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Work/Life: Can We Ever Give Up the Work/Life Ghost?

CEO Dad’s Tuesday Tirade I’ve learned that we’re in the right time of the lunar month for Hong Kong’s annual Festival of the Hungry Ghost. Tradition holds that during this time, ghosts are given the opportunity to come down from heaven and roam around, and the festival is a way for those observing the aforementioned tradition to honor the ghosts with gifts. This fine treatment of the spirits means those who give will themselves be gifted with good fortune for the year.

CEO Dad’s Tuesday Tirade

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I’ve learned that we’re in the right time of the lunar month for Hong Kong’s annual Festival of the Hungry Ghost. Tradition holds that during this time, ghosts are given the opportunity to come down from heaven and roam around, and the festival is a way for those observing the aforementioned tradition to honor the ghosts with gifts. This fine treatment of the spirits means those who give will themselves be gifted with good fortune for the year.

To symbolize the gifting, elaborate bamboo and paper models of objects are constructed, some of them worth over a thousand dollars U.S., and made by hand. These objects are then symbolically burned in pyres and sent up to the ghosts, so that they will be appeased in their afterlife, and not come back to cause trouble during the later period of Yue Laan—when for another lunar month, ghosts from hell are allowed to roam the earth.

The thinking behind this is symbolically sound, and I found myself getting behind it. The work/life side of me especially liked the burning of material objects to indicate their ultimate impermanence. But it turns out there is another rationale behind this annual ritual. The idea is that we on earth are making the ghosts happy with these items so they won’t lose it and come back to bite us on the butt. Fair enough. But what objects in effigy are we building for them? Well, as it turns out, stuff like houses, sports cars, plasma TVs, computers and cell phones, as this archive article describes.

So, those of you who thought dying would finally free you of your work/life imbalance, and your cravings for a Crackberry, I’ve got news for you: it’s even worse in the afterlife. If this ancient tradition is accurate, then the dead are just as distracted from connecting with their loved ones (and let’s face it, you’re going to have an eternity to squeeze in some quality time, it shouldn’t really be a problem) as they are down here. “Oh, honey, it’s so nice to be reunited with you in heaven,” says your significant other. “What’s say we take a day trip through this beautiful cloud bank, flip down the tailgate and just sit and watch a constellation or two?”

To which you respond, “Love to, darling, but someone’s beaming me up an IPhone. I never saw one of those while I was alive, and I hear they are to die for. Oh, sorry.”

I guess the good news is that, courtesy of someone down on earth, you could finally end up with your dream house once you get to heaven. And I’m assuming, since heaven is perfect, that they haven’t got anything as irritating as sub-prime mortgages.

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