you come to China?"
have asked me this question, and sometimes I give the
"easy" answer: to be with my lovely girlfriend, to teach
English, to learn more about Chinese culture (and especially
Chinese religions), to travel. These are all true, but they
are not the full answer.
answer is: "Rounding and smoothing."
explain. Imagine a ball made of a light metal, like
aluminum. Parts of the ball may be dented in, and they need
to be rounded out. And other parts may stick out, and need
to be smoothed off. So, through "rounding and
smoothing," the ball is restored to its true shape.
is that if a person is to be a complete human being, he or she
must go through this process of rounding and smoothing. For
some, this can be done in familiar surroundings. Some do it
through spiritual disciplines; some through therapy; some through
just applying themselves to a schedule of
"self-improvement." I find the best method for me
is to put myself in new and challenging situations, especially
through experiencing life in other cultures. My five years
in Japan put me on the path to being, like Diogenes and Thoreau, a
"citizen of the world." By living outside of my
"comfort zone," I have found those aspects of my
personality, my understanding, my self that are under-developed.
Likewise, there are certain aspects of my self that make people
from other cultures uncomfortable, and these need to be softened
offers many opportunities for rounding and smoothing.
Sightseeing within Shenzhen--at Hong Fa or Tian Hou Temples, for
example, or the Folk Cultural Villages--gives me a connection with
China's deeper traditions. Just riding a bus (or a
mini-bus!) gives me a chance to practice patience and tolerance
toward others! Trying to express my needs (with no Chinese
language skills) in a market, a restaurant, or a taxi can lead to
greater communication with others. And teaching my first
English salon for the Shenzhen Daily gave me a chance to discuss
deeper ideas with wise, wonderful Chinese people. I hope to
do many more salons all over Shenzhen, to increase my
opportunities to learn from the people here. I also hope to
create some discussion groups for foreigners living in Shenzhen,
to share their experiences of living abroad, and to learn from
of these experiences, I hope to become the roundest, smoothest
member of the human race that I can possibly be.
(C) 2006 James Baquet