Where You Are, Body and Mind

Lots of strange things happen in life. You move to a new place. You study for a new degree. You get married. You get divorced, and much more.

But recently I have made another small discovery.

I was writing a report to a superior that I worked for eight years ago. Eight years is such a long period of time. How many eight years does one have for a life of eight years?

Strangely when I started writing the report, I felt as if  I had never left the city, or even the person. I did not feel distant. I wrote the report as if it was just another report I would write every day, as if I was in the city yesterday.

The truth of the matter is I have been away from the city and the country for eight years! More than eight years! I have been on the other side of the globe for eight years!

How could that be? How strange life was!

In comparison, I have lived in the current city in another country for more than eight years! I had traveled out for academic conferences before, away from the college town.

One thing I am sure, though. I always know I will be going away from this college town. I think in a way you could feel whether you agree with the spirit of a place or not.

The place hasn’t grown on me.

There is no explanation. Somethings in life are not to be meant to be explained.

The strongest feeling of alienation I felt was when I was away from it to go for an appointment.

I was only away for a day, from eight in the morning to eight at night.

When I returned at eight at night, the place felt so strange I felt I had never lived here, as if I was just arriving from another place, from another country.

Maybe the reason I did not feel such a strong sense of alienation before was because I had always been so busy.

I buried myself in research and teaching and study. So I never got a chance to take a good look at my life.

I knew I was dissatisfied with the place. I would never be satisfied with having to live here.

At one time, I remarked to an office-mate, jokingly, that perhaps coming to this place might be the only mistake I have made in my life.

But who knows? I had wanted to study for a Phd. A Phd I have studied. The process is better left unsaid.

The superb irony of it all is I have done very well, both in my teaching and my research. I would not allow myself to perform poorly in those aspects of my life. At the end of it, everything has been stolen from me, including my identity, my dissertation, my on-line writings, my other research and teaching files, my clothes, my job opportunities.

That is why I call it a superb irony.

Perhaps not all is lost.

The point I want to make is perhaps my body has been here for eight years, but my heart is left somewhere else.

I do not know that.

We do not know when we are going to a place. Neither do we know when we are arriving at a place.

We have made so many plans.

I firmly believe for those that have stolen my identity and my dissertation, they must have made extremely elaborate plans and carried them to perfection in order to succeed.

Who knows? Maybe they will lose everything in the blink of an eye.

Nobody knows about the future. Man proposes, God disposes.

I do not rejoice too much when it is time to rejoice. I have tried not to grieve too much when grieving seems to be the only choice left.

Extreme emotional swings I have been trying my best to avoid.  On this point, I think I differ from some Americans, who might believe you celebrate ostentatiously when it is your time to stand in the limelight, and you remain quiet when you are outside of a kingdom.

Whether in or out, I try to live my life as simple as it is. I have learned a new phrase today, “noble simplicity.” I might as well use it to describe my aesthetic preference.

I think I prefer a life that is noble and simple. A dress that displays noble simplicity should make me feel good. A book, an article, or an idea that is noble and simple should be good.

Many do not understand this noble simplicity. They try to find lies where there are simple truth, find seduction where there is love, find pretense where there is authenticity. As a result, they complicate and twist beautiful and simple things out of shape.

My American Literature professor tells his students the famous author Henry James likes to write novels that expound this simple truth: People understand things when their understanding no longer carry any real value.

I do not know whether I subscribe to this bleak picture about life.

For one thing, I have always understood one thing. But it has taken other people four or five years to understand it. Does their eventual understanding make them happier or more sorrowful? I have no idea.

They are Henry James’ characters, not my characters. I would like to think they have been changed by their understanding, for the better, no matter how late. Maybe just some slight changes.

Maybe I am just different.

All Rights Reserved. Xianfeng Mou. 11.29.10


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