The Death of Meaning in the East and West
“Once the author is distanced, the claim to ‘decipher’ a text becomes entirely futile”
“Thereby, literature (it would be better, for now, to say ‘writing’), by refusing to assign to the text a ’secret’, i.e., an ultimate meaning, liberates an activity we may call ‘counter-theological,’ properly revolutionary, for to refuse to halt meaning is finally to refuse God and his hypostases, reason, science, and law”
- Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author”
An Issue of National Cultural Security
The leaders of this nation have come out with a new list of songs not to be played on the television or radio, calling it an issue of “National Cultural Security”. This should be a relief to many music world lawyers and executives, because popular songs are often used as background without a cent being paid in royalties to American record companies. The songs are primarily those now popular that mention sex, but also those that hint of overt anger and destruction of society. I know of several instances when explicit songs have been broadcast on television and as filler before movies at movie theaters, within the hearing of children (not to mention my children, who speak English), because no one knew what the lyrics meant.
Appreciation of Chinese Traditional Music from a Western Perspective
In these days of increasing communication between our two perspectives, and the enormous social implications of these exchanges, music has become the most important ambassador between our cultures. Music holds the keys to the most effective cultural exchange and mutual understanding, since it truly is the universal language. It can help us to overcome our bias and dislike for one another, and replace them with feelings of beauty and appreciation readily available through the experience of listening. Understanding music’s functions within both cultures, its background philosophy, its theory, and its meaning as a representative outside of its native culture, has become an essential area of cross-cultural study for musicians and language learners on both sides of the Pacific.
A Goddess of Mercy becomes a Goddess of Fortune
I wandered into a Buddhist Temple in the famous water town Zhujiajiao in the Qingpu district of Shanghai municipality. People were charged admission to the main temple grounds, a fee of 10Y, but in the annex worshippers got a freebe. Before paying the fee, one could kneel on a padded bench before a glass-encased Laughing Buddha (Maitreya Buddha) covered in gold paint, with a mischievous-looking Haibao peeking around the corner of the case. The little blue mascot for the Shanghai World Expo and the golden Buddha are emblems of the same aspiration among the Chinese: conspicuous wealth and a global showcase of modernization.
The New Faith of the Chinese Elite
In the past, the peasants looked to the fate of the fortune-inscribed stick to communicate the will of Buddha; now, the Chinese businessman looks to another inscribed stick to divine the sacred will of the Party. It is the classic scene from the Joy Luck Club; white tiles, clicking and clacking together, as the women gossip about their families, cementing the bonds of a lifetime friendship that would tie the fates of generations together. This ritual has replaced the similar ritual that used to obsess the more religious generations of China – the fortune telling joss sticks and the mysterious predictions of the Book of Changes. No one believes in these superstitions anymore, but they certainly believe in the use and necessity of playing Mahjong with the leaders!
© 2013 Guanxi Master