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”
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.
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.
What do the Chinese people want out of life? Many have tried to determine this, but no pattern has immediately appeared from the mass of contemporary literature or from the key phrases in the public forum that sufficiently defines the Chinese desire for a lifestyle direction in Chinese terms, apart from those without context, like “Modern” and “Contemporary”, which are derived more from China looking at other nations than looking at itself. The concept itself seems so abstract that many on the outside have been daunted by the possibility of finding it, but the tendency towards high abstraction is a characteristic of the Chinese people as a whole, and something to be admired rather than scorned. Like the figures in a painting, which suggest nature but retain their unnatural proportions, or like the meaning of a Chinese character, which is only a suggestion of a previous hieroglyph, so the abstractions of the Chinese dream cannot take form by compiling lists of contemporary manifestations. It is a compound idea that can only be grasped by those who can hold the qualities of Chinese philosophy on one hand, and balance the realities of an economically charged and internationalized China on the other. It is far subtler and more rewarding for those who find the silken strands of the Chinese cultural pact between man and nature pulled through two thousand years of literature, and tangled in the free-form bonsai trees of great philosophers’ thoughts, like strings that lead to the tales of shattered kites. When these strands are followed to the end, they lead to their source in an otherworldly paradise in an immortal’s peach garden.
© 2013 Guanxi Master