The Footprints In A Desert

(inspired by the idea of Deep Spring College and the stories of Walden)

The idea of leaving a trace behind does not sound popular in a city where concrete surface prevents so. Without such artificial accommodations, like it or not, every walking man will leave a series of footprints as he or she makes a move. In doing so, one is at a higher risk if there is ever a predator. Hence, for the sake of our own, with the enormous power developed along the history from when bare-foot walking was popular, we erased our traces by changing the face of earth to conceal our ancient instinctive fear of being a prey. Cleanness is an alias of making no contact with anything. Sometimes nor even with other people. Without sympathy, city is nothing but a true desert, a place of nothing.
Conversely, looking at a desert, despite the assumption which is usually supported by the seemingly void appearance, there are zings. They face extreme adversity yet surviving in their own unique ways. Since it is almost always the minority who are rebellious and determined enough to keep a life away from the traditions of the majority, the animals seem to be in an actually less competitive environment.
Not having lived in the wild long enough, many may not realize the dynamics of the apparently static environment. This may be the sensational difference between life and death, nature and artificial world. Nature has a grand mind, but a slow one comparing to the rates of our solutions. Slow, but gradual, cyclical and progressive. Thus we may be blinded by the pace of our own within a narrow perspective ignoring the largo movements of nature. More sadly, our desires and fears drove us to contemn the efficiency of such elegant processes.
But after all, even without a dead, solid surface, our footprints will not stay long under the convection of air in a desert. Perhaps, without any untold mystery, simply, nature just loyally marks what we did, indifferently presents them and finally, unconditionally forgives us.


The Troubling Asian Table

Keeping U.S. Turtles Out of China

Frankly, I had eaten turtles before. They are mainly served in a soup. On the other hand, I love turtles as well as other reptiles; I kept two land turtles for a few years at home that didn't end up in my belly not someone else (for they escaped and were never found again).
As I grow older, like my father, I am against the eating culture in China which is a mixture of traditional Chinese belief (or even Chinese medicine knowledge) and the ill curiosity of prosperous consumers.
Like the reputation of Chinese food, Chinese have a lot of attention in food and the highly picky tongues have been trained to extreme. Any black burnt spot on the food is unacceptable and can be refunded in a normal restaurant in contrast to the American attitude to such things. But the other side of the extreme food culture is somehow incomprehensible and not environmental under today's judgement. As an idiom goes, "Chinese eat anything; anything with four legs on the ground, except chairs; anything that can fly except aeroplanes", dogs, turtles, snakes and many other animals as peculiar as you can think of are no exceptions. Although they are not common dishes on a table, following the prosperity of China, the demand of such scarce animal in food use is soaring as the article stated.
Personally, I can stop myself from spending money to kill these wild animals. But the big picture is how to remove the prevailing interest of consuming wild animals from Chinese minds. I think a stricter regulation and ban should be established. Additionally, the spread of a threatening fatal disease - SARS a few years ago in China was known for making its path from a wild specie (which appeared widely on restaurant menus) to human. After all, it is not easy to build the environmental protection concept within a short time. On the other side of the barter, the restaurants should put their creativity more in how to cook but not what to cook.
Conversely, Japan's whale hunting issue which was advocated as a cultural tradition by some Japanese representatives over the bargain table is viewed as a commercial or economic interest by many critics. Their whale hunting industry simply need to slaughter whales to make a living. The claimed "tradition" has been practiced for merely decades since the end of WWII when Japan had a shortage in pork supply (whale meat at the time was a subsidy good to ensure the public health).
Asian dinner table is really a troubling place.


Start of a Religious Talk

Einstein and Faith

Einstein had a very inspiring point of view of science and religion. I may start posting my personal ideas about that later.


What is my favorite movie? And why?

“Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” My favorite movie is “Forrest Gump”. People like objects that are distinguishable. I love “Forrest Gump” because it is an extraordinary movie of an ordinary person’s legacy as well as my personal memories relevant to it.

The movie first begins with the very relaxing melody while a piece of feather is floating in the sky. This soundtrack and the scene of floating of the same piece of feather repeat at the end of the movie that changed me earlier interpretation of the same melody, a much more meaningful rhythm that condenses all the ups and downs in Gump’s life which resemble the floating feather.

Most of the stories of Gump’s are expressed by himself on a bench at the bus stop while his later life is displayed in real time. I felt like I was in the movie myself because of such unique structure built up the varied sense of audience first as a listener and then a witness.

Without any seeming plans, Gump involved almost every important event through his lifetime, from the first black student’s attendance in University of Alabama to Ping Pong Diplomacy, from the Vietnam War to the Watergate scandal. No matter how bitter or tough those memories were, the movie discusses them in a comedic yet terse way. For instance, Gump’s stay in Watergate Hotel initiated the exposure of the scandal while in contrast, he merely thought those agents as tenants having troubles to fix the fuse box. And throughout the movie, there are many ironies that reveal the true questions behind the scenes. For example, Gump was first told that he had low IQ of 75, but later he was considered by the drill sergeant as a genius with IQ over 160, which implies that intelligence is useless to be a good soldier but full obedience. The other interesting irony was Gump’s friendship with Bubba. It is a dramatic irony because we all know the historical background of mild racism while Gump loved Bubba who is black without any prejudgments of any kinds.

Out of anybody’s expectations, Gump somehow lived a splendid life from both spiritual and materialistic perspectives. He without high or even normal intelligence did everything according to his conscience and I consider this as the parable of the movie. “God gave us both mind and heart. When we cannot figure out things by our minds, we should use our hearts.” Unfortunately, Gump did not have much choice between them. But nonetheless, he showed us how living upon one’s conscience may contradict with the social reality. I am an idealistic person. Also, I understand the essence of realistic analysis and practice; still, I believe that underlying the reality is people’s somehow unrealistic ideals that led the world forward, moving towards the common pursuit of a world of truth, goodness and beauty. And moreover, the change of disgraceful Lt. Dan and the return of Jenny symbolized how Gump, an honest and idealistic person, could influence and change other people.

Gump really taught me a lot. From him, I know how simple the attitude of life could be; from him, I learn how the history is made by ordinary people instead of heroes; from him, I see how basic our ultimate goals are, to love and to be loved. Gump’s life-long love of Jenny is the only unchanged idea though the whole movie. Jenny came in Gump’s early life as an angel while her terrifying childhood brought her to the edge of self-destruction. Altogether in his life, Gump’s happy days with Jenny did not last long. I do not agree that many people classified this movie as a comedy because I weighed the gravity of Jenny’s death soon after their marriage as a central tragedy that painted another layer on the movie.

Last time when I watched the movie was a few weeks ago on TV here in United States. I laughed and wept as before and between such emotional moments; I thought about my home and my best friend Josh which were both left back in China. I love almost every song in the movie; for since childhood, I listened to those classical popular songs from my father’s old tapes, sometimes with my father’s familiar, strongly Chinese-accented English. Among them, I especially love John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind”. On the other hand, Josh and I had more direct connections to the movie, for we actually dubbed the scenes in which Gump met Bubba, “My name’s Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump.” and later Bubba’s “Shrimp kabobs, shrimp Creoles, shrimp gumbo...” We lived in the same room in school’s dormitory for 1 year. The firm friendship developed upon this common memory often makes us miss each other after we were apart.

“Forrest Gump” cannot be classified because it can both make you laugh and make you cry. It is a movie beyond the naive boundary between comedy and tragedy. Or maybe simply, just like our life, it is a mixture of both with a main character as common as us.


My Reading and Thoughts

Telling the powerful story of history's 'Amazing Grace'

It seeks the source of power of justice from the morality of Christianity. I don't agree with the equivalence it drew between fascism and communism although I do admit the political repression both exist under the practices of these system. And its depiction of Christianity is extracted from a small part of its complicated history consisting good as well as harm. There is no superior moral or just criteria in judging any part of the history. Why did people start slavery or other horrors in humanity under the long-existing religion or more specifically, Christianity in this case? And how about the massacres Western countries conducted in villages of Philippine or Vietnam? There were so many factors behind the abolition of slavery, i. e., the northern disadvantages in the first half of Civil War in the case of United States.
By simply saying "Slavery, a hideous human institution common in just about every culture throughout history, was on its way to ending in the West, thanks to the influence of Christian morality", it can only contribute to the support of Christian supremacy and relatively demonize the rest. And by these, this article or the arrogant devout belief behind, itself hinder the pace of the humanity's contemporary tendency -- the global equity and justice.



Castro Itching for Public Role

At The Threshold of New U.S.-Cuba Relation

Since 1959, for 48 years, United States has been exercising a confrontational and isolating policy against Cuba -- a country only 90 miles away from Florida coast. The path of US-Cuba relation is a minimized scope of conflicts of Cold War worldwide; Furthermore, by placing this period of relation started after Cuban Revolution back into the whole picture, the shadow of slavery trade era and the prolonging effects of Spanish-American War show how the wheel of history rested at this point for almost half a century. Beside the consistent attention of the Cuban-American communities to their home country and the President's deluding report "Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba", the current de facto transition of power to Fidel Castro's brother, Raul Castro, again drew hopes and doubts of how much the country will change. With the deceiving non-existing consensus of Cuban-American communities of pro-sanctions and the rising call for the end of travel restriction and embargo, the direction of Washington's Cuba policy became the center of the dispute while the eighth month of the power transition is passing. With the lessons of failed diplomatic measures and the current circumstance of power transition, normalization of US-Cuba relation becomes necessary.

First of all, an insightful understanding of what is happening in Cuba became an essential key. Since July 31, 2006, health of the aging Maximum General Castro forced him to transfer his power to his vice president also his brother, Raul Castro. Despite “dancing in the streets of Miami and elation in Washington” (Washington Post, Smith) expecting chaos and the prospective Cuban initiative for freedom and democracy soon in the island suggested in “Compact with the People of Cuba”, a fix of the first report, Cuba has been run “smoothly” without a single protest or disruption (This may be a paradox as a result of fear of his harshness in the past.) under Raul Castro. This phenomenon showed the extension of the fact that even under Fidel Castro’s rule Raul Castro already played an important role in Cuban government. He was first known as a brave fighter and effective commander with association in dissident executions in Cuban Revolution in 1959. Then his ideology and practice turned into a mysterious case. He “became a communist as a youth” (Time Magazine, Padgett and Mascarenas) yet the reformer who “convinced a reluctant Fidel to reopen the island’s private agricultural market” (Time Magazine, Padgett and Mascarenas) after Soviet Union withdrew all the generous aids as it demised. Currently, he “assured reporters that if any Guantanamo prisoners escaped, Cuban security forces would capture and return them” (Time Magazine, Padgett and Mascarenas) and he did periodically called for talks with United States which were followed by rejections from Bush’s Administration (Washington Post, Smith). Under the title “the practical Castro,” (Time Magazine, Padgett and Mascarenas) he is now steering the economy that rose by 7.5% last year (CIA World Factbook) through a series of market reforms and establishments of pragmatic trade ties with China and Venezuela. The nation now clearly incline to continue its economic development and Raul Castro is more likely to continue this pragmatic path while his repression of oppression will surely last. Washington should pay more attention to this act of reform in Cuba as its great demand of investment and attractive cheap supply of raw materials match American interest. On the other hand, his unpredictable political belief is modifiable and capable to cooperate in the near future with patient, non-assertive and constructive influence of United States and its own continuously growing economy.

Putting this Cuba piece of puzzle back to the Latin America background, it is obvious that American intervenes in their internal affairs have created great resistance against the U.S. and stout demand to seek and maintain self sovereignty. A stable and prosperous society cannot sustain without stable regional relations. Although with threats backed by military forces that gained the contemporary domestic peace lasted for previous decades did appease the region under American control, the notorious name the U.S. received and the torrent of independence movements have doomed the failures of continuing such measures. And by building up distrust and unnecessary barriers against these newly-established regimes, the U.S. has lost many economic advantages in the region. The waffling relation with oil-rich Venezuela, the 5th largest crude oil exporter to the U.S. that provided 0.955 million barrels per day in January (Energy Information Administration) has casted shadow over the oil industries. Recently, Cuba has discovered its significant deposit of offshore oil just seventy miles from Florida which again denied the possibility of near death of its economy but seethed American oil companies and their lobbyists to stop embargo. (Fortune Magazine) Expending American interest recklessly in the developing Latin America and the resulting diplomatic failures in the region should come to an end and the improvement with one of the fastest-growing country in the region, Cuba will be a good start.

While an expectable major meltdown of the tension between the U.S. and Cuba and ultimately the whole Latin American community seems still far away, a few simple changes in policy will be critical to initiate the change. Proposed by those Cuban-Americans whose families are still barred or strictly allowed to travel by the embargo, loosening of restriction of travel, or at least family reasoned travel, would relieve many. But for more than forty years, the ninety-mile gap between Florida and Cuba has been doubtlessly the largest distance for them. Another complicated factor that drives the policy comes from the Florida Cuban exiles or more generally speaking the Hispanic exiles who arrived under the pressure of communism or revolution. The aging hard-line exiles have practiced their diasporatic politics by holding a tight grip on their crucible votes in Florida. On the other hand, some Cuban-Americans pointed out that the hard-liners are mainly from 1960 between the revolution and the later claim of communist state and thus they do not have the concerns of families as they have brought theirs here. (U.S. Policy toward Cuba: Forty-Six Years of Failure) More straightforwardly, the hard-liners' goal is to overthrow Castro's regime and reclaim their properties on the island. Although the previous presidential campaigns showed the suppressing power of hard-liners, the aging of them and the rising of new generation as well as the increasing sympathy given to those experiencing family separation will soon get ahead in the race. Thereby, family travel allowance will achieved and eventually, the entire embargo will demise.

A major change in Washington’s Cuba policy is essential not only to Cuban-American communities but also to American interest as a whole which is showed by the urges of participation in Cuban oil rush. Meanwhile, some critics believe the infamous Helms-Burton Act of 1996 would hinder any attempt from American side to restore the relation. Despite the unclear jurisdiction of its extra-territorial provision, this act was condemned and turned against by Europe Union, Canada and some Latin American countries who continue to benefit from their trades with Cuba. Moreover, the coincided transition of power in the U.S. would have sufficient power to and might have the determination to modify or terminate this Republican proposal in order to pave the way for the negotiation of normalization of U.S.-Cuba relation. Similar in this manner, currently "The Cuban-American Family Rights Restoration Act" is being drafted and supported by a group consisting members from both parties ironically including Republican Representative Dan Burton, the co-author of Helms-Burton Act. As its name suggests, with hope, it will start not only the restoration of Cuban-American family's connection with their kin but also one of the relation between the U.S. and Cuba.