Haters gonna hate.

          Generalizations are fun to make in part because they allow a person to assume a position of “truth-telling” without demanding from the teller any of the rigors in telling the truth. They are also generally safe from serious reproach, for in dealing with opinion, what is there to argue with except against the observer’s accuracy of perception with the keenness of your own?
          Consequently, this also means that most generalizations rarely ever find consensus; there’s always going to be that guy in the group to helpfully point out that, well that’s just, like your opinion, man.
          Things turn even more problematic when it comes to generalizations about groups of people, perhaps because aside from being merely unfair, reductionist, and impossible to do with any real degree of nuance or sensitivity, it is morally dubious to even attempt to reduce a entire country, a people, a culture and history into one ambitious, sweeping sentence.
          All that being said, I’m going to go ahead and do it anyway with China.  
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Some thoughts on family

          I am spending the holiday break in Shanghai with my grandmother. She lives on the second floor of an apartment building in the former French Concession on a street called Xin Le Lu, which translated means “new happiness road.” The building is small and aged, like many of the inhabitants inside, and each apartment is shared by two or more families, as many of the older styled apartments in Shanghai are. My grandmother shares with the Wu’s, who have lived there for as long as I can remember and have a boy in the family a few years older than me whom I used to chase around the apartment and bully (so I’m told) back when I was still living there with my parents. They own the two rooms near the front of the apartment, my grandmother owns the two rooms near the back, and the kitchen is shared, as is the hallway in between.

          This is the apartment that my grandfather fell in love with and insisted on moving into when he and my grandmother were young and just starting their family, and after my grandfather was gone, this is where my grandmother raised her three young children on her own, my mother the oldest of the three. The walls are cracked and discolored with age now, the rooms cluttered with a lifetime of possessions tucked away in dusty drawers, cabinets, and shelves, but whatever may be lacking in space on the inside, the neighborhood more than makes up for, and I think that Xin Le Lu is still one of the prettiest streets in Shanghai, although I admit I am not an objective judge. The street is quiet and narrow, lined on both sides with the tall stately old French sycamore trees that line so many of the streets in the French Concession. The trees are bare and knobby now, but in summertime the branches are so heavy with leaves that they bend and meet with the other side in the middle of the sky, creating a tunnel of green over the sidewalk speckled with dots of sunlight peeking through from the gaps and holes above, and I remember walking underneath that dense greenery in summers past, listening to the cicadas that would fill the humid air with their sounds and make me think of my grandfather and how he would catch the cicadas with traps, fry them up, and give to my uncle to eat as a treat.
          In America, it is and has always been just my parents and me, and when I’m there I often forget that anything else came before, but when I’m in Shanghai, my concept of time widens, and I am reminded that the three of us are not simply some lone detached unit whose history only began when I came into this world and was taken to America at the age of four by parents who’d decided to forge new lives in a new land where they knew almost no one, owned almost nothing, and worked long days and even longer nights like so many immigrants do. Sitting here in the room where my mother grew up, I’m reminded that we are in fact tied to a longer family history of parents and daughters and grandparents and great grandparents and everyone who came before, all of whom gave birth and lived and died in this place that is now foreign to me, and that in this place, my mother and my father were born and were young and grew up and fell in love and got married and had me.  >> Continue reading..


On love and loss and what remains

          I feel like I’ve been away for a long time, selfishly wrapped inside a cocoon of my own making, tending to stubborn injuries.
          I was in love, and then I wasn’t anymore, and the small bright world that held my life and which had become pale and silent had broken then, into crumbled misshapen pieces. Looking back on these past six months, I see now that I have essentially been in grief – not because I still wanted to be with him, he who had for so long made me dizzy with happiness, but because I no longer did: I grieved for what might have been, and for what was; for the lost feelings that had once felt like they could never be lost; for the cold, immutable fact that there are things in life that cannot and will not change, no matter how hard you work and no matter how much you want them to be different.
          That last one is particularly difficult to come to terms with because it applies to so many things in life, and because it requires nothing, but takes everything. And as it’s taking, it stands behind a wall of stone, quiet and still, unmoved by anger and untouched by despair. The word, indifference comes to mind, but it doesn’t feel like indifference exactly. It just feels true, and when everything is calm and clear, it almost feels gentle in how simple it is. Soothing, even. It is the cosmic equivalent of someone saying to you when you’re in pain, “That’s how life is sometimes, so learn to live with it,” which is as kind a thing to say as it is cruel.  >> Continue reading..