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Wild goose chase? 劳而无功的事

中国日报网 2021-01-08 13:52

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Reader question:

Please explain this sentence, particularly “wild goose chase”: We all say we want to be happy, but the pursuit of happiness often seems like a wild goose chase.


My comments:

This is to say the pursuit of happiness is a goal that’s hard to reach, like a person chasing a wild goose, running after it this way and that way but unable to catch it.

The wild goose can run and it can fly, and so it’s understandable that it’s something difficult for a human to catch up with, let alone getting hold of.

Originally, though, the phrase “wild goose chase” has nothing to do with geese, wild or domestic. Originally, “wild goose chase” refers to a form of horse racing, in which horses follow the lead horse to run different courses or routes. The idea, or rather fear, is, probably at any rate, that the lead horse may change its mind and run wild, making sudden turns of direction, thus making it difficult for trailing horses to follow, let alone surpass.

Shakespeare is credited with popularizing this expression, the first recorded citation coming from Romeo and Juliet, 1592:

Nay, if thy wits run the wild-goose chase, I have done, for thou hast more of the wild-goose in one of thy wits than, I am sure, I have in my whole five.

Anyway, today, a wild goose chase is used to represent any prolonged or chaotic search for something that is difficult to find, something elusive.

Happiness, for example, is in a way an idea. Idea as in ideal, it’s not real.

Well, not entirely real.

Some people say happiness is eating to one’s fill. At this level, and if that’s all you want from being alive, then it’s reachable – sometimes, for some people at least.

But to others, happiness means more, much more. It means spiritual contentment in addition to physical comfort, peace of mind, perfect relationships, freedom, harmony of the soul with the outside world, and more, ad infinitum.

Now, what do you say?

Perhaps happiness is a wild goose chase, right?

Right, and that’s probably as it should be.

Well, the chase is still on. Catch it if you can.

Here are media examples of “wild goose chase”:


1. The story of the Oak Island Money Pit began way back in the summer of 1795, when a teenager named Daniel McGinnis saw strange lights flickering at night on an island just offshore from his home in Nova Scotia, Canada. The remote coastline is dotted with small islands, and being only a short distance from the thriving commercial center of colonial Boston, the region was known as a pirate enclave. So when he set out the next morning to investigate, McGinnis had buried loot on his mind.

When McGinnis climbed ashore on Oak Island, his curiosity only grew. There, he found a peculiar circular depression approximately 13 feet in diameter, a telltale sign that something had been buried at this spot. So, naturally, the next day he returned with the necessary equipment to begin digging.

The deeper McGinnis dug, the more curious he became; the hole definitely seemed man-made. Then, after digging down just 2 feet, he uncovered a layer of flagstone extending across the opening. There was no treasure yet, but his hunch that something valuable was buried there — for some strange or wondrous purpose — had only been heightened. He continued to dig.

At 10 feet deep, someone had again covered the hole, this time with a layer of timber — another hint of buried treasure. A second wooden layer was found at 20 feet, and a third at 30 feet. There was still no treasure, and by now McGinnis had dug as far as he could. The legend of the Oak Island Money Pit, however, had just begun.

The mystery deepens

In the years since, various companies and excavation teams with dreams of buried riches have taken up the digging effort at the same spot McGinnis found, all still to no avail. Even so, the mystery has deepened. And so has the hole.

Wooden platforms every 10 feet have teased excavators, all the way down to at least 100 feet deep. At 90 feet, one of the pit's most enticing mysteries was uncovered: a stone slab with cryptic writing etched on it unlike any writing ever found before. Was it a cipher? A coded clue to the whereabouts of the hidden treasure?

The obscure tablet remained undecipherable for decades. But then, in the 1860s, the puzzle drew the interest of a renowned professor of languages from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, James Leitchi, who claimed to have been able to decode the text. Its message only motivated excavators to dig ever deeper. According to Leitchi, it read: “Forty Feet Below, Two Million Pounds Are Buried.”

Digging such a deep hole is not without engineering challenges; in fact, excavators have been stymied over the years by a number of issues that were only later solved with improved technology and, of course, a bigger budget. For instance, there’s a constant battle against water flooding into the pit, as the hole is on a relatively small island just a short distance from the ocean. The flooding is so bothersome that some excavators have even theorized it’s part of an elaborate booby trap, set up by the treasure’s original buriers to foil its discovery.

The excavation has now drilled down to 190 feet — well beyond the extra 40 feet prophesied by the stone slab’s inscription — but still hasn’t turned up any loot. If an 18th-century treasure could have been buried at such a depth, it would have been a monumental engineering feat. And yet people still seem compelled to dig.

The effort has even drawn interest from the likes of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States, who at the tender age of 27 decided to join the excavation effort at Oak Island. Famed actors John Wayne and Errol Flynn also got in on the action, each bidding for a chance to join the dig.

Theories abound

Could the Ark of the Covenant — pictured here in an 1800 oil painting by American historical painter Benjamin West — have somehow ended up buried on a tiny Canadian island? (Image: Benjamin West/Wikimedia Commons)

Pirate booty remains the most popular theory about the suspected treasure, but other wacky theories have surfaced, too. Some have proposed, via various speculations, that the treasure is Marie Antoinette’s lost jewels, or that it might be secret documents identifying the true author of William Shakespeare's plays. One theory even posits the treasure might be the lost Ark of the Covenant.

Skeptics have also offered some more tempered theories, suggesting the chasm is actually part of a natural sinkhole, and that it has filled with debris over the years through flooding and via the complex movements of the water table and tides. The fact the hole appears man-made, they say, is merely an illusion created by natural processes. And of the inscribed stone slab and other uncovered artifacts? Hoaxes.

One way or another, it’s worth asking: When will it stop? At what depth will it seem more like a wild goose chase than a genuine search for buried treasure? The mystery seems to have a life of its own at this point, an obsession that reaches far beyond the enticement of untold riches.

The dig has even become the subject of a History Channel reality show called “The Curse of Oak Island,” which follows the efforts of the land's current owners, Marty and Rick Lagina, as they scour the island for the concealed treasure. Season 4 of the series promises to finally solve the mystery.

After more than 200 years of intense excavations, however, anything short of a bona fide treasure is unlikely to halt the hunt.

- Is This the Wildest Treasure Hunt in History? The Mystery of the Oak Island Money Pit, TreeHugger.com, January 14, 2020.


2. Blanca Bruso hit a dead end when researching her own Puerto Rican roots using Ancestry.com. But she hit pay dirt when she turned her attention to her husband Matthew’s lineage. Fully documenting 14 generations, Blanca was able to prove that Matthew is a descendent of Richard Warren, a passenger on the Mayflower. There is more — she discovered that he is also a descendant of eight other Mayflower passengers, including Myles Standish, and two Salem women who were accused of being witches.

The Mayflower was an English ship that transported the first English Puritans (the Pilgrims) in 1620, from Plymouth, England to what is now Plymouth, Mass. in 1620. There were 102 passengers, and an estimated 30 crew members. Only about half of them survived the brutal New England winter and an outbreak of scurvy, pneumonia, and tuberculosis.

Responding to the news that Matthew was a descendant of Mayflower passengers, one of the couple’s four daughters said, “Dad’s always been an expert in American history, so it is rather perfect that his heritage goes back to the very beginning of this country.”

According to Blanca, her journey of discovery began late at night, on November 11, 2014. While looking at Matthew’s mother’s family tree on Ancestry.com, she noticed a relative who claimed to be linked to the Mayflower. Blanca woke up Matthew and said, “Did you know that there is a great possibility that you are a Mayflower Pilgrim descendent?” He responded, “No.” Blanca added, “And so, began many late nights of research.”

Five days later, Blanca and Matthew sent a Preliminary Review Form to the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (GSMD). About a month went by, and then a research assistant at the GSDM responded. He suggested a different lineage to Richard Warren and directed them to a series of books called, “Mayflower Families Through Five Generations.”

The research assistant told the couple, “The fact that we have no previously approved lineage papers that follow your line any further means that you will need to prove everything beyond what is covered by the Mayflower Families books through the present day.”

The next month, Matthew received a letter and membership application from the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants.

“Neither my husband nor I recall anyone ever requesting connection to the passenger Richard Warren, but this information helped me a great deal… to me this meant that I was on the right track,” she said.

The task was daunting – for every generation going back to the Mayflower, Blanca needed to find birth, marriage and death certificates.

Digging deeper, she used her membership at the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) to access the organization’s online resources. She hit a roadblock when looking for records in Maine before 1892, since none are available online.

As a result “… my husband had to make many phone calls to various towns in order to track some of the older records needed,” she said. “At the time, the process seemed like a wild goose chase trying to contact towns and finding out that they no longer exists, THEN being referred to another town to check for records. In the end, it turned out to be a wild goose chase worth the effort.

- Descended from not just one – from nine Mayflower passengers, FiftyPlusAdvocate.com, June 29, 2020.


3. With the recent protests by youths demanding an end to police brutality and also demanding for better standards of living, it is relevant to explore ways of achieving rapid development and first-world development status for Nigeria within the 2020s decade. The nation’s various governments have published many development plans with the intention of transforming the nation into a first-world country. However, when it comes to implementation, things fall apart.

Some of these development plans include the Structural Adjustment Programme/MAMSER of the Babangida government, Vision 2010 of the Abacha government, Vision 2020 of the Yar’Adua government, Transformation Agenda of the Jonathan government and the ongoing Next Level Agenda of the Buhari government. None of them has come close to achieving first-world development in Nigeria because the plans usually lack focus. It’s like a wild goose chase: you end up with nothing. It is more effective to concentrate on one or two policy areas. While everybody has their own idea of what these ones should be, my own one-point agenda is job creation.

As the poverty capital of the world, Nigeria has about 100 million people living under the poverty line of $1 per day. The best strategy to eradicate poverty is job creation. We need to create about five million jobs per year for about five years consecutively in order to reduce the poverty rate to about 5%. Most of the poor are children and dependants of a single breadwinner, so about five people can be lifted out of poverty just by creating one job.

How do we create five million jobs a year using the concept of international trade? We can start with a major drive to attract foreign investment. Thousands of jobs can be created by just one substantial foreign investor. The investors pay taxes and other fees to the government thereby generating revenue for the government to spend on schools, hospitals and infrastructure. An annual target of $50 billion foreign investment inflow should be set.

The next step is to increase exports and to globalize Nigerian companies. Exports here refer to industrial and value-added products, not natural resources. This industrial exports’ strategy was adopted by the Park Chung Hee-led government of South Korea in the 1970s, when they globalized their local companies like Samsung, Hyundai and LG. These three companies are now world leaders in mobile phones, automobile manufacturing and electronics respectively. Japan is a trillion-dollar economy because of its large number of multinational giants such as Toyota, Honda and Sony. These are global corporations that create jobs, pay taxes and invest billions of dollars in Japan. Most of the cars in Nigeria today are from Japan while British, German and American brands are household names globally.

- How Nigeria Can Become A First-World Country, by Olisakwe Okafor, ThisDayLive.com, December 20, 2020.

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About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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