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”
As a Christian, my life in the world of Chinese media has been sobering, a jarring reintroduction to the world of doubts that I had encountered before as a much younger man. I survived the first onslaught by discovering C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, and G.K. Chesterton… and by talking down to my attackers in a cloud of academic terms in flustered act of self-preservation. My technique of using calm response and a plethora of approaches to shock opponents from their high horse of “all-Christians-are-ignorant-fundamentalist” failed me in China because of my struggle to use this language with the same sort of aplomb. For the first time, I found myself in the place where I was at a loss of words to respond comprehensively to an attack against my faith. Now, even when I communicate my ideas, in relative fluidity, the boundaries of my language and difference in life-experience is so painfully obvious that people are not willing to invest the time to work through them with me, merely brushing me off as unlearned or irrelevant.
The dark, festering smell of a subway full of halitosis
Men who wear unwashed suites and substitute tea and cigarettes for hygiene
The wheeze of mouth, open and uncovered, sharing with all what nobody wants
When Jin passed through the long passage, he noticed that he could not see light from the village behind him when he turned his head back to look. A current seemed to propel his boat quickly through the tunnel, and he shot out the other side with a splash, finding himself in the ocean, with a rocky shore on one side and the wide, wide ocean to the other. The sun was still over the water, so he knew that north was to his left. He struck out in this direction, but was quickly exhausted by the effort, his hands aching as he maneuvered the rough oars. He wrapped his hands in the cloth that wrapped the bread, ate the bread and drank the water, realizing that he hadn’t eaten anything since the day before. And went back to his rowing with renewed zeal. The hot sun beat down, and his water supply quickly ran out, but he kept at it, encouraged by the changing scenery of the coast.
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.
© 2013 Guanxi Master