Oklahoma Halfling

“And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo, adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on, and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same; like old Mr Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?”

― J.R.R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings

The last week or so has been internally eventful, which obviously implies that externally it has been…well, not eventful. However, the exception being the increasing evidence of autumn here in Xindu.

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For about seven days I have been at various stages of eye sick, stomach sick, and homesick. The latter I think having increased due to the amount of time I have been alone in my apartment. Having said that, I have been thinking quite a lot, hence things having been “internally eventful.”

Originally, I wanted to title this post “There and Back Again,” but found myself returning to two problems: a) I’m not sure where it falls on the copyright side of things, and b) I think it’s a bit premature considering I haven’t made it back home…yet. In these moments it becomes very obvious what works of literature have influenced my life. Shamelessly, Tolkien is very high on the list, and his Shire-folk inspire me greatly.

IMG_2367While I haven’t fought any dragons, despite having seen many, I cannot help but feel a common thread woven into their tales and my own. Then again, I suppose it could largely be influenced by my desire to be a Hobbit. Either way I am moved by the indomitable spirits of Sam, Bilbo, Merry…occasionally Pippin, and less often Frodo.

I ask myself, “Is it possible to be like that in real life?” People who just persevere no matter what…my personality tends towards “close enough” being good enough, so this characteristic is simultaneously baffling and attractive. If I am to be like that, then what am I working toward? What am I fighting for? Ultimately, jobs don’t matter to me all that much. I look at life and so many of the things that we put stock into really don’t matter.

One thing all of the Hobbits’ adventures have in common is that there is a clear end goal. Whether or not they make it back from the adventure may not be as certain, but what they have set out to do is. Naturally, they doubt themselves along the way, they consider turning back, at moments some of them do.

However, in life I’m beginning to think that end goals are not so clear. As a result I often find myself questioning what I’m doing, asking what really matters.

Why did I come to China? Many students have asked me. I tell them that I wanted to experience something different, but that is the obvious answer. Really I wanted an adventure. That’s what I’ve always wanted. However, as Sam said above, you cannot go find them, they find you.

This past summer while visiting family in Colorado, there were a couple of moments that I felt like an outsider. Not with my family, or even in Colorado specifically. It took me a while to finally place my finger on it. Then while driving through New Mexico it hit me. I wasn’t outsider to any one place, but rather to society itself. I was outside the constraints of the daily grind, not bound by daily rules and regime. Like I said…jobs don’t particularly matter. So what does?

Ultimately, I think there are some questions that we received the answers to only gradually. The secret is to keep asking the questions. Without questions there cannot be answers…

That concludes my musings for one day, but to finish enjoy these select photos:

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Enjoyed quality conversation by this jacketed Buddha.
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IMG_2347 Rampart on the wall at Guihu park, original to old Xindu.

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Until next time!

~A

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Because when you’re sick, naturally you have an impromptu b&w selfie session.

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