I've said a few times now that I believe this "Chinese chapter" of my journey has been about learning to see.
Parachuting into a country where you don't speak the language and the culture is so entirely different does funny things to your vision. I was here for almost 8 months before I started Mandarin classes, but that was not wasted time. Missing 95% of what is said around you opens your eyes. I decided very early on that I could either be frustrated by this inability to communicate, or I could smile, look people in the eye and pay attention.
And the things I saw!
Mostly, I started to see beauty. Not just beautiful things, not just beautiful places, not just beautiful people. I started to see beauty as a form. It's almost as if I had lost my sense of hearing (in a comprehending way) so my sense of sight compensated. I actually think it's more than that--it's a new sense entirely--but the comparison is useful.
Then as I started to pick up a little Mandarin the experience changed again. First I learned to see beauty, then I learned to connect with it.
And now it's time to return to Canada for the next chapter.
I get that some people think I live a strange life. I call it "decidedly non-linear", and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Over the years I've learned to trust my instincts. After all, we're made in the image of the Divine, so for the most part, I think our instincts can be trusted. So while I can't explain to you why it's time, I know that it is.
A few weeks ago Richard Rohr sent out a daily meditation titled "It's All About How You See". Obviously that caught my attention. At the risk of relying on the good Father too much in this space, here's what he had to say:
I think the contemplative mind is the most absolute assault on the secular or rational worldview, because it really is a different mind—a very different point of view—that pays attention to different things.
The mind that I call the “small self” or the “false self” reads everything in terms of personal advantage and short-term effort. “What’s in it for me?” “How will I look?” “How will I look good?” As long as you read reality from the reference point of the small self of “how I personally feel” or “what I need or want,” you cannot get very far. The lens never opens up.
Thus, the great religions have taught that we need to change the seer much more than just telling people what to see—that is contemplation. It does not tell people what to see as much as how to see.
Reading those words, I realized that this was what this experience had helped me with.
As I said, it's time. On September 30 I'll fly from Xiamen to Beijing and on to Toronto. I'll spend a couple weeks in Ontario with my family, then it will be on to Vancouver. Of course there's the minor matter of employment to deal with, and I'll need to update my resume... assuming I can find it! It's a strange resume, that's for sure.
I'm sad to be leaving China, but I'm confidant that the timing is right. I have no doubt I'll be back here some day, I'm just not sure in what capacity that will be. I'm leaving full of gratitude for this place, this experience, the incredible people who have come into my life, and for the way all of it has changed me.
Afterword: While I no longer buy into the dualistic thinking, thinking about this post brought me back to this song. This is the Holly Cole Trio at their exquisite best. Enjoy.