Sunday, January 16, 2011

Settling In During Unsettled Times

"An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."
 Dr. Martin Luther King Junior

The day before I left Nanjing, I went back down to my favorite park, as if I wanted to thank it for all of the simple lessons I learned when I would come down here to walk on the Palace Grounds ruins.  The old palace that once stood here with the ming lions standing guard.  Often I wondered why I just seemed to keep coming back to this place.  Nature had grown over these ruins that had been set aside to simply show that dynasties do collapse, what was once too big to fail had fallen all because there was a simple man who observed the actions of the elite, not caring about the welfare of the people.  A lion, that held the flower of life, the chi ball, displaying the power, which many are not aware that resides in each person.  China, holds still, the belief of the Mandate of Heaven.  If things need to change, then they will. I kept going and decided to go within the city.
As I walked around and looked at the crush of advertising and western images come in from all of the MNEs, telling them how badly they needed their products to have happy lives, I stared.  Microsoft showing their images displaying two different realities, is just one example of how fear is a factor in product marketing.  The false images that seems to just push forward a message that reads, "you are not good enough unless you have our products in your life."  I remembered my messages to my students, reminding them that they are fine just the way they are.  You don't need your teeth whitened, your skin doesn't need a pile of makeup, the clothes you make are your self expression, and your hair is beautiful as it is.  There is a fine line between taking care of yourself and turning into a photo-shopped image that is just like everyone else along the way.
It was early the next morning as I looked at the rising sun at the airport getting ready to leave.  Yes, it was both hard and easy to go.  It was hard, because I learned how I had been so afraid to come here.  I was swimming with my own preconceived notions about how I would 'fit in'.  I had so little knowledge about China.  I was completely ignorant about their lives, culture, and thought about how I watched each myth and preconceived notion shattered along the way.  Whenever I would hear news about human rights violations, I would laugh and think of all of our actions.  We sank to a level of targeting people, which because our 'enemies' would do it, that all of a sudden made it OK for us to do the same thing.  We used to be better than that.  We ignore what we do to each other, and find it easier to tear apart other countries, often not realizing that we are often the worst offenders on the planet.  We use the most resources, and yet have still to stand up to the corporations to demand change.  We stay divided, and yet the one thing I learned in China, that right or wrong...they stand together as a unified people.  Something the rest of the world has to learn how to do.  They don't let religion divide them.  They don't let their differences divide them.  They learn how to change from within.  They work together to solve problems and they have not let money be their god.  There was a lot I learned when I came here to teach English.  I thought of myself more as a student, than a teacher.  Where I was not able to go in the world, students from those parts of the world came to me.  We honored each other, respected one another and made great efforts to understand our mutual desires of wanting to create a world together of peace, collaboration, and to not give into the message of the "world is going to end in 2012."  The world is what we ALL make it.
I knew that I had a bigger pit of fear to overcome, and that was choosing to return to America.  Here with our SUVs, traffic jams and decaying urban environments.  Here the wealth is drying up, but our wealth has been misspent.  Our wealth was never supposed to be about money.  Our wealth was always around us.
As we drove through and I saw vacant buildings matched the vacant faces I would see.  The once grand New York City seemed to look like a has been, pretending to be something more real.  People afraid of each other.  What a contrast to where I had come from.  In Nanjing,  a city of 7 million people and it felt like I could go anywhere.  In New York, I will have to see if people are ready to see more.  Politicians only see the governments and interact on that level.  No, this is a far different view, this is a view from the weeds of life at the street level, where it really matters.  

As we headed towards the Lincoln tunnel, I thought about the inspiration a Chinese man had taken from the words of Abraham Lincoln, a man who had many personal failings in his life.  Yes,  to see Abraham Lincoln so revered for changing our nation, even though it did not want change.  I looked and saw not what one man did, but what need to do as the people of our own nation.  I had been angered by what I saw in our country.  No peace messengers, just war mongering to bail us out of economic depressions.  Stirring up strife in Korea, in Iran, in Isreal, in Afghanistan, Iraq and much of it at the behest of oil companies.  We the people, at the street level have had our heads down.  Good people that look at our large decaying cities wondering what we can do.  We don't seem to be able to put aside our differences long enough.  We erect more walls, gated neighborhoods, being bought off, and some people have gone off and decided to go ahead and profit off of the fear.
I looked up at the windows and wondered how many people even know their neighborhoods in the land of the 'free', home of 'the brave'.  I guess the easy way is just not to look at each other because that is the easy or safe way.  We don't make each other laugh anymore.  More often, we are making each other cry.  However, we all hear and know it just doesn't have to be this way.
I looked at the skyline.  This is America.  One port city that has been here, representing the American Dream around the world.  We sue each other now.  We have to be careful now of everything.  I looked at what they teach our children now, and I thought of all of the lessons I taught Korean children in English who were only 5 and 6 years of age.  They were writing, doing mathematics, science, and having fun.  I stared in horror as I looked at the homework of a child in one of the 'best schools' in New Jersey, the assignment was how to tell analogue time on a clock.  She was in the second grade.  I shook my head.  People, dear people, don't let this continue.  It may be legal, but it isn't right.  It's time to change the dream.  No one person changes our system.  We change our system.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Sacrifice

Greetings my friends.  I have returned to my broken battered friend, America.  I had heard all of the stories about body cavities searches, scanners and law suits.  I braced myself as I boarded my flight from Nanjing, China to begin my journey in total peace.  I wondered what I was going to face as I flew in semi turbulent air, but even my past flight anxiety evaporated.  If I was going to make it to America or not, well, it was all out of my control.  I let the pilots do their job, and I simply did mine.  I finally let go of trying to control everything and spoke to others along the journey.  I went through security and saw all of the agents, weary, they did their jobs, but all that I had heard seemed to be a huge myth as I walked through JFK.  I was back in America.  However, I seemed to be looking for the land of the free.  Were people still pursuing life, liberty and happiness?  Right now, I see what appears like sacrificial lambs.  When I left the University I noticed a new object that was installed,  it looks like a sacrifice altar set up on the new campus.
Maybe it was an altar, acknowledging the sacrifices of old wars, however I was hoping that it was not an altar asking for new blood.  We all have shed enough blood.  I thought of all of the stories I had been told along the way from people from all over the world.  I have asked many to share their stories for the purpose of promoting not peace, but love and understanding.  I have been incredibly flawed along my journey,  You can look back throughout my blog.  I am human and make mistakes, but I also don't want to talk down or up to people.  I want as many people as possible to be able to read and understand and share the message of this simple page.  We don't have to have war to be at peace.  We can start by learning how to love people and to stop being so self-centered.
As I came in to the United States, I would smile at people and I saw their fear in their eyes, coupled with furrowed brows and looks of pain.  We have done a good job of being divided.  We sacrifice much for those whom we love; our friends, family, countries, and religions.  The things we believe in.  The things we love.  I want to use this to promote peace and love to all people.  For the people I don't know.  For the countries who are not my homeland.  In short, for strangers.  As I myself, have been a stranger in strange lands doing impossible things.  Extending hands of compassion to those I have never met before.

So in the future I am going to share stories from all that I have come to understand and know.  We all have a story.  There is no right way or wrong way.  However, I think it is time to realize that we need to stop letting others use our beliefs against us.  To stop letting others take our love and turning it into hate.  I walked out their in the world and I learned to listen to all over you.  I have shaken your hands, smiled with you, cried with you, and shared my life with you.

We all have been torn up enough.  I stopped being afraid of all of you.  I learned how to love you as you all are.  You shared your hearts, dreams and minds with me.  Now, some of my friends are going to share their lives with you.  We have all cast stones at each other, it is time to end the competitions, comparisons, and see we all can build bridges to each other.

There is no more blood that needs to be shed.  There is nothing to forgive.  You are all my friends and I accept you just as you are even if you can't accept me.  You aren't required to.  I am required to accept you if I want to be at peace.  We sacrifice only our ego, our self-interest in order to be the change we want to see in others.

I am willing to do that.  I have no control over if you are not willing to do that.  None whatsoever.  It's your choice.