US Nationalism, China, and Interventions

Just a little over a week ago I was in China. It’s hard for me to explain how significant experiencing life abroad can be. I have never been quite so grateful for the US in my life. I’m sure my readers are familiar with my liberal leanings, but upon my return to the US, walking through customs, embraced by San Francisco and then Chattanooga, I have been left with an undeniable sense of national pride. I would like to believe that the character of nationalism I’m encountering flows from a genuine and adequate experience of the global. I look to nationalism for perspective. Many hope – I included – that nationalism is a collective passage of development toward an Earth consciousness. It was clear that the Chinese had deep national pride… and… I was subtlety judgmental toward it. Thoughts would glance through my mind, “Perhaps, they’re simply lacking integral frames of global consciousness.” How presumptuous? Or true? Who knows. They, like all people, remember their history – its trial and story. AND, it’s a hell of lot older than the US’s history! The US is so, so young and still the subjectivity I carry, the US-centric socializations I have internalized, all my education and choice lends me a pedestal of privilege – the views from above issue calls of responsibility I am only beginning to understand. It was impressive. As interventions go… my three months in China served me well.

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From China With Love

I write this blog from Pudong Airport in Shanghai. (I’m publishing from South Korea!) I’m leaving China. I spent the past three months in Guilin, China teaching English… or… doing my best to teach English. I am caught up in the momentum of life and…planes. I believe that God is in the momentum.

I feel immensely grateful. I basically got a three month stay in one of the most beautiful cities in China. I had the opportunity to be of service by teaching English. I got to be important in the lives of a handful of high school students. I made a few good friends. I learned a great deal about teaching – which is my calling. I got to travel on one of the most beautiful rivers in the world, the Li River – ranked among the top 15 most beautiful rivers in the world depending on whose making the list. I am even leaving with money in my pocket. AND, to top that, I get to see my family for Christmas.

This whole journey was made possible by a movement of willingness, trust, and a genuine calling to be of service as an educator. It’s true…I was fired! Let’s not forget the challenges that flowed from the very character of this journey. I have experienced a great deal of empowerment through the challenges I faced teaching and living in Guilin. There was a different quality to the tears I wept on this journey. I have wept for loss and now I have wept for duty.

One of the most impressive dimensions of my trip was witnessing the power of international, online AA. I have never been so humbled by a healing community in my life. It is undoubtedly the work of a creative magician or God or some form of immanent collectivity at once actual, resonant, attentive and conscious – I prefer it all when it comes to Love. During my first week in Guilin I reached out to the central AA office in Shanghai and not a few hours later I began to receive phone calls from strangers all over Asia in AA. I connected with one named Alex. Over the course of the past three months we built a beautiful relationship of mutual support. When he would tell his story, his daily challenges, his experience resonated with me. We were together in spirit, living the same course of change, challenge, development, and discovery in life. Yesterday I spoke with him for the last time at my apartment. I stood in the same window where I first spoke with him and I found it outstandingly poetic that our relationship would bookend my experience in China. It was all God showing me, demonstrating through actual occasions that I am not alone.

Over and over Alex and I kept coming back to the idea of “the order of things.” Put God first, then love ones, then work… this order is primary for how we define ourselves in the world. My experience of the past three and half years, indeed my whole life, gives testament to this truth.

I was talking to one of my sponsees on Saturday and he mentioned how recovery is a social justice issue. This was the first time I have ever heard it stated so clearly. Recovery is a social justice issue and further – putting God first is an issue of social justice. I will have to continue to write about this important idea. It is an old idea, perhaps one of the oldest and most contended.

I’m about to board a plan to leave China… I’m not sure if I will return. I know if I do I will have friends here. One of the primary thoughts that has given me internal strength has been to remember our common humanity. China is an expression of the Earth. It’s people breath air, strive for belonging, care for their young and get frustrated in traffic. The more global my experience the deeper my conviction that HOME is everywhere.

Explosions at a Chinese School

Everyday for the past three weeks there have been explosions at my school. No one is immune to the violent irruptions! The whole building shakes from the shock waves. They come in the late afternoon now. It’s construction. It’s digging… or more accurately – blowing up rock – I guess. Across the street they are exploding through the ground for another apartment building. The sudden deafening noise comes so quickly the body doesn’t have time to react. It’s stunning to the body, the heart skips, the adrenaline response kicks in… there’s no stopping it. The body is so slow; it was never made to cope with C4 or guns. I would be vaporized before any of those somatic responses kicked in if it were an actual bomb. Today I couldn’t help but think about how damaging it must be to the psychic well-being of everyone to continually cope and integrate this very human response to explosions.

Does everything breath together? I experience this more and more. The explosions started just about the time that I lost my temper with my students. I was a participant, a responsible agent of a violent irruption of anger that also severed the psychic well being of many people – students, administration, parents. The week before last the tears flowed and just about that time I believe the frequency of the explosions increased and since then they seem to be less and less frequent.

The past week my heart has been settling. I’ve been having fewer and fewer conversations with people who aren’t there. They start up with some passing trigger like, “I believe I should be paid more…” and off I go into an imaginary conversation with my boss who is on the other side of the planet. I’m not dismissing the obvious power of psychic interconnection and interdependency. I’m just merely pointing out how I loose a precious sense of peace. It is often lain on the chopping block in favor of being “right” – at least in my head. Thankfully, I’m getting much better at “Letting go and letting God.” Principally, the matter lies in right action – one of guiding lights written in the 8 Fold Path of Buddhism.

I’ve been thinking some time about starting a video blog.