This post is a response to a tiny part of a psychology podcast episode located at http://pca.st/Fppx . To hear the section I am responding to, listen from minute 20 onward for a few minutes where the interviewee speaks about Chinese students in Beijing and Shang Hai.
She talks about how the Chinese students seem really ‘cutting-edge’ to her, embodying a sense that for them, any achievement is attainable. During her talks with them (probably about trans-personal psych or some other subject she is dealing with) she found them to be acutely tuned in and intelligent, reading up everything about her the speaker, and asking incredible substantive and deep questions – all while listening to a talk in a language different from their native tongue.
She mentioned that she asked many such students and students all over the world what they would do without their government and heard back over and again consistently: “we could function just fine without our government. We can do things ourselves.”. Then they talk about globalization in some positive terms which is in it’s self kind of novel.
While it is obvious that people probably require some form of government – I think the idea is though that young people in many parts of the world feel that they personally don’t need to rely on the giants and heroes of society to save them – they can save themselves.
This for me is very encouraging to hear. Indeed I heard many similar sentiments from the young folks in China over the years during my visits.
Having lived in China I can say that the image of a Chinese chello-playing robot-student is not typical although that kind of person probably does exist. Usually there is a grain of truth in many generalizations – just not always much more than a grain. No – my own students in China were generally brilliant AND creative for example. To that I would add- they were generally humble and peaceable instead of contentious and opinionated. Growing up in the US where politics is of great interest and concern to most people and where it seems important to be strongly opinionated in one’s views it was a breath of fresh air to visit a country where people were curious and were great listeners and at the same time – I felt they usually – had no special axe to grind, expressed or implied- no deep psychic political angst to work out. They just had often a longing curiosity about the process of learning and knowing and living.
Even the older generation when I would ask them about how they felt about their political leaders would sensibly often say things like “the politics – whether good or bad don’t affect me much. Mostly – family life and community life are where my challenges and my happiness are both to be found.”
So this a-politicism and sober-mindedness was novel to me and I have tried to glean something about it and add it to my own personality. It has given me the ability to be comfortable with a variety of people regardless of their politics and just be a listener and a friend and maybe learn something. I learned this from the Chinese – that I don’t need an axe to grind, a wall to build or an opinion pre-mature to my understanding. I can disarm and learn and befriend. I can actually say about many issues “I’m not sure. Tell me what you think!” and sit back and receive an education from every diverse character I encounter.
The attentive concientiousness, brilliant energy and creativity of the Chinese student is an infectious thing. It reminds of the the soaring language Abdul-baha uses to describe what I guess you might call a ‘self-actualised person’ to use an agnostic term. This description is descussed and studied to great effect in ‘Ruhi book five’ a bahai inspired curriculum. That curriculum is in circulation all over the world for young people (around the age of 12-15), and is intended to help prepare them for adulthood and for initiation into that wide and increadible and challenging world they are approaching. Here is the passage:
“Whereas formerly they were as moths, they became as royal falcons, and whereas before they were as brooks, they became as seas, through Thy bestowal and Thy mercy. They became, through Thy most great favor, stars shining on the horizon of guidance, birds singing in the rose gardens of immortality, lions roaring in the forests of knowledge and wisdom, and whales swimming in the oceans of life.”
Now – in the Baha’i tradition there is of coarse a theological perspective which is component to the sense of what developing young minds looks like, but I think we all would hope to see our young ones aspiring to become “lions roaring in the forests of knowledge.” (jungle, savanna – what have you). It’s such a potent image – when a lion roars I think the herbivores tremble – even some other apex predators must tremble in the midst of that sound – i know I might. I just think it is a potent meditation image.
But the Chinese have discovered (and my wife is a good example of this, for she helped me understand it myself) that confidence and capacity is built in a child through hard, conscientious and high aspiring achievement such that when we see one so called ‘dumb’ child, and compare him with another supposedly ‘brilliant’ child- often what we are dealing with is a child that never saw him-self dominate through shear determination, a really tough exam he was terrified of no-matter the personal deficit (and we all have them – mine is probably math). Chinese parents both expect greatness from their young ones AND they actually see greatness in them. In that – there is something wonderful.
I am reminded of quoting Yoda to my sister Jenny today: “Luminous beings are we. Not this crude matter.”
What are your thoughts on this unfocused ramble? Too opinionated? Boring? I’m sorry – here’s some topical youtube fluff crassly related. Enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sE2jy23iG2M
By the way – the whole podcast episode above may be worth a listen – I enjoyed it quite a bit but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Relations, please do comment or better yet, send a post of your own be it ever so humble for this blog. You may do so by emailing it to me (your humble ombudsman and editor rolled in one) or if you wish, I could as you as an editor as I have done with Arthur.