The Whole World

Listen to a tale of how the whole world came to be
Sit on my lap and sink in close to me.
God rose at dawn, fell asleep by a well
Took man from an atom
And descended to hell
It was then that he saw
How the great sun grew bright
He put up stars in the sky
To make that thing we call “night”
With blue boomerang balls of fire in fists
Blazed rock laden coasts with the air we call “mist”
Moonbeams and sunstreams and water did not
Exsist at this moment for God had forgot
The Goddess inside and her good word delight
Spreading an unyielding love upon a vibration called fright
So they danced and they withered with some special light
Not the kind you turn on, but the kind you ignite
And they waded and walled in all of that pain
Thinking that one day, in some dimension we’d exist on this plane
of projects and problems and death’s brutal brew
so that I could sit here my dear one, and feed it to you
Advertisements

Ode to 艾 and 爱 (Ode to Ai and Love)

— I’m not doing the quote full justice, and there’s much more I want to say on this but here is the story for now —
Today I went to go see Ai Wei Wei’s “Never Sorry” at the Hirshorn Museum.  It’s been over five years since I’ve seen the film. To be honest, at this point I define my life by “life before I went to China” and “life after I lived in China.” Most ex-pats who have lived there for any extended period of time might agree. The place changes you. I was curious – how would I feel about the film this time?
When I saw the movie five years ago, I went with a group of four Chinese teachers my father had dragged along with us. I respect my dad so much – for years Chinese teachers have been visiting his school and he always connected with them so beautifully – inviting them to dinners, Christmas, taking them shopping for groceries, and supporting them just as humans who needed to be seen and understood. Of course, having a bit of a radial edge, he always wanted to dig deeper into their experience. What was life in China really like? Were they a part of the Party? Were they religious? What was life like for their grandparents during Community rule?
So he took them to the film. Big mistake? Maybe. They yelled at the host leading the Q&A after the film. He was also Chinese. He originally came to the US to get his degree in engineering at CMU, but started learning about Chinese history in the 20th century, and switched his degree to nonprofit management. He had been working as a coordinator for wealthy Chinese high school students coming to the US. When I asked him afterwards what the Chinese teachers were saying to him he said, “They think Ai Wei Wei is a nobody, not important, worthy to be ignored. They are still so brainwashed by Chinese propaganda.”
When I saw the movie today, I noticed people in the theater laughed a lot at Ai’s antics. He is quite a hilarious activist, a modern day jester if you will.  There’s certainly shadow side to Ai in this context. He makes those privileged in the US feel safe in our complicity. To  feel good that we “aren’t” China. We are here, in a museum watching an activist film, for free, on a Sunday. I probably watched the film the first time in similar fashion. Amazed, fascinated, curious and in awe of the man. Knowing that “over there” people lived in repression and thankfully we had free access to art, music and culture. A dangerous dose of some American exceptionalism I was born into: the illusion of pure free expression.
My viewing of this film this time around was much more…human.
I cried much more than I laughed. I sobbed seeing schools destroyed by the Earthquake in Sichuan province in 2008, due to shoddy construction of “tofu-brick” buildings in schools in poor areas; meaning, tuition funds go to a fat salary for an official comes before the price of a student’s life in a safely constructed building. I cringed at the moments when Ai sat in the hospital photographing himself wearing a bandage on his head after being assaulted by the police. The audience laughed, but here I saw a man in pain, trapped in a cage he could not escape, no matter how humorous his approach.
When I came to Washington, DC in 2013 for an interview with Teach for China, I remember heading over to Hirschhorn afterwards, alone, to see Ai’s “According to What?” exhibit. Always was my favorite museum after all. I saw the backpacks of every student killed in the Earthquake lining the ceiling, the names of dead children lining the walls, read aloud by many different voices.
Knowing, in my heart at the time, these students and families would one day be a part of my own world. People I connected with, played music with, shared meals with, attended religious services with (Yes! religion exists in China!), talked about love and relationships with, danced with, cried with, spent the night in their humble homes with.
Today I sat shocked, at the lengths an artist must go to in order to humanize himself to the Other.

In Your Eyes Now

I am in your eyes now
Fall out through some and valleys
Fall into that lost space
I am in your eyes now

Falling for formations
Motion set to pass
For I am in your eyes now

Rising sun and rising moon
Set apart and set too soon
I am in your eyes now

Too late to find a friend
One with motion, one with end
For I dream too much
And able to say as such
That I am in your eyes now

The Child

我要让孩子长成的样子

而不要我期待的样子

因为我知道孩子并不属于我

他只是经由我来到这个世界

去完成他自己的梦想和使命

I want the child to grow into the way he wants to grow into

Not what I expected

Because I know the child does not belong to me

He just came to this world through me

To complete his own dreams and missions