Chinese students

Click here to listen to this post in audio

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.

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Running in Circles

So a week or two ago I mention to Jenny one of my dreams (I know – I keep talking about my dreams.  Sorry – I’ll post about something else next time if you’ll indulge me once more, it’s just a coincidence that dreams are on my brain today also – though not that much of a coincidence because I think about dreams a lot).

Long dream short – the dream involved among other things, me feeling the need to jog at a specific place – namely the Bahá’í  center here in the so called ‘Greater Nashville Area’ (Nashville and surrounding towns).  The dream had a spiritual, uplifting and healing feeling about it and so did the jog.  It felt like it was a necessary sacred act – a sacrament.

I meant to ‘amplify’ the dream back when I told Jenny about it but didn’t have a chance to make it up to the center till today.  ‘Dream amplification’ is when you do something to sort of remember the dream into the world and respond to it with action – often with art, but in this case by doing the thing prescribed in the dream.

So today I went up to the center because I had other business there.  I went for a ten minute jog and as I did my thoughts turned to the stream that is in the midst of the little circle where I jogged over which there is a bridge.  There is a community of endangered shrimp that lives there and we had to get special permission and pay a lot of fees to build there.  I have often washed my face in that picturesque stream before saying my prayers – another sacrament of mine.

I certainly found the jog in that place shook loose many uplifting and illuminating thoughts and feelings much as the dream might have suggested.  What caught my attention eventually was something I had not noticed before.  There was some garbage in the stream.  When I was done with my jog I took a closer look.  As I got deeper in I saw there was quite a bit of half buried rubbish along with some fresh.  There were some beer cans and a beer crate.  I saw some matresses and large buried pieces of plastic.  Most of these were not easy to see from the foot-path but there they were.

I thought about how it is that as I recently read, the Lakota idea of medicine entails a model wherein there can be no concept of individual health outside the notion of community health:

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. ”
~Chief Seattle

This thought and many related meditations accompanied me as I began the process of cleaning the place up and planning on how to clean it more deeply in the future.  I won’t bore you with details about that suffice to say I worked up a sweat and felt good because I felt like that special place had called to me in my dream and that it had given something to me – a kind of joy and inspiration and that I was able to give back to it in respiritory fashion a breathing in and a breathing out – a circle if you will, like the one I jogged.

I have many plans to go back and continue my jogging meditations (hey, if dervishes can whirl in a circle and think of God, why can’t I jog in a circle and do the same?).  Part and parcel – I plan to bring my leaf blower and roll up my sleaves and grab my spade and work on some of those half burried mattresses.

I saw some beautiful things out there today – some really cool insects and a unique bird and a dead hunk of tree that had partly turned to soil with two baby trees growing from it.  That last example is yet another circle and community and ‘give and take’ image – really neat.  So I have taken pictures of it and in fact, I took it home as a momento of my day and placed it on my porch- another gift from the center.  See pictures below.

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just a nice painting that’s in the bahai center by a bahai I met.
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the baby trees I took home.
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the baby trees while still at the center.
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panoramic view of my jogging path today.
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another panoramic view – from here you can start to see the bahai center. On the right you can see my 14 y/o Ethan rehearsing w his friend Jasmine. I like panoramas with little people in them- that’s how the ancient Chinese painted. The people were usually insignificant to the landscape but they were there in the midst of the nature or temple or what have you.
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The bahai center more visible along with the parking lot and the walkway towards the stream.

“We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life moulds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions.”
~Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi

The Gathering of the Tribes:

This post is a ‘first post’ describing how and why this blog got here and telling somewhat relatedly about a dream I had a while back.

Yesterday on my way to a friend’s house for some coffee, I was chatting with my sister Jenny on the phone about whatever.  She mentioned she would like it if there was a blog where the family could discuss various things.  Asking her about what she saw as the theme of the blog she just said she imagined something resembling coffee house conversations where Ketchams and Merideths and such (Croftses for example) could talk about stuff.  Well OK.  I’ve been blogging on various things for a while and I know how easy it is to put one up.  Whether it gains any traction time will tell.  But I like the idea of putting it up there because I feel like there is a call for these Merideths and Ketchams to communicate more – I even superstitiously feel like it is a spiritual call that is coming from within us – that something is in the soil now – a spring time, a charter for healing a development.  You can’t force these things – but putting up a blog is a good way to cast a seed when the sunlight is coming out.

Here is a good place to talk about the relevant dream which I think of as being a kind of signal for the call for coming together – kind of like how the temperature and luminescence of spring signals long dormant seeds to start unwrapping it’s DNA and get to work exploding with growth.

the dream of the Gathering of the Tribes
(recorded morning of 2014.01.05 – copied from my dream journal with some edits) I am the only white person at a gathering of American Indian tribes in or near Canada- probably near the border and situated in the midst of a pristine lake.  All my closest Native friends are in attendance and in fact probably all of my Native acquaintances are there too- I saw the Locke family, Taqralique and Maniqsaq, Rodey Modest, Kai Bighorn and the rest of his family, Al LeBeau and some others whose names I can’t remember.  I am talking mainly with Kai and Al.  They tell me that this ‘gathering of the tribes’ is a periodical thing that happens every several years.  The idea is that all the tribes band together like one tribe for a couple of weeks and camp out and get close and commiserate and celebrate and have a lot of ceremonies of all kinds- eagle ceremonies, sweat lodges, vision quests, long house ceremonies, powows and so on.  It’s very important and significant and everyone feels like brothers and many people who haven’t seen each other for a long time get together again and share stories and make new stories.  

Really that’s the whole dream other than just describing how beautiful and fun it was and meaningful.  I remember seeing beautiful dancing in full native ragallia and people leaping off rocks and doing front-flips into the lake.  Everywhere was pristine, virgin nature and beautiful humanity just camping out and partying and feeling that ‘togetherness’ and talking about important things and laughing.

As I said I am I supposedly the only white person but I didn’t think about that at until I woke up.  That fact reminds me of when I actually did live in Canada because now that I think about it (and I didn’t give much thought to it at the time) I was often the only one or one of a very few non-native American’s in attendance at certain ceremonies, celebrations or just community events etc. on the reserve or in people’s homes and communities.  I remember one time Rodey told me that the long house ceremony we were attending at that time which was about to begin possibly had never been attended by a white person in that community.  I did feel totally honored and surprised at that news and actually – but I didn’t think about it much after that and forgot about that distinction until this dream- just enjoyed the rich, beautiful ceremonial which felt very powerful and life-altering.

When I awoke I couldn’t understand why I would have that dream – not for a couple more hours until I decided to call Arthur (Ketcham) who I had been thinking about lately – missing talking to him since Heather’s gang and Heidi and my family had been hanging out quite a bit.  I spoke with him for about an hour and it was a really beautiful heart to heart talk on a lot of subjects.  I can’t recall what the context was but he used the word ‘tribe’ which immediately evoked the whole dream image along with an instant recognition of why I had had that particular dream.

For me I think Native communities probably have come to represent a sense of ‘the sacred community’ in my own unconscious mind since those formative years I spent up in Canada- informally finding myself initiated in so many of the inner-circle ceremonies and deep friendships.  I had a sense then of a community that runs thicker than blood- community of heart and spirit.  

I think I have sensed a feeling that this is an important time for all involved- including Arthur and Jenny in a way despite that they were not here with us.  I think in a way, he and my sister Jenny have actually made the journey.  An example of that is the sort of almost spiritual conversation Arthur and I just had today(at time of dream record).  Another example is how my son Eli played for hours on computer with his cousin Rebecca for the first time ever speaking with her – having a great time while Jenny and I have beautiful and much needed conversation.  Heidi coming to Nashville has begun a conversation between the families, what is happening is we see the ‘tribes’ coming together at this time.  It reminds me of how Jacob Bighorn used to say “we have to get the family together” with that significant glance of his which made the words mean so many things at once.  He meant that I needed to connect with my mothers soul.  He also meant that the human family where-in all are relatives as children of One Creator must come together and recognize their bonds.  He meant that all estranged feelings and hurt feelings must be healed in their appointed time which we must work towards.  Family is sacred.  All family, and also the whole human family.  Those bonds matter and endure through time and space and even death.

It’s as if we are doing sweet lodges and vision quests somewhere underneath the conscious veil without realizing it.  They are leaping into cool waters and breathing the same pristine air.  The light of the sun is upon them.  The family has got together.  That’s it!!

By the way – I have quickly put up a lot of header images for this blog – many of which are random and frivolous or of my beloved cat bill – just whatever images I had on hand.  These header images are supposed to rotate randomly so whenever you come to this blog, who knows what will be the image at the top.  Fun!! right?  Anyways- they are my pics so mainly they don’t have a lot of Handsons or Merideths or Ketchams but please do feel free to send me pics you’d like to include in the jumble of random headers.  I’d love that.  Also – I’m the editor of this blog since someone has to be but I dearly hope I am not the only one writing on it.  To that end, if you have anything you would love to write which you would like to offer for the family to read, please send it to me and I’d love to publish it on your behalf with attribution to the author (email to faizoro@gmail.com).  Even more – if you would like to be added as an author (and you are a member of these tribes – Ketchams, Crofts, Youngs, Merideths, Kasperzacks(sp?) etc. let me know – I’ll be happy to add you on.  I only request reasonably positive vibes and mature expression of course.  Posts can be on any subject – but you know me, I always enjoy intellectual interests, spiritual and philosophic stuff and of course DREAMS!!

Incidentally – if you are concerned a dream you have might contain stuff you don’t want everybody to be exposed to – email it to me if you feel like it! Id love that.

Oh – and be sure and subscribe to/follow this blog.  Hope it gets traction – you know, blogs are hit or miss but I have had a good experience with some of it.