Archive for the ‘CIT’ tag
Well, with a new contract signed for another year of teaching at the university, there is a moment for relaxation and catching one’s breath. Strange, there isn’t anything to suggest stress as returning to Canada to a nice home and no economic barriers to a decent life, or remaining in ChangZhou as a university instructor are both good choices. The stress is simply that of making a decision. Once the contract was signed, a trip to the university garden nursery and greenhouse was in order so that I could choose a plant to put into the apartment so that the place could feel even more like a home. One plant soon became three plants, one for each year of service to the university. This photo is a part of the wall that separates the nursery from the main campus grounds.
I had a lot of choices when it came to taking a photo of an opening (window) through the wall where I could get crisp, clear shots and where the opening was undamaged. Yet somehow, this one drew me. A broken window cluttered with leaves and a red ribbon that was meant to hold up a weakened plant and a lack of focus, a lack of clarity – this is what I caught. Interesting as with the signing of the contract, clarity is what I thought was where I was at after weeks of indecision.
It was only with choosing this photo for the blog post today that I came to realise some part of the why for this photo. Making a choice isn’t about moving toward clarity, it is about moving further along a path where the final destination is only a hazy image, so hazy that there is even doubt that it is a destination. And somehow, this gives me a good feeling.
This is a scene I see almost everyday at the campus. I can’t read it and likely never will due to laziness in trying to learn how to read Chinese characters. This colorful chalkboard sits in an outdoor hallway protected from rain for the most part and it has looked the same as far as I can tell, for five years now. Possibly some of the characters have changed, but certainly the boat, the fish, the flowers and the titles seem to be the same as when I first say this bulletin board in August, 2006. I took this photo this morning, likely inspired by the book I have been reading on the Tang Dynasty, the golden age of China. This scene evokes some of that history, a sense of golden times, of pride.
As I travelled through various Asian countries this winter, I encountered a lot of “proud” people and it gave me a good feeling. Their pride was of the moment, not of a past – for the most part. Yet, that pride soon shifted to something a bit uncomfortable. The pride somehow became something that “set apart” rather than “joining together.” It made me rethink my own sense of “pride.” And needless to say, that wasn’t something I wanted to peer at in depth.
Pride is narcissistic on an individual level which often leads to a level of hubris that effectively becomes a barricade between self and others. On a collective level, it becomes ethnocentrism, or hyper-ethnocentrism. I am seeing too much hyper-ethnocentrism in the world and seeing how it is causing us more problems that building a healthy sense of community. In my own country which is on the edge of heading into an election, the darkness of hyper-ethnocentrism is visible to anyone who can stand outside the dynamics. As I read various news articles and the public comments, I wonder at the “heat” and the “hate” that comes out at a deafening volume. Where will it all end?
In an individual, it ends in a fall.
Today’s photo is different from the usual fare offered here. The photo was taken with my camera while my wife and I were on stage with our students, singing. Sometimes it is important to simply “play.” I use music as part of my teaching of English as a second language. It is about motivation, authentic language and having fun. This is vital as I found out yesterday when one of these students asked me if the end of the world was near. The fears are high with all of the events of the past two weeks. The question was asked in terms of the often heard end of the world talk surrounding the Mayan calendar.
My response? Well, I have to admit that I don’t believe in any of these predictions. Life happens, shit happens, babies are born, people die, people play. I don’t hold with an exterior dark and evil other that will wipe out humanity on a particular calendar date. For me, such beliefs are projections of the collective unconscious. Holding these beliefs is more about being defeated than being vitally alive. So, to answer the question of my response, I told them that it was superstition and was not truth or fact. With question period finished I taught them a new song, an exercise in listening to discover the words using only their ears. We play together and learn together knowing that there are too many days where learning and life will be painful.