taking off the mask of the day and returning to your true self at night. But I have this question: What if that true self is one of the sources of discomfort?

In fact, the concept of alienation discussed in the dialogue is accurate—we exert a lot of energy pursuing things we don’t really need. Therefore, daily life anxiety becomes two-fold: individual—caused by subjective pursuits, and collective—resulting from societal norms and clashes with personal value systems.

Is the “moonlight spirit” a weapon against anxiety? It can be, especially Kuma Hao’s second point, “strengthening inner self,” is a stabilizer much needed in this era. However, based on personal experience, I’d like to add some new and actionable elements to this arsenal.

The primary way to combat anxiety is awareness—understanding what makes you anxious.

Identify the Source of Anxiety

Anxiety is inevitable. It’s part of the “fight or flight response,” a self-preservation mechanism preserved in human evolution. But the paradox today is that this self-preservation mechanism doesn’t adapt well to our current society.

Particularly with the advent of the internet and smartphones, there’s an overabundance of information, which, for some, becomes excessive stimuli.

Addressing this anxiety source from the receiving end, such as turning off your phone or uninstalling apps, is one way to manage it. But solving anxiety from the source, where societal forces have already taken root, poses much greater challenges.

For those who are online, you’ve likely noticed this is an era of quick, concise information. Scarcity of lengthy responses on platforms like Zhihu is an example.

Let’s revisit the concept of “alienation.”

Karl Marx once said: “The more a worker expends himself in work, the more powerful becomes the world of objects which he creates in face of himself, the poorer he becomes in his inner life, and the less he belongs to himself.”

The harder you work, the more deprived you become, the more anxious you feel, the more you suffer.

Starting a personal project, like OpenAI, became a protest against the rapid changes in this era, and some are no longer adapting to this lifestyle, so they strive for change.

Accept the Existence of Anxiety

This massive societal change isn’t going to happen overnight. What should those currently grappling with anxiety do?

Just like being sick, realizing you’re ill and promptly seeking treatment is a swift and effective solution. It’s far better than going through a series of self-consuming questions like “Why am I sick?” “Why me?” “I’m not sick,” which only prolongs the process.

Acknowledging its existence is the foundation for resolving it because avoidance is what allows anxiety to persist.

Whether on an individual or collective level, self-deception and evading medical attention are unwise.

Break Down, Control, and Solve

As mentioned earlier, the impact of the internet and smartphones on people can be seen as a collective decrease in focus and unclear objectives.

Most people struggle to articulate what they truly want. Even if someone can articulate their desires, they can’t determine their priority order. And even if the order is clear, adhering strictly to it is a challenging task.

Understanding the urgency and importance of tasks allows you to start tackling the most critical issues first. If the most important tasks are complex, you can break them down into smaller steps.

“Many people are overwhelmed as a whole.”

If you’re anxious to run 10,000 meters, you might feel overwhelmed, but taking just two steps may require no hesitation.

Breaking down tasks causing anxiety is the first step in resolving anxiety.

The second step is to retreat for advancement.

In Wang Xiaobo’s “The Golden Age,” he writes: “The rainy season had just passed, and clouds were rising from all directions. Sunlight flashed at the top of the sky. We had various choices and could go in different directions. So, I stood at the crossroads for a long time.”

I stood at the crossroads for a long time, which is an extended pause.

If your anxiety has become unbearable, and even your will to survive is shaky, it might be time to press the pause button on your life.

I’m just stopping here, resting, and then moving on.

During this pause, take time to declutter, discard unimportant things, including people and objects, and travel lightly.

The third step is to prepare for the long haul.

In “Soldiers Assault,” Seven Platoon Leader Gao Cheng says: “In this daily life, problems stack on top of problems, and all you can do is solve them.”

Perhaps we can never permanently eliminate anxiety, but I believe that as we face it time and again and solve it, we will become more adept and stronger, and the things causing us anxiety will diminish.

In this give-and-take, anxiety dissipates, allowing us to take control of our lives instead of being led by it.

The Pursuit of the “Moonlight Spirit” and Embracing Life’s Wilderness

I feel that society forces us to live our lives upside down because, in the grand scheme of things, no one can truly stop.

So, the “moonlight spirit” is, in reality, an aspiration and an idealized way of life. It’s akin to escaping the societal clock in the “wilderness of life.”

Firstly, the threshold for the “moonlight spirit” is quite high.

Take, for example, the three prescriptions proposed by Teacher Xiong Hao.

The first prescription: enrich your humanistic qualities.

The second prescription: strengthen your inner self.

The third prescription: deliberately create that kind of rebellious leisure.

These three prescriptions may seem simple but are quite challenging in practice. They all carry a sense of soul. The soul, as an art form, possesses all the characteristics of art: talent, interest, and focus.

Not everyone has the talent to fully comprehend and apply all aspects of humanities. Not everyone will maintain interest indefinitely. Not everyone will avoid losing themselves when they rebel, or avoid feeling guilt.

So, a sense of relaxation is what people need most now.

This means that we should start from our actual selves, consider which things should be done, which things must be done, when to take a break, and when to gain a sense of accomplishment and belonging.

Life’s wilderness is probably about not deliberately seeking those moments, not extending self-control time, but accepting the present, gaining from it, then acknowledging it. Eventually, those rare states of relaxation will come naturally.

In reality, I believe people nowadays need to let go of certain things, release the burdens on their minds, and think less about trivial matters. Instead, they should naturally seek happiness within their own life order without unnecessary worry.

In simple terms, it’s about letting go of some mental burdens, accepting the current societal imperfections, focusing more on things within our control, doing them thoroughly. As for matters of the soul, they may burst forth at a certain moment when inner peace is truly felt.

Of course, we don’t need to feel guilty for all the wrongdoings. There’s an old saying, “Resting is to better set sail,” which essentially means that we’ve been living our lives upside down.

We’ve turned moments of leisure and what’s considered idle time from initial guilt into shame, and eventually transformed them into today’s anxiety. In reality, there’s no need for this.

Because each journey we undertake is for the next landing, so pausing, even for a while, is harmless.

If life is always about toil, isn’t leisure what life is all about?

Reflections on Life and Career

I once wrote a poem, As I plucked gray hair from youthful locks, I set sail upstream against the current. What startled me, the wandering soul, Was the moonlight’s grace on a mid-autumn night.

In reality, at that time, I didn’t work continuously. I learned and took second trips. Seven days each time.

I adhered to a regular work schedule. Saturdays were optional. I allocated one day each month to adjust my mindset. Annual leave was separate from my trips.

It was too comfortable. Then, I went against the tide. And I succeeded, and I was let go.

Afterward, I found a comfortable company and relaxed for seven years. I managed my assets and multiplied them several times, and my anxiety disappeared.

Looking at my colleagues on Zhihu, some had it worse than me. Some even succumbed to illness. There were bankruptcies and others who, at this age, continued to strive.

There were those who played hard but never reached the shore, burdened with debt. Optimistic examples were becoming rarer.

Most people who failed felt that they hadn’t strived hard enough or that they were in the wrong place. They believed they should have strived more in megacities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, or Shenzhen.

I came here after reading answers in the West Finals topic on Zhihu. The problem with Zhihu is that high-quality answerers are leaving, and the older ones are pretending to be foolish.

A group of inexperienced college students with no understanding of the essence of societal capital and career experience are filling the void.

Big Meng, on the other hand, is a high-quality career answerer. Confucius said, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

Facing the intense competition in the workplace, what should one do?

Don’t compete. Take the civil service exam.

Manage your assets, create secondary sources of income that won’t be affected by age.

Maintain your credibility as a public servant and your recognition among the upper echelons of society. Private enterprises are highly competitive and segmented, becoming more isolated with less societal recognition. It’s designed this way, figure it out.

Maintain your connections through matchmaking, focus on your professional services and value, and build your personal brand. This brand has your unique characteristics, a moat that’s hard to breach, and it’s in a blue ocean with few quality competitors. It’s irreplaceable.

Growing your assets gives you the confidence to reject or choose, making you fearless and heading towards sustainable development. It also increases your connections and elevates your status.

Big Meng has built a three-in-one fortress of capabilities. Their firepower supports each other. That’s how they make it to old age, even if they sleep all day under their covers.

Most people end up sleeping in a cornfield, under the moonlight, unable to solve their problems. When the time comes to be anxious or desperate, even if they transform into werewolves, it won’t help. Because they haven’t solved the root problem; they’re deceiving themselves.

But it can comfort the minds of young and naive individuals who seek simple happiness in this society. In this society, it’s already good if a man realizes the truth at the age of 30.

What’s the essence of it all?

The different phases in an industry:

The first is the pioneering stage, like the early days of colonization. Anyone and everyone can succeed.

The second is the stable phase, where there are fewer people but more benefits. They fear you’ll leave, so they scheme for development. It’s the “happily raising pigs” phase.

The third is the mature phase, where they bring in naive, simple-minded, easily brainwashed college students. They believe that hard work will lead to success. The education system reinforces this belief. In reality, they lack real-world experience and knowledge.

My previous boss in the early days preferred hiring graduates from prestigious universities during the “happily raising pigs” phase. But when they came in, they didn’t know anything and we had to train them. My previous boss (at that time, my boss’s boss) even had heated arguments with him. It lasted for hours. I was confused at the time, but later I understood.

For instance, Yang Dugong said, “A blockhead remains a blockhead even after reading books, and reading books doesn’t change that.”

The fourth is the decline phase.

There are more and more blockheads. They work hard, struggle, and even under the moonlight, they survive. Some even voluntarily join the struggle. They blame themselves for not working hard enough. They find solace in self-healing. It’s good.

This person sounds like a blockhead.

Calculating, they probably struggle for several years, and if the track is average, they’ll encounter a crisis around the age of 30.

I read recently and realized that truly outstanding individuals aren’t those who stick to a single career, strive endlessly, and accept moonlight as their cure.

Instead, it’s those who diversify their capabilities through careers, leisure time, side businesses, and develop a three-dimensional fortress.

Don’t expect a single career to last forever and carry everything.

A loser who focuses only on one thing, no matter how hard they work, is pitiful.

Just look at Zhihu, and you’ll see what successful people are doing.

To put it bluntly, truly solving workplace problems requires a high-level perspective.

For example, the solution to workplace anxiety is civil service exams, investment, career tracks, promotions, and side businesses. It’s like Sun Tzu’s Art of War: “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”

If someone is truly working so hard, how do they have the time to propagate this on Zhihu? How do they have the time to show off their moonlight experiences?

When they reach 30, get promoted to middle management, go home at 10 PM, eat dinner, check on their child, and pay their public grain, they’ll experience a different feeling when they see the moonlight.

People without experience and a lack of results won’t understand the truth. Confucius doesn’t deceive.

The Essence of “Moonlight Spirit”

In the speech, the “Moonlight Spirit” refers to utilizing one’s time outside of working hours, primarily in the evenings, to pursue one’s inner desires and aspirations. It is aptly named the “Moonlight Spirit” because it signifies the nighttime.

Teacher Xiong Hao delivered an excellent speech, and this metaphor is quite fitting. However, there’s an essential premise that I believe needs clarification, and that is that the primary audience for the “Moonlight Spirit” is unmarried young people. I often say: the differences between individuals, or one’s life’s trajectory, begin with the decision to marry or not. Moreover, when discussing all life matters, one cannot avoid, nor can one bypass, the topic of marriage. For the vast majority of people, whether to marry or not will lead your life down two distinct paths. Friends who have a bit more life experience should understand what I mean. Here, we assume that after marriage, one enters the stage of child-rearing. Of course, there are childless couples, but their proportion is quite small, so we won’t delve into that. After entering the child-rearing stage, the so-called “Moonlight Spirit” becomes feeble and lackluster. Anyone who has experience raising children will understand this. Many young people don’t comprehend why quite a few women experience “postpartum depression.” It’s actually straightforward: when you’re with a child who constantly generates various demands 24 hours a day, without any personal time or space, you can well imagine the feeling. Be it the “Moonlight Spirit” or any other form of self-cultivation, improvement, or practice, the most crucial element required is “time.” Child-rearing is no different.

I’m not trying to scare young people away from marriage here. Instead, I want to emphasize that every person must, during their twenties, gain a clear understanding of themselves and set a direction for their life. This is the most important thing. Understanding what kind of person you truly are will naturally lead to other decisions, including whether to marry or not. Are you someone who can endure hardship and toil? Do you have high or low materialistic desires? Are you deeply committed to your ideals? Are you willing to continue learning after graduation, or do you prefer to settle into your current circumstances as you age? Are your talents significantly better than others’? What is your family background and conditions? These questions form the critical foundation for determining your future life.

Once you enter marriage, it will compress your personal space and time, at least during the early years, probably several years. The likelihood is that you won’t have much time to engage in the “Moonlight Spirit.” Family life will occupy your entirety. If you haven’t entered into marriage, you also need to think about how, after work, you can ensure that you don’t develop negative thoughts and instead utilize this time to practice your “Moonlight Spirit.” The only way to combat anxiety is to “stay focused” because when you’re focused on something, you won’t have wandering thoughts. Playing games, watching shows, participating in various activities—all follow this principle. When anxious, “lying flat and doing nothing” will only strengthen anxiety, whether it’s under the moonlight or not. Therefore, I believe the core of the “Moonlight Spirit” still lies in that age-old saying, “cherish your time.” How you make the most of your time is of paramount importance.

“Sunlight” and “Moonlight” in Chinese Culture

“Sunlight” and “Moonlight” are both deeply ingrained cultural expressions in Chinese aesthetics.

Chinese people view the rising sun as a totem of striving and hard work, with its radiance reflecting the heritage of Confucian culture.

On the other hand, the serene moonlight has been a self-healing remedy for Chinese literati since ancient times, shining with the wisdom of Taoist thought.

“As the clear wind on the river and the bright moon in the mountains, when heard, it becomes a sound; when seen, it becomes color. Taking it has no restriction, and using it is inexhaustible. This is the inexhaustible treasure of the creator, and it is what we both enjoy.” Su Shi’s “clear wind and bright moon” has healed the hearts of countless generations.

In an age of overwork, many modern individuals have an abundance of “sunlight” but urgently need the soothing immersion of “moonlight.”

“Moonlight Spirit” and Finding the True Self

The concept of “moonlight spirit” mentioned here is not directly related to what we commonly understand as “moonlight clan” in China. If we consider daytime, when sunlight shines, as the time for establishing social identities and cooperating with others, then the nighttime illuminated by moonlight is the time when we detach from all societal labels and spend time alone with ourselves.

The term “moonlight spirit” refers to the process of discovering our true selves and understanding our genuine desires during this time.

In this context, the speech also mentions another term, “social clock.”

The social clock represents the general timeframes society sets for various life milestones and decisions. For example, starting school at the age of seven or eight, considering independent living after graduating from university in your twenties, or being encouraged to settle down in your late twenties or thirties.

For individuals who primarily define themselves through societal roles and lack self-awareness, following the societal clock can lead to conflicts between societal expectations and personal desires, resulting in considerable distress.

However, there is a significant portion of the population who willingly and proactively embrace life within societal norms. They thrive within group dynamics and utilize group rules to establish their presence. For these individuals, their identity is closely tied to the group, and deviating from it might increase their anxiety.

Hence, there is no direct correlation between anxiety and adhering to the societal clock. Anxiety arises when individual desires are not fulfilled. To address this, understanding oneself and recognizing one’s desires are crucial. Only then can you find ways to satisfy those desires.

A significant problem affecting a large portion of society is the inability to discover one’s true self or, in some cases, the lack of complete self-awareness. As a result, many people, despite following the societal flow and pace, feel unfulfilled without knowing the source of their dissatisfaction. Some individuals may understand their desires but lack the courage to deviate from the mainstream rhythm.

Chinese culture is peculiar in that it has never been about taking things to extremes. There are many rules, but every rule leaves a gap for those who have the courage to step outside of it.

For instance, as an ancient and present-day agricultural powerhouse, cooperation has always been crucial to complete tasks. Thus, the emphasis has been on not being different from others. Sayings like “the tree that stands out gets cut down,” “the bird that flies highest gets shot,” or “the fruit that ripens first rots first” have shaped the thinking of the majority of us. We follow societal rhythms and fulfill our tasks in different societal roles. Even if we cannot find our true selves, we can live our lives this way.

However, in every era, there has always been a small group of people who are different. They know what they want, have the courage to stick to their beliefs, and possess the ability to execute their ideas. Being different does not necessarily entail grand ambitions; it could be personal habits or preferences.

For instance, if someone’s appearance doesn’t conform to societal norms, initially, people may criticize them. However, if that person can persistently adhere to their choices, even at a significant cost, and express their individuality over time, others will eventually accept them for who they are. However, if those who are different cannot articulate their convictions or give up midway, they may face ridicule or disdain.

Although many people are now talking about the “moonlight spirit,” not everyone has the capacity to find their true selves or the courage to confront their real selves. It’s essential to realize that each generation has its unique ways of expressing rebellion and non-conformity. Just like the rebellious youth of the past, the “emo” subculture, or the “spiritual brothers/sisters,” these subcultures, while appearing unconventional, are essentially forms of group activity. The important thing is not whether you found your true self, but that you embarked on the journey with others. This group pursuit of the “moonlight spirit” is significant.

I remember a discussion from last year’s Insight Talk, which touched upon the fact that anxiety has been a part of human emotions ever since we developed self-awareness. Some level of anxiety is normal. Pursuing self-discovery is a worthy endeavor. However, after finding your true self, does it mean you will be free from stress and anxiety?

Not necessarily.

Awakening in the New Workplace: The “Moonlight Spirit”

What Xiong Hao refers to as the “moonlight spirit” can be seen as an awakening for newcomers to the workforce, helping individuals break free from the intensely competitive work environments to some extent.

It can alleviate some anxiety, but it cannot entirely resist anxiety.

Modern people’s anxiety doesn’t solely stem from the workplace but also from the gap between their inner pursuit of an improved life and the harsh reality they cannot match.

Most often, anxiety arises from the vast online world we are exposed to: everywhere on the internet, there are peers making six-figure monthly incomes, achieving financial freedom with ease, individuals with extraordinary looks and talents, and accumulating wealth that seems almost unattainable.

All of these contribute to the source of anxiety.

Work-related anxiety is just one part of it; another part comes from the online world.

After work, it’s best to put down your phone, sit quietly under the moonlight, arrange some flowers, or read a few pages of a book. Doing so can genuinely calm the restlessness within you.

The most crucial aspect is to learn how to please oneself.

Day by Day, Creating All These Nouns!

Starting from the Love of the Old Century

Renowned literary figure Eileen Chang began her love story like this: “In Shanghai thirty years ago, on a moonlit night… A young person thought that the moon from thirty years ago must be like a teardrop that fell on the letter of Cloud Pavilion, old and blurry."

At the end, she said this: “The moon from thirty years ago has already set, the people from thirty years ago are also gone, but the story from thirty years ago is not finished—never-ending."

As the moon rises, love emerges.

As the moon sets, remnants linger.

The stifling 1940s of the 20th century.

Materialism and the pursuit of wealth prevail.

“People are tightly pressed down."

Cao Qiqiao broke free from societal norms but couldn’t attain love.

Her daughter Chang An was also tightly constrained by Cao Qiqiao.

Moonlight became a brief “weapon” for redeeming two generations of women’s love, like a coin-sized red and yellow wet halo.

Starting from Love in the New Century

The “moonlight moments” of the new century, starting with love but not limited to it.

There’s Also “My Friend Zhang Huaimin”

In the fast-paced urban work environment, people’s schedules shift later.

We all hope to have a friend like Zhang Huaimin in “Remembering Chengtian Temple Night Tour”:

Under the moonlight:

“For those who find no joy in reading, I went to Chengtian Temple to look for Zhang Huaimin. Huaimin was not asleep, and we strolled together in the courtyard… Why would a night be without the moon? Where would there be no bamboo and cypress trees? Only a few leisurely people like us.”

Nightly city cultural tours:

There’s Also “Sitting with Family”

During the “moonlight moments,” sitting with family, the lights are warm.

With the enduring blood ties and selfless love, we often give our least patient emotions and worst side to our family.

But don’t forget this saying: The ones you can hurt the most are often the ones who love you the most. The love you give to your family should be gentle, healing, rather than harsh and hurtful.

There’s Also “Your True Self”

Dominated by life during the day, free to control life at night.

You can choose to [rebel in leisure]

Night running, mindfulness, gaming. Each one is a joyful and fulfilling version of yourself.

In the “moonlight moments,” heal yourself, heal time.

I don’t understand, just like not understanding the trending topic on this issue.