Either you are sorting it out, or you are full of it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Three Nights, Three Revolutionary Dreams

Over the past three nights, I’ve had three dreams of Chinese revolution:


Everywhere seemed to ring with the sound of shells, the halting cries of the cowering or the weak, and the roars from both sides of the firing line. The major avenues had all been cordoned off as thousands of cadets attempted to cordon the rising tide of protesters, advancing quick upon the government strongholds. The babyfaced cadets fired several times, but to no avail. The people pushed the line to the brink, suffering heavy casualities, but breaking through in a wave of blood and bone and sinew. Brave men and women now no more than a trampled pulp for the vermin. Their lives consumed by that maddening thought – all the time legitimate, but often misconstrued – that gaped from the death rattles around their contorted maws: “Freedom.”

Soon the gates to the government compounds fell. A terrible clamor raged in the city for days. Infighting. New insurgencies. Those hidden dragons, the alliances of power that had slept in the shadows of the cities for so long now raged in a fire unchecked throughout the routed mass of the capital. The madness had grown. No one could hide it now. The revolution in blood had become a revolution in the spirit. The great reigns of power made anything possible. In the vacuum, the citizens were unhinged for great good and for great evil.

Before I awoke, I had a vision of a pair of praying manti mating, the female overwhelming the male with her size, deftly decaptitating him, taking life and creating it at the same time.


I was sitting in a bar talking with my friends about the absurdity of violent revolution in China. I felt much older, and my companions looked older too. There were no talks of unabashed drinking contests, no virulent confessions of directionlessness, no t-shirts with inscrutible slogans. Everyone was with a signficant other, or seemed to be unflinchingly comfortable with the fact that they were there alone, as I was.

I was saying how I had once thought that China could inexplicably implode under the weight of its corruption. How the politburo would be unable to manage rampant abuses of power from its local counterparts, sending the country into a massive downward spiral that could only lead to violent power clashes in the capital. I said that I had come to realize that the Chinese people on both sides of the potential firing line had long ago realized that this solution would be untenable for all parties. Then someone else chimed in about the inextricable link between government and society in Chinese culture, and I seconded their point, continuing that the Chinese insight was important everywhere: revolution exists not just at the level of government. It is violent, jarring, and full of uncontrollable effects.

Then someone disagreed. She said: I disagree. What if the Chinese have found a new way?

I said: What do you mean?

What if it were possible that revolution could happen slowly? Silently? Tacity? In small struggles throughout the land? Culminating in changes to the whole?

I’d need proof.

Well, don’t we already have proof. Look at the changes you’ve seen in China in the last 20 years. The press is now completely open. The great firewall has fallen. A legitimate system for fielding government grievances has been established-

You make a good point. There has been change, but it’s been slow-

That’s the point. The West somehow imagines that it’s a sudden change in course, an instantaneous adoption of radical new ideas with a fallout of blood and propaganda, factions and alliances in its wake. Everything quick and fast with side-effects galore. But it doesn’t have to be like that. What if it changed slowly? Progressed over decades or hundreds of years?

Someone else spoke up: That’s what it is. China will change too, but so slowly that it can’t be seen very easily. Like how we all got old! One day we woke up, and said, “How the hell did this happen?”

We all laughed.

That night as I was getting ready for bed, I looked in the mirror at my aged face and my receding hairline, and thought, “Holy shit. I’ve changed, and so has China. Is the revolution happening in slow motion? I haven’t noticed it at all.”


I had a dream within a dream.

I had this sudden ability to see myself as I related to everyone and everything else. As if I were suddenly projected at the center of a giant three-dimensional cobweb which I could walk around freely. I was suddenly able to judge the impact of all of my actions upon the rest of the world. Everything I said. Everything I bought. Everything I ate. Every thought I had.

I should note that I could by no means trace everything to its limit. The cobweb seemed infinite, and I inevitably got to the point where I could no longer remember from where I came, or how the chain of events I currently saw related to my life. At this instant I would be snapped back to the center, to myself, as if pulled by a giant rubberband.

The more I explored the web, the more I felt a great joy, but simultaneously a great guilt, a worry. It became clear to me that I needed to focus on one thing alone and change it. Then move on. That if everyone were to find this one thing, to become aware of their own web, and learn from it, study it, grow with it, the world would be better. Like finding a new way of thinking about myself, a revolution in myself, a change in the way I could do things. And all I needed to do was know where to start. But what the hell was it?

I began to get skeptical about the whole web project, and found myself thinking of it as some type of inane kids show. Spiffy the Spider came out and introduced all of the various interactions in my life, like some kind of rhyming game. “Everytime you eat meat, you make your heart lose a beat. Everytime you eat flesh, you hurt this place called Bangaledesh. Water from a bottle? Oil-wasting model! If the government does wrong, help those fellows reform along.” Something that seemed insultingly simple, vapid, moralizing, if anything, something to be overcome.

Still, I found myself returning to the web. I found myself playing in it. I knew exactly who I effected when I bought a new pair of shoes. Or sneezed too loudly in public. And it fascinated me. But still I kept being hounded by this question: What the hell does all this mean? I had this strange feeling that somehow I would know what that was when I woke up.

Then I woke up into another dream.

It was morning, and I was seized by an incredible desire to go outside and walk to the park near my house. I got dressed quickly and made my way out into the streets. There was no one there. It was strange because it was 9:30 in the morning, and my street is usually jammed full of people at this time of day. At this point, I was dreaming, but I continued to walk. When I got to the park, it was completely full of people. Crowds beyond belief. I walked up to someone and asked, What’s going on?

We’re trying to change. We’re looking for what to change first.

What? I don’t understand.

Did you have a dream last night? One that made you want to change things?


We all did too.

posted by ferret at 2:09 am  

Saturday, May 23, 2009

False Start #7

Every person represents a way of life, and for each of us a way into life. As a raving vagabond characture artist once told me: “We are attracted to people of like psychoses.”

posted by ferret at 2:47 am  

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

False Start #6

I wonder if master chefs often have wild ideas for classifying people in their lives according to food types, maybe even silverware. I think our culinary friend would find – much to their chagrin – that most people would be sporks. A couple of passions unable to cut too deeply, but over-all non-threatening, smooth, easy-going and fond of fast food.

posted by ferret at 1:56 am  

Saturday, May 16, 2009

False Start #5

I whisper to myself, “For the moment, everything is new.” Then I think, “”For the moment,” eh? It’s qualifications like these that make a person realize they’re getting old.”

posted by ferret at 8:09 pm  

Thursday, May 14, 2009

False Start #4

I used to think that intimacy meant saying everything, complete transparency, everything bathed in light. Now I know it means being able to say anything, but saying little despite it all. It means comfort in the shadows.

posted by ferret at 11:41 pm  

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

False Start #3

There’s a fat guy who rides the subways in Shanghai, admonishing the onlookers to fight against rampant corruption in Chinese society. Lately people have been finding his overtures a matter of entertainment, a good chuckle. He looked discourged. He shouldn’t be. As everyone knows, ridicule always appears before the fight. The iconoclast suffers, but we, the masses, always laugh into truth.

posted by ferret at 12:53 am  

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

False Start #2

The timers in the Shanghai subway are changed when the trains are late. In a second, 1:15 to go suddenly becomes 2:09 and counting. A committment to accuracy for those waiting?  Or a way to avoid the consequences of poor service?

posted by ferret at 1:37 am  

Monday, May 11, 2009

False Start #1

I believe in miracles, but I don’t believe in angles, burning bushes, or men rising from the dead. The fact that we can think these things are real, that we can believe that they are — is this not, in itself, a miracle? THE miracle?

posted by ferret at 1:52 am  

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