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Posts Tagged ‘taiwan’

What is the one thing a society needs to maintain a sense of honor?  Innocence. If you can distinguish naivete and innocence then you can be “as innocent as a dove but as sharp as a serpent.” Also I wish to account for, “where there are many rules, virtue will be lacking.” This is the core of what I’m advocating, what I’m trying to discover. As you can see, my thoughts are far along, but have a few holes in them. I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts on what I’m overlooking.

Lately I have applied for several jobs and I have been in the enviable position of having many potential employers wanting to hire me.  One of them, the one I eventually signed a contract with, wanted to screw over my headhunter and not pay her fees by claiming to hire another candidate while I claimed to work at another location.

I didn’t do this, for a few reasons.  Chiefly, the headhunter has been helping me for YEARS and if someone treats me very well, I like to treat them well in return.  Partly this is pragmatism, I might want to deal with her again later (she DID get me loads of solid leads).  Additionally, this affects the nature of my relationship with my employer — are we starting off entering into a conspiracy to cheat someone?  I’m not claiming that’s a bad thing a priori, but lets call a spade a spade.  But really, the whole decision came down to my wanting to pay this headhunter for her services rendered.

Now I’ve gotten another offer that might be a better one.   I might actually ditch the employer with whom I’ve already signed a contract, but who hasn’t filled out enough paperwork to make it a big headache (for me) to switch jobs.  Furthermore, I’ve entered into this contract, knowing the exit clauses, assuming I’ll probably leave early, but not disclosing this information.  At least one of my friends thinks my cavalier attitude towards agreements with employers is unethical.  However, I can’t see anything wrong with this.

This got me thinking, when we define something as an evil or bad thing, what do we mean?  I have a working model of kinds of transgressions.  I divide them into two categories:  Bodily transgressions such as assault, murder, rape, physical harm through negligence (a tricky one), poisoning, etc…   Social transgressions such as breech of agreement, deception, omission, meanness, playing legal hardball, refusing to do business with specific people, etc.  The former are things that cause, either directly or through strongly causal indirect means, bodily harm to another.  The latter are breeches of society’s rules, written or unwritten, and are almost always violations of people’s expectations.

Now, in the case of bodily transgressions, I think most humans have agreed on extreme ones being wrong outside of specific circumstances.  It’s generally considered wrong to shoot someone unless they’re shooting at me or my friend.  Social transgressions vary from culture to culture and subculture to subculture.  In some marketplaces, caveat emptor rules and everyone expects you to try and benefit from information advantage (aka “dupe someone”).  Going into the game knowing this, there is really no problem in this environment (as long as the discount on price in this market equals or exceeds my costs from wrong estimates of value or quality, then it’s fine for me to shop there).  At the other extreme, some social groups consider it a serious social breech if you enter into a simple argument that hurts someone’s feelings.  Most societies frown on nakedness outside of specific circumstances, or adjusting one’s breasts or penis in public in an obvious way.  Some social groups would stop reading this because I said “breasts” and “penis.”

There is a big middle ground in all of this.  Bodily harm through negligence is often difficult to determine, and we’ll usually distinguish between innocent and accidental negligence (a genuine accident on the operating table, or during an emergency rescue) and vicious negligence (leaving a child in a locked car in 101 degree heat as a punishment).  What’s more interesting to me is the problem of social transgressions.

Beyond the two categories I already stated, we can divide actions into honorable/innocent and dishonorable/naive actions.  Innocent and honorable bodily harm actions are generally considered completely okay.  Improvised emergency response in backcountry situations gives us occasional examples of this, where the best action known, given available equipment, skills, and conditions, still results in someone’s injury or death.  Also, most people will understand if I hit someone with a baseball bat who is in the process of trying to stab me and steal my Nikes.  Indeed, in these cases, the actions stem from honorable and/or innocent intentions AND no SOCIAL breech has occurred. However, we may judge them in complex ways.  Why did I possess a baseball bat? What could I have done differently to save my wounded comrade? Legal consequences may ensue regardless of ones actual intentions and behaviors. I’ll talk about that later.

I am starting to think social breeches often trump bodily breeches. Also, I think they are usually judged in a very clear-cut way. The person who honestly didn’t know he was in a social group where everyone is expected to be super nice to each other doesn’t get a pass if he starts an argument with someone, even if his intention was genuinely compassionate calling someone out on some of their bull$#!! such as an addiction or other harmful behavior. He is likely to be judged as a jerk and never invited to the party again. We find extreme examples of the most honorable and innocent actions being punished by society in our great spiritual leaders from Jesus to Socrates.

I think this is because Social breeches are actually sins against the fabric of society.  Society itself (through its social contracts and leaders who execute them) claims the right to transgress people’s bodies. The examples above, Jesus and Socrates, invoke society’s claim to this right to harm. Society also claims this right by imprisoning people or drafting them, and in some places by physical punishments such as caning, torture, and harsh prison conditions. American society, among others, also claims the specific right to harm people through direct and intentional negligence, as food and medicine are not considered “rights” but rather privileges.

My own moral life seems to be evolving more to pay attention to my own compass of honorable and innocent, and less to social norms. Now this may seem trite, but to say I am ignoring societal norms actually implies that I’m ignoring and often violating what most people would consider “right” and “wrong” or at the very least “offensive.” But culture and subculture is often broken. I personally find it repulsive to let someone starve or suffer from lack of medical care simply because they cannot find enough payed work or inherited money to buy it. I also find it repulsive to try to create an insular group to hypnotize each other into thinking highly of ourselves regardless of merit. I find I have little investment or care for things like other people’s feelings or expectations. So, while I remain a compassionate individual, I don’t bother to pull any punches, cup anyone’s bollocks, or pat anyone on the bum (unless I believe it will actually help them in the long run).

Nor do I bother about the social contracts such as whether a specific arena is caveat emptor, or supposed to play by gentleman’s rules, or we’re all putting (or pretending to put) all our cards on the table. I can trade based on personal reputation, so that matters to me, but all these social and societal concerns are purely utilitarian.

I assume little and choose actions based on expediency relative to my own intentions. I strive to keep these intentions honorable. I treat my three employees well, but we’re pirating and cannibalizing some old designs, no longer patented, in a market where people are playing by some Euro-specific “gentleman’s rules” and creating artificial market inefficiencies. Some might say I’m harming the particular culture, I say I’m evolving it.

Laws are a strange part of all this. It seems in many cases they are kind of farce, where the intention behind them takes second place and the unintended consequences are high. The war on drugs hasn’t kept a lot of my personal friends from getting addicted to soul-stealing chemicals like meth, yet I have seen it ruin a few people’s lives over less harmful drugs like marijuana. Further, dealing with immigration rules has taught me that social intentions underlying laws can be damned, I’m going to write what I need to in this paperwork to get what I want, so long as its either legal enough or legally illegible enough to spare me any consequences. I’ve never stayed a day illegally in Taiwan, yet I’ve circumvented the intentions of a lot of regulations, as have almost all the foreign teachers here.

My ultimate intentions of goodness reside only in my own sense of honor. I find my conscience is cleaner lately, yet I have an almost cavalier practicality and flagrant disregard about social rules, norms, and expectations along with other people’s feelings. I think I offend more people, yet I rest easier at night. I calculate more decisions based on advantages and disadvantages, and I feel less need to run over them again and again in my head to decide if what I did was morally right or wrong somehow.

I can point to timeless virtues, which withstand the eternal reality of change and evolution.  Such virtues include patience, equanimity, innocence, compassion.  I can also point to very real vices. The virtues and vices I can come up with are highly personal in nature, and don’t point to any specific rules or social norms per se.  For example, addiction, impatience, lust, greed and envy don’t point to any specific social norms that could stand for all time. Murder does, along with the other extreme examples of bodily violation, but that’s about it.  Almost everything else seems entirely situational.

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Everything’s working out for me.

I had initially told my employer I could stay for one more year. I’d thought it through carefully and come to the conclusion that the money was good and I could keep pumping my business ventures. But when it came time to sign the contract, I got sick about it.

Actually, the truth is, from the moment I told her I’d do it, I had this feeling of loss of good breath, like I was literally, subtly suffocating. Then when the day came to sign, I felt like shit. My heart was pounding, I kept having to go to the bathroom. I just couldn’t do it. Contextualize this within a year and a half that’s been mostly in good states and you’ll see how much this was fucking up my groove.

So I decided to try to make the move South, to the middle of Taiwan, a much nicer place. But I needed to know if the money would work out. I’d already asked MaZu if my business would still be prosperous if I made the move to TaiChung and she’d said yes, but I wanted to be sane about it all.

So, I put the numbers down on paper and realized that I had plenty of money. In fact, if I am a bit careful about my spending during the month of August, I’ll be able to complete my contractual payment obligation to my Engineer, visit Thailand for more or less than a month, and land back in Taiwan with about four times as much cash as I started with this last time I landed here.

So, I told my employer today that I just wasn’t willing to sign on for another year. I apologized if I’d misled her and I explained that I was getting burned out and I was trying to make the best decision for my own sense of well-being. She actually said if I ever change my mind, she will be happy to sign another contract with me. Wow…..  a better outcome than I could have reasonably hoped for.

What do I notice with all of this? I had grown stagnant in ways I hadn’t imagined. And the need to organize things and pare stuff down is already breathing energy back into my rutted oxcart.

I plan to do a 10 day long Vipassana meditation retreat in Thailand, and I’m nervous about whether I’ll have the courage and the metal it takes to actually get the practice to work. Some part of me flirts with certainty that I’ll end up in the bottom 10%, some lack of courage or wherewithal preventing me from getting much out of it, forever thinking of it as “meh” while my inner knowing of my own failure in the matter gnaws at me forever — only to go back and try again years later, and get only some scant success with it then.

But I’m hoping that’s not the case. As much as all this fear of failure and inadequacy is bugging the shit out of me, I’m excited to move towards some progress, at least waking me up to an extent. Insight, clarity, growth and inspiration are worth a lot more than money in most cases.

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So I was considering what to do with my job situation. I asked my supervisor for an opinion in order to strike up a conversation to keep the lines of communication open in case I wanted to sign another contract with them. Also, I needed to know something about the number of vacation days on the contract which, as it is written, is quite ambiguous. Depending on the interpretation of that, I was ready to sign up again immediately.

She was initially almost in tears asking me if I was going to marry my girlfriend. This threw me a little off, because I thought my supervisor had gotten over her attraction to me and just considered me a friend. I made a pretty dismissive comment about the idea in order to calm her down and then proceeded to talk to her about the amount of vacation time I would have.

Now, I’ve been in friendly enough terms with my supervisor that she already knows I want to take a ten day Vipassana meditation time. Also, she knows I was speaking with a Zen teacher a well. What was interesting was the amount of condemnation she ended up heaping onto my wanting to do these things. She is, herself, a Buddhist and had scheduled a meeting with a famous teacher on the South of the island during Chinese new year. Instead of attending the meeting, she cancelled it and rode horses all week long.

Now, what’s interesting is the elaborate reasoning she comes up with about my spending time meditating. The thing is, she does it in a way that appears quite well-meaning, and remarkably sincere. Her favorite is, “you probably already have the answers” to which I responded, “yes, perhaps, but I am looking for a teacher or some time to spend to help me see them for what they are” and she goes on that I’m impatient (to which I respond, I’m not hurting to wait, but I’m also not trying to waste any time) or that I’m being selfish (to which I respond, I am kind to others, but it seems that if I’m completely lost, I may not even know what kindness IS) or that I think too much (but anyone whose spent time meditating has discovered that yes, you think WAY THE FUCK TOO MUCH, and meditation is the only hope you have to get that chatter to cease)….

How sincere and reasonable she is in all this, enough that I found it unsettling. Mind you, it didn’t seem like “attacks” or anything at the time. I am sure that in her mind, it’s all kindness and “realistic” ways of thinking of things (as if pragmatism demands selling one’s soul to join some world of conformity). I was thrown off by all this until I remembered the beginning of the conversation. Then I remembered that she is in love with me and wants me to stay near her, and every things she says is to serve that purpose. Does SHE even realize this?  My guess is no.

Pretty much everything is a tactic, a ruse, or a strategy. Even being honest just gives one a personal sense of justification, and a socially granted one as well. Ghandi, along with plenty of Jewish scholars and Christian theologians, pointed out that Jesus’s ideas about turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, and giving someone who sues you for a cloak, your shirt along with it might have been very strategically useful for the oppressed Jews of his time. I’m not saying that it’s ‘wrong’ in any sense, to use whatever method one feels is most congruent and effective in order to finish a task, I’m just saying that it is what it is.

I teach kids. I see this every day. Doing well on a test gets appreciation and acceptance from teachers and parents, and a boost to mood and feelings of personal security and well-being. 99% of my kids don’t give a shit about learning ENGLISH per se. When someone sees a reason to learn it, like my student who loves computers and noticed that the BIOS is always in English, my job is easy and they learn quickly. Until they get inspired, I just manipulate social cookies to coerce and convince them to do what I want them to. It’s a sickening game sometimes.

“Following the rules” may be anything from a way to manipulate others into giving one what one wants to a way to feel justified in self-pity when things don’t go one’s way. “Nice” is a nice way to create a reality that believes oneself to be a “good person” or some such crap. At the worst, ones self righteousness is a game to build ones own ego without reproach because you can threaten anyone that gives you a well-deserved ass kicking else with state violence. The thing is, I’ve played all these games, and I watch kids do it, and I watch people do it, and I’m sick and fucking tired of it, in myself more than anybody else!

So, it’s hard as fuck to know what I’m doing right now. I’ve looked inside myself and seen the same thing. I, yes I, use an immense amount of sincerity as a means to an ends… I use a ‘pragmatic approach’ sometimes, or a ‘ruthless’ one, or ‘the one that fits the situation’ but it all seems to be ego-gratifying as well as basically self-serving WHATEVER I do. What I would give right now to know my own truest intention!

From a standpoint of innocence and pure intention, means is irrelevant. You are always choosing means anyways, to serve whatever intention you have. And until I am coming from a standpoint of innocence and pure intention, even honesty is a lie.

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Years ago I took the LSAT.  I kept pre-testing in the 169-170 range with occasional tests as high as 174. And I was time constraining myself, using real LSATs, etc. I even did things like take the worst of four to six test sections in order to try and lower my score. So I felt quite excited about taking the test.

Well, test day came and I bombed it at 164. A mere 90th percentile borders on a waste of test paper when it’s one that 150,000 people take every year. At least that’s how I felt about it. I wrote good essays and applied late to a few schools.  I had some acceptances and some decent scholarship offers. At the end of it all I opted not to go when it was time to sign for loans. I didn’t really want to be chained to law school and debt. Maybe the gods were looking out for me when I got that crappy score, since I think I’m better off not having gone. It would have been harder to say “no” to Columbia U.

Just this morning I woke up with one of those flights of fancy where I was considering taking the test again. I think I could do a lot better. My kung fu is better, and I have a clearer mind.  Maybe I could get a near perfect score and go to Harvard or something. The funny thing is I no longer even have aspirations to become a lawyer. I like my life as a teacher, designer, and indy manufacturer, which are probably more congruent with my character anyways.

But I still got such a cool feeling from thinking about it, considering what it would be like to do it. It’s so easy to think through possibilities and get all kinds of tingly pleasurable feelings. And for once I realized that must be my real intention, the peaceful blissful feeling the fantasy gives me. Even when I’m working towards doing it, in the middle of the difficult parts, I’m thinking it may be that feeling of bliss based on the fantasy of where it will take me that keeps me going. I’m bothered by the notion that might be my real main intention.

So this morning I said “fuck it” for a few minutes and just enjoyed that feeling, since it seems to be all I want most of the time anyways. This got me reflecting on my business. I wonder if I could set aside those feelings for awhile and have a clearer head about the steps I can take to make my manufacturing venture more successful. Thus far, lovely designs, pre-orders, generating buzz…  all that is just serving the purpose of giving me some sort of high. I suspect getting paid will make me feel the same. It’s not as if I don’t have plenty of money now, so what does more of it do for me?

But if that’s REALLY my only intention, effectively an ego gratification, then why not just enjoy the fantasy, draw it all out….  of one falls through, pick up another one. I’m afraid I might do just that. In fact, I’m wondering at this point just how much I *am* doing just that, with Wujifa, meditation, business, even my relationship with my lover. Surely this begs me to look further, to see if I have intentions beyond just feeling bright, shiny, and blissed out.

And why do these fantasies make me feel those lovely feelings? Maybe because the thoughts of my goals make me feel special, stroke my ego, gratify my sense of self. I determined awhile ago that my fear seems to be lack of something to identify with, to think of myself as being. But SURELY there has to be worthy intention beyond that empty naval-gazing roller coaster of a life. At the very least, I must have some intention beyond sensations. What is it?

Perhaps if I knew then I would take my Wujifa practice more seriously, make better decisions in my business, and contribute more to my students. Maybe I would find more depth in my relationship with my girlfriend, and contribute better insight to her.

Perhaps I could get past this plateau in meditation.

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“The method is medicine”

“Method is not the truth, once you get the feeling, get rid of the method.  But even feeling can become a method at some point.”

“It’s okay to take medicine when you’re sick, but if you keep taking the medicine after you’re better, it becomes dysfunctional.”

So I started noticing major gaps in my perception.  For instance, why was I willing to gloss over major issues in the film “Eat, Pray, Love” when almost every human in the free world seems to realize that movie was hollow, vapid, and patronizing.  Even as I watched it and felt the vapidness of the spirituality portrayed, some of the underlying spite in the main character, and got pissed at the way she treated her teacher, I sort of set that at the edge of my consciousness and thought, “well, she’s being braver than most people I’ve met.”

Likewise, I’ll admit, for a long time, in a tough situation I will sometimes not trust my feeling when I listen to someone.  Instead of intuition, I look to one of two things, “What is this person REFUSING or TERRIFIED to consider?” and “What is irrationally pissing this person off?”  Normally one of those two things will reveal where someone is stuck.  They’re quite effective.  But of course, resorting to those two methods every time has a deadness to it.  This is rooted in my fundamental lack of trust in myself.

Frankly, I’m refusing to and terrified of trusting myself, or of trying to step out and move and live and flow in the reality of the moment, instead leaning back on method to avoid taking the tougher steps.  This has been showing up to me for months in my Qi Kung.  When I get to a certain particular spot, it’s like I’ve absolutely done as much as I can with the Qi Kung I’m comfortable with, and I start needing to do some new excercises, specifically some that are challenging or even scary for me….  I can even go into that to a certain extent…  but there’s something, a blind spot, a space where I turn away and distract myself as rapidly as possible.

So I got wrapped up in studying Chinese.  On top of that, I started obsessing over it.  And then being a coward about it on top of that.  Moreover, I was taking every mistake I made too personally….  even making it into a wedge between my girlfriend and I.

And lately, I’m blocking something so drastically that I’ve nearly had four or five motorcycle accidents this week.  That’s from “nearly having” ZERO for the whole year I’ve been here.  I’m a good driver folks, and I can speed around on one of these things with major margins of error to play with….  now, suddenly, I’m almost running into people because I’m not looking?  What gives?

More spelling errors and such… The kinds of things no one else would notice (except some of my kids), but they reveal to me that I’m just thinking differently.  Why?  How?  Well, three things come to mind that I might be avoiding::

Something to do with Cheryl.  Obviously it’s intimidating to build a close relationship with somebody.  I do catch myself blocking my own energy and not making as free and easy of a connection sometimes in the days leading up to when I’ll see her.  I don’t know if it’s a pattern or something I can deal with with her, or what.  I’ll see her this weekend and just be honest about it when I’m talking to her.  At least we’re both honest about our intentions and how we feel….  that should be helpful.

Something to do with my business.  Obiously I’d like this to be successful.  But of course there’s a lot of hard work.  It’s easy to want to obscure innaction and laziness with “patience.”  I think I actually know how to manage this effectively and I seldom don’t know what the next step or two is that I should take….  yet it’s easy to not want to do anything.

My Qi Kung, and meditation….  okay, I’m sure there IS something here.  First of all, I haven’t been meditating very much for the last couple of months.  Maybe when I ended my previous addiction, it left me with a big space…  like, wow…  what do I do?  I know that sounds kind of stereotypical, but there is something to it.  Also, I get scared sometimes when my meditation connects me with a sense of eternity or timelessness…..  And my Qi Kung.  It’s easy to not want to go past a certain point, like I said above.  But not just because the excercise is scary, but because the results, like the meditation, can also be difficult to deal with….  Some part of me wants to settle into what I’ve learned and just stay there forever.

I’m reminded of how it seems like things always go the smoothest with Cheryl when I am constantly aware of the truth that everything changes.  So I never expect to sit our relationship down on one spot and keep it there forever.  It’s nice when things have a predictability for awhile, but I always proceed with the awareness that things evolve and change.  I never know exactly where they’re going, or when they’ll shift, but all I can seemingly do is observe all this peacefull.  That’s been a very fruitful attitude to have.

Maybe I should start applying this to my business, meditation and Qi Kung…. After all, Wujifa is nothing but Daoism in Practice.  “In the Dao, Everything Changes.”  What did you expect?

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Proust’s Madeleine refers to a monument that resonates with many readers, a fan’s favorite in his writings.  A madeleine is a kind of small French cake, usually with ribbed lines across it.  Proust recalls eating one and being reminded of something.  Sitting and pondering, reaching deep into his mind for the remembrance, as he continued sniffing and tasting the little cake.  Finally, all at once in a great flash, the taste and smell involuntarily and instantaneously drew him back to his grandmother’s house when he was ten, recalling eating one of them.

He recounts this experience, not with the flavor of a “triggered memory,” but as actually being there again, being transported completely, in his senses, to that experience.  It is as if for a brief moment, he’d traveled through time.  He was the ten year old boy, in his grandmother’s house.  One can use the phrase, “ma madeleine de Proust” to refer to the trigger of such an experience.  As far as I can tell, to be properly referred to as “Une Madeleine de Proust“, an experience must be a) involuntary and b) drag one into a past experience.

In a similar manner, I notice that little feelings sometimes allow us to gauge where we now are, and to compare the present moment to the past.  Not in as grand a fashion as a person’s Madeleine de Proust in the sense that most people will make that reference, but in the way that we relate to people, places, and objects.  Perhaps a person gives one a familiar feeling, and a sense of ease…  maybe that person carries a similar scent, or way of walking and speaking, or a similar set of tension and ease as a former lover, or an old friend.  In other words, in a small way, that arrangement of movements and scents and words will transport us kinesthetically, to a past experience.  Thus is it “une petite madeline de Proust.”

However, I would argue that it can happen without people being aware of it.  It is simply that they will have a good familiar feeling.  I often think that in this way people go on seeking to repeat the same set of experiences again and again, but not really noticing how it happens.  I have come to suspect that much of our moral imagination is formed of such links to our past.  That a house can be built, and a life can be lived within that house, consisting of things that one has chosen for the kinesthetic reality they create for that person, the lovely little things they constantly drag from one’s long lost years.  But it is merely a house of cakes, “une maison des petites madeleines.”

Isn’t it true that a new person one meets, or a new place one visits, if utterly alien, will be far more challenging than the “instant ease” we judge things by as being “good?”  It is as if “instant ease” or “a sense of initial familiarity” were a sign from God that we’ve found a person or place we belong with right now.  It is only a small leap from one’s feeling of ease and rightness to one’s sense of what is “right” and “wrong.”  This is the reason I have said that the “moral imagination” is linked to the “house of cakes” I have described.  Perhaps it is only a sign that we’ve found une petite madeleine and some feature of that person or place has simply drawn us back to a time when we felt comfortable or happy or else the petite madeleine simply refers to something we like about ourselves.

I write all this from the perspective of a traveler.  I have lived 8800 miles from where I was born for around two years.  Long enough for it to feel like “home.”  I have also felt love for places spread across Europe and the U.S.  Moreover, some types of people are incredibly easy for me to get along with.  The Irish are known for being friendly.  The Taiwanese are very helpful and usually try very hard to impress foreigners.  The provincial French are easygoing, laid back little people, among whom I could easily unwind many years.  I can ultimately interact with all these people with similar rules of politeness to what I would use at my parent’s church, and expect similar responses.

Another example: I know well the scent of autumn, and it is striking because it blurs my reality by being the same scent in Atlanta and in Taipei.  The familiarity the scent creates, here by the Taiwan Straight, on this rogue island off the coast of an ancient empire, takes me to any number of times I’ve walked through my grandparents’ field, or the forests of North GA mountains, or sat on the porch of the house I grew up in.  It creates that reality around me.  Smells are so powerful this way.

However, at a documentary film festival, I recently watched a film that stunned me:  “Let’s Be Together.”  The film depicted a Danish boy who was a serious cross-dresser.  He identified himself as a boy, and seemed to enjoy being a boy, and he later admitted that he liked boys, and man-oh-man he liked to rock some fancy 6″ heels.  Such queer material was not what was stunning, indeed it is a bit old hat for me.  But the culture in which it appeared was utterly alien to my senses.

The Danes he lived with weren’t too bothered by his behavior.  One must bear in mind, Denmark is a country where, if he was transgendered, he could probably start taking hormones around age 13 or 14, probably have surgery after 18.  Also this country is one where a bunch of hippies once took over a military base in the 1970s.  Instead of the government either shooting or arresting all the hippies, they just let them keep the installation and run it as an independent government within the city of Copenhagen.  This prefecture still exists and is called “Christiania.”  In other words, the Danes are coming from a radically different place than what I’m used to.  Any country I have lived in generally views transgendered as some sort of disease and would have arrested those hippies forthwith, not given them their own independent government!

The boy’s father was Brazilian.  I was amazed at the way he spoke to his son.  He was emotionally transparent.  Initially I thought he was being overly angry as he seemed to be reacting intensely.  Also, the father was a masculine guy and most masculine fathers get threatened by the first show of femininity in their sons — or so I have seen in cultures I know.  But this guy was different.  In his honesty and transparency he revealed that his concern was that the boy would alienate himself from society and therefore face physical danger and fail to find love.

The father (apparently a clothier) was fine with making a dress for his son so the boy could be Cleopatra at his 15th birthday party.  As his expert hands sewed on sequins, the dad shared stories with his son about how he was lost and confused at 15; but he found a man he fell in love with and had a sexual relationship with, who helped him find his way.  This is all very interesting because the father also had a wife at the time of the movie.  But he told his child about gay loves and straight loves.  And concluded the long conversation with the words, “this is all I want for you, for you to find this happiness that was so important for me.”

What?!  I cannot imagine such a conversation between a father and a son in my culture.  This was a conversation in which the boy was viewed with respect as a person with some right to privacy and choosing his own way.  The father brought concerns only to help the boy find all the best in life — not blushing at any aspect of sexuality or discovery.  And the father shared his own very personal experiences, with frankness and emotional honesty throughout!  Mon Dieu!

Back to the Danes: The boy’s stepfather took him fishing, and treated him perfectly well.  He didn’t even seem phased by the fact that the kid had taken to such extreme behavior (though he refused to spend 200 USD on a pair of sunglasses).  The stepfather and the mom only seemed to care that her son might be hurt (physically) by some ignorant kids.  Moreover, the way the family interacted just had a tone to it which was completely different than what I have known.  Their formalities and informalities, their tension and ease, were in places that did not resemble any family I have ever seen in my life.

The strange thing is that the Danish family and the Brazilian family initially gave me a very dark feeling.  I felt uncomfortable, and I put up a kind of moral judgement about them.  After a little while, I noticed that this sense of “evil” was because their ways of doing things were putting me in a kinesthetic feeling I only knew as “evil.”  But once I set that aside, and watched them….  I realized that nothing they did could be called “evil” in the sense that if they, or even all the world, acted that way it would bring any harm to people, either in their bodies or their souls.  It was simply an “evil” by my own tribe, the one I have left, and perhaps the one whose soil I stand on now.

But that sense of evil, what is it?  It is just a trip into another place, another time, something dredging the depths of my brain and dragging me back to my childhood where I see my father’s lips recoiling into a grimace when certain things come to pass.  Or hurling me headlong into my grandmother’s house, where I see her self-righteous smile as she pronounces God’s judgement on certain “wickedness.”  Or my mother’s tightening jaw as she sees a thing, and wonders how she’ll speak of it to me, because “God says that’s wrong.”  In other words, whether I have been aware of this or not, many of my moral feelings just come back to my own “Petites Madelienes des Proust.”  And it was only in opening myself up to something difficult, where I wanted to put up barriers and judgments, that I was able to see that kind of morality for the tribal superstition that it is.

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“All sickness comes from loneliness. ALL.”

Loneliness. To feel incomplete, empty, unfulfilled – to yearn for something you feel you don’t have yet. In an illusion of time, to forget about timelessness. To constantly journey to fill oneself up, to walk to and fro, from school to work to retirement, every now and then being hit with loneliness and falling sick. And when the loneliness is really gripping, it manifests into greater diseases. If you don’t want to fall sick, all you have to do is find your completeness – to be self-sustained – self-fulfilled. Because to feel incomplete is to leave yourself feeling broken, only half-fixed, half created, easy to fall apart. Even structurally, no half-constructed building can last nor stand firm. Then, how can the body, when the mind feels incomplete?

So lately, my social life has about been a bust.  It seems that many times I’ve tried to go out and socialize, romantically or just with pals, a million things have gotten in my way.  If I go to all the trouble to get out to Taipei, then something bad happens, stuff gets complicated, someone can’t meet with me, I get sick, wires get crossed and meeting times are mixed up, etc, etc, etc.  It’s been a strange situation.  Part of it is because I live in a somewhat remote location now.  It takes a lot of effort or expense (often both) for me to go anywhere that other people will be.

And I’ve had the most persistent sickness I have ever had in my life.  It started with a fever.  Then I had a week of being unable to speak.  I had a week or two of a cold.  I had one week when I could barely hear at all.  I had gotten used to it almost, having been sick for 7 whole weeks.  I had adapted to the point where I just accepted I couldn’t do much on the weekends and wondered if I should cancel business meetings and tutoring sessions during the week.  It’s been wretched.

I know some things require moving through with definite intention (optimally like Qi Kung pushing hands — always moving forward but never resisting).  And I know some things require not fighting and just going with the flow, the intention being acceptance.  I’ve not really known if this is a time to notice what choices I’m making and move forward, to seek the answer to this situation and make a new choice, or just sit back and accept that it will all work out.

But, Saturday night I went to a concert.  I had heard about it through a new friend who lives in a different city.  When I arrived, I checked my email and discovered my grandmother seems to be winding down, finishing up, getting ready to leave this planet.  It was a bit odd because I really only found out by reading facebook updates from my family.  I felt saddened, or at least very introspective.  Had I done a good job of treating her well when I was there?  Did I make peace with her when she was alive?  Is there anything else I need to do to contribute to my family?  What about the situation with my uncle, should I use this opportunity to speak with him?  Could he listen and maybe bond with his brother during this time of grieving?  I almost decided not to go to the show.  But after walking around for awhile and eating some M&Ms, I went back to the concert hall and walked in.

I am very glad as the music was quite special.  The band had a vibe light seeing beauty in darkness.  They played these wide, expansive washes of synths and distorted guitars that morphed easily from bright light to pulsating darkness with stark echoing vocals overlaid upon them.  Underneath, the beats made the music very danceable.  The snippets of lyric here and there were consistent with this vibe . . .  all from a tight and experienced professional band.

Now, my friend who had told me about this band is rather into movies and music that put one against the darker side of life.  Her favorite movies are very intense ones and the music she loves has all these textures of life, like i described above.  As the show progressed and I got into the vibe, I felt that the band’s purpose really was to help people see beauty in loss and uncertainty and certain universal senses of darkness.  I could feel the foreboding aspect of the beautiful washes of sound really affecting the people around me at a primal level, even as I felt the music driving me to see above the ocean of hopelessness we can sometimes feel as humans….  To dance on those vibes was to truly see the light in the darkness.

Of course, music like this, like a good story, is discovered, and the band could replace any of its members — the music is of a popular sort nowadays and it feels like it has an important purpose, even if it is subconscious to most listeners.

Also, the way I was dancing and paying attention to the music helped me to feel it much more deeply.  I was taking a Wujifa stance to dance from, which felt as if I were moving the whole world underneath me with my feet.  This enhanced the awareness of my own heart being the center of the entire universe, and of the feeling that everyone in the room was myself reflecting back to me…  it was even as if the lights and the support beams were one with me, and just myself speaking back to me (this is a meditation that a close friend of mine had suggested — but until that night I hadn’t been able to do it without a lot of effort and concentration).  The dance felt like a powerful Earthquake.  Earthquakes are one of my favorite things in the whole world.

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After the show, I met my friend from Taichung who had told me about the show.  Actually, I had met a few other people, including the band that I was to see on Sunday night.  Those guys were really cool.  However, I and my friend from Taichung were quite excited to see each other.  We got to spend a little time walking around, hanging out.  But she had also come with a work friend (mostly, I think, as she didn’t have any money and needed someone to give her a bit of a loan).  So, though I would have loved to have just sat in a coffee house and chatted with this girl into the night, or walked around a park, we needed to part ways so they could get to their hotel room.

Several of my pals were at a birthday party at a club, but I decided I wasn’t in the mood to go dancing.  So I called another friend, who invited me to come by her house.  Both of us have clearly had sexual intentions for some time.  However, after I was around her for a few minutes, I started to get the clear feeling that she really needed someone to speak with.  She told me a very long story about the last few months of her life, and what had been drawing her down towards feeling depressed and self-hating.  Also, she’s lost a lot of friends recently, which is always sad.  She asked me for advice.  I gave her advice on the practicalities of a dispute she was in.

But more importantly, as we talked, it came out that she had been trying to live more authentically.  I shared something I say to a lot of people, but most people don’t seem to really grok.  I said that it’s very easy to use the truth as a way to market myself.  Like I have my collection of stories I tell under certain circumstances.  I can gather from a situation if it would be good for someone to think of me more in one light or another, more safe or more sexual, more respectable or more badass, more femme or more masculine, etc, etc….  so I can just cherry pick the truth to build the vibe I want for whatever my intention is.  This is 90% of why I am very socially savvy.

I told her about this and told her I’m pretty sick of doing this kind of marketing and I want, more than anything else, to just be real and honest all the time.  She actually felt the same way, and was beginning to try and do this herself.  It was so nice just to share that with someone.  By the time we’d finished talking, I was sack tired, and also the sexual vibe had kind of melted away…  I went to sleep feeling a bit lonely.  I had come over and largely done for someone else.  I guess this girl also told me a couple of times that she loves me, which makes me tend to tread quite carefully.

Beyond that, the vibe wasn’t quite there for me.  I mean, when she came back out wearing her underwear, I felt astonishingly turned on.  But at the same time, it’s very easy to look at a person and feel where they’re coming from and know what it would be to share time with them…  to have them in my bed…  to spend time being romantic or just to fuck.  Honestly, I just don’t feel it with this girl.  Not that I don’t like her.  It’s only that right now I don’t think she has the feeling I’m looking for.

I say I went to sleep feeling a bit lonely — actually, I was feeling very lonely.  I think the reality of my grandmother’s death was still sinking in, along with just feeling dog tired.  And the girl was clearly playing with where her emotional barriers were with me.  My guess is that she couldn’t tell if she felt safe with me or not…  and all that oddness, moments of extreme openness mixed with distance and pushing away, was taxing me as well.

Immediately after I fell asleep, Taiwan had its first Earthquake in months.  A very large one by everyone’s account.

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I woke up sicker still.  Sunday was pretty bad.  Monday was far worse, and I had to work on Monday.  But by Monday evening, I was starting to feel it waning.  I bought some whiskey and honey, damming the codeine cough syrups and decongestants that the doctors had given me, and sipped at a half shot of each.  Then I decided to go to the hospital, as I was in reality very very sick.

Now, I hadn’t expected much from this visit, as I’d gone to the doctor on average almost once a week since getting sick.  People spoke with me as if I must have neglected this illness in order to have been sick for so long.  But once again, the doctor told me this isn’t something that can be treated by antibiotics.  He gave me those SOLELY to prevent a secondary infection, but just gave more decongestants and told me to try and keep my sinuses unobstructed.

But I’d already started feeling myself getting tuned back into a sense of wholeness.  I have to be honest and say I haven’t fully gotten it yet.  However, I can feel it as one choice to be made, one current to be tapped into.  And perhaps I can learn to let go of the attachments that I see so starkly clear that created the loneliness that plunged me into such a long and intense sickness to begin with.  Attachments to companionship, mostly.

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