“We should all talk more. Television isn’t talk, nor is the internet, nor, contrary to appearance, is the phone. What Eckhardt and Ilona and her family and friends are doing round me is conversation. Conversation uses words, voice tones, faces, smiles, silences, hand gestures, leg movements, comings and goings, all the knit and tangle of humanity. Why don’t we value conversation any more? Why do we go chasing after louder sounds, brighter colours, hotter liquor, higher highs? Why do we behave as though talking with friends is for the old, the poor, the sad? This is one of the very few roads out of the land locked country of vanity. One of the few gates into the society of others.”
-William Nicholson, The Society of Others
I took a sick day today. Spent the entirety of it reading the book referenced above. It was a bit unorthodox, very philosophical, and definitely urges one to think. I quite liked it, although I would cautiously recommend it as it’s a heavy and mature read. In the end this passage stuck with me. Although I am not having a conversation with any one person, and according to the quote perhaps failing altogether by using the internet to communicate, I like the truth that echoes through it. He writes, “Why do we behave as though talking with friends is for the old, the poor, the sad?” What about talking to ourselves? Not in the insane manner you may see in the movies. No, I mean being honest. Oftentimes humans tend to avoid confronting themselves, lest we be confronted with a reality we do not like, or did not ask for. So we go on living a lie. How can we be honest with others if we are not first real with ourselves?
That being said, I’m going to take a moment to be real. Honest…
…but it is difficult and scary to write or say what you’re actually thinking. There is great risk, but there may also be great reward. It’s funny how those two often go hand-in-hand. The reality is, I fear judgement, criticism, disapproval…but are those really valid fears? Anyway, for those that know me, you may find this post surprising. Perhaps you won’t. It doesn’t really matter either way.
Before coming to China, I was plagued with whether or not I was making the right decision, or the wrong decision. Only now do I see that it was the wrong question altogether. Had I stayed I would have probably found a decent enough first job, and perhaps have learned to be content without living abroad. Or I could have gone absolutely crazy and ended up living in a cave in Colorado. We can speculate all day, but who really knows? The fact is, it didn’t happen that way. I didn’t stay. However, in coming here I am certain of a few things.
I think we all knew it before I ever left Oklahoma, but I’ve been looking for something. You might say it’s purpose, or meaning, or something of that nature. That’s why I’ve always wanted to see the world, and, I think, partly why I’ve come to China. It might sound strange to hear me say (or type rather), but part of me thought, and perhaps hoped that I’d find something enchanting, even life-changing in Buddhism. If nothing else, it would be an opportunity to se the world with a fresh perspective, a new light. I think every person goes through this. Figuring out our own way. To understand what faith looks like, and more importantly what it is. In the States, we’re oversaturated with Christianity of the cultural sort. I literally am not able to absorb anymore and I’ve grown tired of it. The appeal is gone. Sometimes I wonder how it ever had any. I need God to be bigger than America. Bigger than my culture. Lately, I’ve been living by more of a Jesus-inspired morality, rather than an actual faith. When I think about it there are other belief systems that have equally admirable morality codes to that of the Christian religion: Buddhism for example.
One thing I particularly like about the Buddhist view is that there is a possibility of transcendence: enlightenment. I think there are only a few that have ever been credited for achieving it, but still it’s a possibility however intangible. It provides a certain kind of out. If you learn enough, you win. Of course that’s an inadequate summary, but to a person who really likes to learn, it has its appeal. At any rate, what I’m looking for isn’t in Buddhism. It isn’t in China. Actually it would be more accurate to say that it isn’t only in China. It’s back home too, I just wasn’t able to find it there before.
In all honesty, I think I could go home today having taken away this nugget of truth and the whole thing would have been worth it. But would it stick with me? Maybe after four months it will. The idea of returning to the States is exciting. I’ve never felt that way before. Other countries were always exciting…not the US.
Recently I was asked, “If you could visit anywhere in the world where would you go?” Previously I had a list that could climb up Everest and back, but now…I want to see Tibet while I’m here. That’s it. My heart doesn’t ache for other places. Rather there is a longing to be established somewhere and have an impact and a place in community with other people.
Such a thing exists both here and there, but it is not the same for all people. Sometimes you literally have to go to the other side of the world to find yourself.
Sometimes you find more.
Until next time.
All photos in this post were taken an Baoguang Temple. There are some more below for your viewing pleasure.