It's been a wonderful weekend, full of portents of the past and present and future. I just said goodbye to my friend Raquel, possibly for the last time in a long time, not for the last time ever: I promised to see her again, no matter where I have to go to do so. Maybe China again, on a short visit; maybe some other country, as she's hoping to travel the world herself. Maybe I'll have the pleasure of hosting her in Portland someday. I hope so.
I met Raquel during my brief stay in Shenzhen; we were staying in a hostel together; we stayed up all night talking, woke up after scant sleep and talked some more. She's a student in Beijing, studying Spanish, and having a better grasp on English than any other Chinese person I've met here -- the subtleties, the nuances, the slang -- and a connection to subculture that's rare here, but somewhere in there I'm also at least half in love, in such a way that I don't know whether I'd be more so or less so if there were a possibility of seeing her in the long term. Probably it would settle out to the kind of romantic friendship heron61
talks much about. That's not in the cards, though. It's enough to just connect and go our separate ways with the promise of a future meeting.
There are so many people like that in my life -- people I love deeply but don't live near -- and when I think of them I think again of the idea I had several years ago, of asking these people to select small images to tattoo in a row on my skin. Maybe someday I'll know where it goes.
While I was walking with her and another American today, a reporter (for apparently a large newspaper!) stopped us to ask what we thought about the earthquake. I said that I thought it was a terrible tragedy, that I was glad the pandas are safe, and that my hope for the future is that China will learn to build buildings the way they do in California. Which about sums up my thoughts.
Saying that, I realized that I'm still the person who looks at a tragedy and says, what good can come of this?
Seven years haven't changed it. I often fear it makes me come off as callous, but Raquel pointed out that right now, people are becoming intensely superstitious about all the frightening events in China this year and what they mean about the Olympics, and optimism can only do good.
I learned also that the tension has led to some gay bars being shut down and others going quiet, which is why I did not have the opportunity to do a drag show this weekend. I am angry about this, and also frightened: it means that they're not
acting based on what the powerful countries will realistically
perceive of China, since of the first-world nations, the US is pretty much bringing up the rear on acceptance of queer people, and the US isn't shutting down gay bars. They're acting based on some twisted mirror image that doesn't exist in the world outside.
More diplomatically, I said to the reporter when she asked me, People are too nervous about the Olympics and they need to relax. Everything will go better if they relax.
I hope that gets out there if anything does.
I'm going to see the Great Wall tomorrow, and going to get up stupidly early to do it. I'll be quite exhausted by the time I go back to Yangzhou and sleeping on the train probably won't help. But now I'm in the process of saying my goodbyes to China, and feel the urgency of transience in a way I haven't before.
Yesterday I visited the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. I have not so much to say about the latter except that the feel of the place reminded me of the feel of the Washington Monument, which, when you think about it: oh, just think about it. Ugh. Moving on.
The Forbidden City -- the ancient palace complex -- was fascinating. I saw relatively little of it; it would take multiple visits to really complete the exploration; but I walked among as much of it as I could. The grounds themselves interested me more than the museum, especially from the point at which I began to experience fragments of story.
This was in one tier of... a walled stone area that must have been a garden, once, by the look of it. In my mind there was the story of a child, a small girl playing in the garden, with the sort of extremely internalized thoughts children have. And then I thought: Is that my own mind generating story, as I've always assumed, or am I experiencing a ghost?
When I visit certain kinds of places I get fragments of stories around them; it's a writer thing. It's always happened and I've never really questioned it.
I opened up my mind a little more and tried to experience the drifts of whatever else might be caught on the stones, and I got a few more distinct moments like that, including one which was more or less backed up by the information on a sign which I saw a minute later.
Yesterday I theorized that I might be engaging a kind of mental time travel -- which is how I think of ghosts, at least of the common "here is a moment repeated" kind: either that moment's thoughts are travelling forward to meet your mind or your mind is travelling backward to meet that one. (Theoretically, you can also run into others who are travelling backward to meet you, but I'm not all that sure what they're going to look like.)
Now, this is the kind of person I am: Is it my mind making story or are these fragments related to people from the past? Or people from story-land who are hanging out around pieces of history? Who knows! Who cares! It is what it is.
I know that I am a story-making thing, and I'm part of a story-making machinery, not all of which exists inside of me.
(In fact, the above could be a statement of the nature of my belief in God.)
But as I contemplated all of this I remembered that belief itself
is an act of Will; a choice made from moment to moment.
Who I am is what I make of my reality.
And to some people that might be a cynical thought, but for me it just makes me love the world more.
The bug pills are helping my wrists some but I am still mostly off the internets. Trying to get better all the way. So this may be the last for a while. Take care out there in computerland, kids.