Tag Archives: Beijing

Words To Paint Lives By

Be like how snow in March makes dogs run circles. Toast friends over liters of Japanese beer, over networks and signals and interfaces for eyes to burn out on. Leave them behind. It’s been four years and at least we have these words–words to paint lives by. The dogs run circles around words down paths where the grass tastes like sun and the wind-tears we wipe on dirtied sleeves somehow make us feel less dirty. So, my island friend, my one of the seat in which I might someday sit once more, may we drink to your health and to the chance you took, no, the chance you gave, for me to be able to write these words to you four years later. It makes life even better–like snow, like running dogs.

Capital Air, Unbreathing

Image

1. Don’t pant, huff, yawn

2. Face-masks are for surgeons

3. Sleep, but don’t breathe

4. Street food coated in dirt–edible

5. Your lungs are soaked: go ride a bike

6. Don’t open windows or mouths

7. Disperse clouds, disperse people

8. That’s not snow or fog or mist

9. “I don’t mind the brown skies …”

10. Collect your skin at the door

Thank you, Readers: We’re Back

I want to thank everyone for the comments throughout the last three years, for reading, and, hopefully, for growing in meaningful ways. The Eyeslit-Crypt fell by the wayside as my life in Beijing unfolded–Wordpress is blocked here, but I’m on my way back to America soon, so things will pick back up. In what new ways, I’m not sure. I hope the results will be satisfying to both old and new readers.

I feel like this blog became a neglected child and now going back and reviewing the content I produced in 2009-2010, I have to take a breath and carefully think through the future of this site, for the past has bee fantastic: educational, engaging, helpful to others.

The essays and analyses have seemed useful to many readers and for your readership, I am grateful–thank you, again.

I hope to pick up where I left off, to gain new readers and to engage through comments and purposeful discussions. Thank you again for all your support.

Think Piece: Fahrenheit 451

Fire

I have begun teaching Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” to my ninth grade high school students. It is interesting teaching this book realizing that all of the students in the room (from varying international backgrounds) have been raised with more advanced and “faster” communication technologies than I could have dreamed of when I was their age. Granted I am not that “old,” but do remember the day when a large satellite television dish was planted in what used to be a garden in our yard. The black monolith, which connected me with other virtual worlds, which greatly shaped my imaginative development.

It is difficult for some of them to relate to the overarching themes of a society obsessed with amusement and speed. Could this be due to the ways in which technology and amusements have already infiltrated their minds? And, am I, as their “teacher,” immune from the consequences of an over reliance on the various gadgets that make my life easier? Should the role of the teacher of a book like “Fahrenheit 451” be one who has become like the character Clarisse, “insane” to the eyes of an out-of-control society as described in the book? If so, wouldn’t, in the teaching of this book, it make more sense to conduct the class while sitting on grass, away from the technological pull of the city? More importantly, does this book resonate with the students in the ways in which Bradbury intended? What kind of student would it take to “take arms against a sea of amusements (Postman)”? What kind of research would be most applicable? What kinds of secondary texts would fill in the gaps?

In order for this book to achieve its own purposes as a so-called “novel of ideas,” it would seem necessary to me to foster an inquisitive classroom environment from which students could gain the capacity to critically and curiously question the technological devices and media influences in their lives that they are exposed to and that they expose themselves to on an hourly basis. The development of these capacities would be for the purpose of having them re-experience those devices and interfaces that shape the virtual landscapes of planet “my life.” What questions would one need to ask to enable students to ask the right questions to themselves about their connections to technology and what that technology could mean? Would this way of teaching (inquistive) make for the proper atmosphere of presenting the novel’s ideas?

At the end of a few lessons, I began thinking about how this book will influence and hopefully develop their ability to examine contemporary culture. For example, the character Clarisse says, “I sometimes think drivers don’t know what grass is, or flowers, because they never see them slowly.” This observation, which I felt captured a potent insight into culture didn’t seem to resonate with students, even though our location (Beijing) is a city of vehicles, an overpopulation of vehicles. None of the students walk to and from school and judging from their reactions to the idea of “walking for pleasure,” none of them see walking for the sake of walking as a choice by which one’s experience of the world and how one perceives it is enhanced as having any relevance to them whatsoever.

Other than actually taking them on a walk, how does one open up this idea and make it relevant? How can we teach students to regain the simplicity of life if they don’t want to learn it?

Thank you for reading. I hope that this edited yet stream-of-consciousness “think piece” is of use to you.

Contemplating the “Indirect Path” (Execupundit)

garden

Michael Wade over at Execupundit recently posted two provocative questions under the title, “Indirect Path.” His two questions are as follows, “Is happiness something that is captured or achieved?” and “Or is it more likely that happiness will climb our steps when we are not in active pursuit?”

What I would like to do here is to simply open up these questions and in doing so hopefully give readers of this blog and his, some food for thought in the contemplation of these matters.

First, if happiness is something that is “captured,” from where do we capture it? How does one “find” it? Could it even be possible that happiness exists apart from our attitudes toward what we do and how we experience life? Or, does one, as Herzog might say, “wrestle it from the Devil’s hands?” If happiness is achieved, then what does that tell us about such things as perseverance, effort, accountability and responsibility? Could it be that the pursuit of these leads one to a “happier” life because they align one with one’s purpose? How caught up are happiness and purpose?

And, to address Wade’s second question, does the direct contemplation of happiness somehow eliminate its manifestation? Any student of David K. Reynolds’ “Constructive Living” should be familiar with the adage that one cannot will oneself to be happy. Or, is it that happiness is a performable feeling that one can actually will into existence by the performance of that feeling? Also, does the direct desire to be “happy” have any meaning whatsoever? Is there a state of happiness apart from one’s own unique life circumstance in which that term “happiness” takes on whatever relevance it may have to that person in that circumstance? How has your understanding of happiness changed over the years? Is it the happiness that changed or your own changes in how you interpret things?

Additionally, how is happiness discussed through mediums such as television, radio, film, books and the Internet? Which medium would be most useful a platform for learning more about what happiness could be and how it manifests itself in our lives? Which “stories” that you may live by most influence your understanding of happiness? Does it matter which story we use as long as it “works” for us?

Somehow, for me, in the thinking of these questions, some kind of internal calm overcomes me and I daresay I feel…happiness? I’m not sure. Perhaps this tells us something. But what? Is it that the right questions somehow guide us closer to a more lucid understanding? But without a purpose in mind how do we know what to ask? Why is happiness so sought after?

Beijing: A Short Introduction

The first thing that struck me about Beijing at night was the signs against the black sky. One after another, red signs passed by the car window as a winter haze hovered around us. It was cold, bitingly cold, a cold that Tokyo knows not the likes of. The congested traffic comforts and annoys me. I am American, so am used to traffic jams, honking horns, being “cut-off” as well as having to drive on a daily basis. Returning to this way of living as opposed to Nippon will once again take some getting used to, but is by no means impossible. Outside my window is a Detroit-esque mixture of urban high rise apartments and absolute rubble. Horses pull carts filled with food, which the vendors will sell, while an old woman stares out from her balcony. “Where should I put my cigarette butt?” “This is China, you can put it anywhere.” A dog limps by and another tries to bite me outside of a supermarket – a “Merry Mart.” Everyone’s eyes are glued to me and fingers are pointed, as well. “Don’t worry, they are not looking at you.” Yet, I know they are looking at me. Meanwhile, in the apartment, a pleasant heat fills the rooms, music floats in from outside and, earlier in the morning, a light snow dripped to the ground. Beijing. Here we go.