The hidden meanings behind taking long walks

After re-watching “Midnight in Paris”, I was brought back to my own strolls in different cities in the world.

Thinking a lot about the plot of this movie as well as of my own experience, I realize some very interesting things:

Whether you take long walks, and how you do it, says more about you than you think.

Long walks in cities have always been one of my favorite activities to do alone, or with some good company.

Don’t know if it holds true for you too. I’ve met people who complain about walking too much and getting sore legs and hurting feet after (only) one hour of walking, while I can joyfully accept a 5-hour long walk with a good conversationist in an interesting city. (Provided that I’m not in heels)

The beauty of such activity lies in the simple but dynamic form of spending time: when I’m alone, I observe the street and the people in it. I listen, I smell, I feel the vibe. If I’m with pleasant company, I can enjoy both the conversation as well as the scenery around us.


Poster “Midnight in Paris”

In the movie, Owen Wilson’s character, Gil, takes long walks in the street of Paris. Sometimes alone, sometimes with “a girl of his dreams” — literally, since she’s living in the 1920s and in Paris — both the most Romantic symbols for Gil that are unattainable and nostalgic.

When Wilson’s character wonders alone in Paris, in the sunshine, and in the rain, I feel envious.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say “that’s the dream”. But being able to take walks aimlessly, with no time stress, in a fascinating city like Paris must be a blessing.

One thing is subtle but significant: Gil (Owen Wilson) doesn’t walk in Paris because he lives there. He’s not walking in his world, but in a place that serves as the stage of his imagined “Golden Age”. That’s why Paris is magical to him.

Paris in the 1920s means the ideal world Gil would like to live in. Yet what he experiences in “that world” is not real. Paris becomes Gil’s world only after when he starts a conversation with a Parisian girl from his own time.

The same goes for his walks in the city. He has been an outsider watching, and mostly, imagining what has happened there. The city doesn’t belong to him. And he doesn’t belong to it.

He wants to “move there”. To be part of it.

But he has to learn something first: moving to Paris could only be as fulfilling as he wants it to be when he accepts his reality and begins to appreciate the messiness and the precious beauties in his homeworld.


Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

I do the same. When I’m alone, I’m walking down the street, and the next, and the next. I’m spending half the time watching other people, dogs, and buildings; the other half time, I’m spending with my own thoughts.

Spending time in another reality.

Not everyone can do these long walks. In recent years I find it difficult to do it, too.

The problem is not that I don’t have time. We all have time. It’s just what time means to us changed.

What a shame.

If I can just spend a day somewhere in a beautiful city by myself, in the streets, that’d be wonderful. And I would be proud of myself for having a strong and clear mind.

Because no fear for time is the greatest martial art for the mind.


Another thing about long walks that I really love, is to walk and talk with a really good friend.

I used to do that a lot with some friends back home where I grew up.

The walking-talking sessions were usually one-to-one.

We used to meet up somewhere and started talking and walking, aimlessly through the city.

No destination. No restaurant. No bars.

Just a friend and I, in the street of a busy city.

We passed by street food stands. We ate, and then kept walking.

We walked for hours, hardly touching our cellphones.

Anything we saw along the way could spark up a new topic or a sequel of what we just talked about.

We laughed hard, crazily.

We laughed so much that we had to crouch down, didn’t care what other people were thinking.

Today’s me would have hated us back then. So careless and loud.

So rogue and not give a damn.

So free.

What I can’t forget is that, while feeling so free, I was feeling very safe as well.

I don’t mean that it’s dangerous to walk with one person in a big city (at night, maybe). But the sense of “security”, the feeling of “certain” and “sure” of yourself and everything in your life… that kind of “safe”, “assured”, and even “content”.

Because the person you can take these long walks with must be very special.

You talk for hours but it’s not just about you nor only about her/him, but both of you.

Interestingly, I felt more “safe”, “assured”, and “content” when I was in my early twenties. But less and less when I’m getting older and older.

And of course, these people with whom I could take these long walks are fewer and fewer.

Well, even I can hardly find the headspace to take such walks.

But I hope you have at least one person in your life with whom you can do such things.

The things that look like wasting time. But in fact precious like gold.

With someone, you feel loved and supported, and you will love and support her/him with all your heart.

If you have such a person in mind, just go ask him/her:

“Would you put on some walking shoes and stroll in the city with me? Make sure to take a bottle of water. And we will stop for ice cream.”

Good luck.

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于是,我们逆流而上

最近开始读一些很久以前读过的文字。这些文字的作者当初也是高中时候的孩子。自己高中的时候读人家高中写的东西,心中对他充满着无限的仰慕之情。现在读来,却是很重的青涩痕迹。好像青春就是这么狼狈,更狼狈的是,没有经历过的,想象中的狼狈。

现在想起一年前的自己都是那么的幼稚。还记得三年前看五年前写过的文章,在后面给自己评论:“怎么竟然能如此矫情?无病呻吟的高中终于过去了哈。”可是现在呢?看看三年前自己的文字,总是摇着头:怎么当时自己什么都看不清,就好像装模作样出自己什么都很明白的样子。

人是无法走回过去了。所以每每向后望,才有嘲笑过去的念头。过去没有现在好,才说明我们都在向前走。

青春是一首逆行的诗。我们的主旋律永远是在与世界作对。跳跃,为的是克服重力;嘶喊,是为了挑战沉默。也或许,我们在回顾曾经为青春奋斗过的自己时,除了自嘲(我当初这是怎么想的呀哈哈),也要记住:那时的我们,也是最好的我们,是逆流而上的我们。

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Exploring the Meanings of the Great Wall of China Today

The concept of the Great Wall as a national symbol and the ideas based on or derived from it constitute a myth for Waldron. From a negative symbol to a national pride, the meanings of the Great Wall are very fluid. It is given different connotations in accordance with the needs of the group of people in the process of nation building, or the process of transformation from culture to nation, as Waldron would possibly agree. But to which extent does these meanings matter today? Geographical, social and economical factors are crucial to understand the precise significance the Great Wall embodies in current Chinese society.

The Great Wall of China, as noted in the text, is by no means one single wall with one unified story, as it is always generally understood. It is a combination of several walls erected over thousand of years; it is a set of histories, instead of only one. Extending from Shanhai Guan in the east to Jiayu Guan in the west, these walls, complementary to natural landscapes, served as northern frontiers dividing agrarian civilization and the steppe tribes. Today, however, it is said that thirty percent of the Great Wall is in ruins, and another twenty percent is in “reasonable” condition, according to a survey of a hundred sections of the wall carried out by the Great Wall Society of China in 2006.1 And the remaining fifty percent has disappeared. While the parts close to Beijing and other cities (such as Jiayu Guan city) draw attention from the government, and protected by law; some other parts of the Wall at those places where they are remote from population-condensed areas and tourist sites, are loosely protected. Geographical locations of the ruins of the walls play a role here. But if the government wants to protect the Great Wall for its archeological and historical importance, why does not it protect every meter of the Wall in the same manner?

What relates to the geographical factor is how different social groups perceive the Great Wall, whether it is a national symbol or not. In Waldron’s text, the alterations of meanings occurred mainly among Chinese and Western literati. Even though literature and folklores might influence general opinion on the Wall among the common, the degree to which it has impact on is hard to distinguish. In distant places, many local villagers even consider the ruins of the Wall as “only a pile of earth”, and for some tourists, drawing and carving on the Wall are not a behavior to be ashamed of. For these who are also Chinese, is the established Great Wall still a symbol of national pride or even important at all to their national identity? If part of the nation do not feel the national significance of the symbol, how can this symbol be important for “national” identity? Or is it just for the part of people who can be vocal and represent the nation in the world?

Last but not least, economic reason also drives to the restoration of the Wall, which links to the geographical factor previously discussed. Economic concerns matter much to the local governments, if less so to the central government. Tourism attracts more capital and further lifts local economy; not to mention the Great Wall is not only a domestic traveller attraction, but also an international tourist magnet. The symbolic and ideological meanings of the Wall exist and become significant because of national leaders and intellectuals (linking back to the social factor), who identify themselves as part of the imagined massive community called China/Chinese-culture-sharers, in front of “others”, feeling themselves different and special, if not better (proud).

There are different reasons to preserve what is considered “old.” I do not agree with Waldron on the “authenticity” of the Great Wall recognized by “Chinese people”. Various parts of the Wall have been torn down, rebuilt, surrounded by recreation parks, and then charged for entrance fee. These “Great Wall(s)” are of anything but authenticity. Thus preserving the authentic is hardly one of the reasons for restoration; and restoration with other purposes create nothing authentic.

Tearing down the “old” and building up the “new” is a desperate move to search for recognition and self-identification. Comparing to the parts of the Great Wall, which are “lucky” enough to be preserved, the old towns of some other cities in China was less fortunate. Lanzhou, a city filled with architectures from Ming and Qing dynasties, was gradually and completely destroyed and rebuilt. In recent years, the city officials started to realize the loss of uniqueness by completely discarding its past. But it is already too late. The special city structure “double city” nowadays can only be seen in old photos and a newly built sculpture in the city park. At the places where the original buildings were, some black stone tablets stand, giving basic information of the “deceased buildings”, looking ridiculous.

Old double-city structure in City Park:

Lanzhou City Park1

“Gravestones” of the old town in the lost memory:

Stone Tablet1 Stone Tablet 2

Still Buzzing 20150123 Transculturality and Translatability

I have been wondering how to translate our beloved concept of Transuclturality into Chinese. After discussing with a Professor focusing on Sinology, and getting even more confusion and a sentence our of a devoted Sinologist (“But YOU ARE Chinese! You should have a better idea of creating a new name for our new concept than I could!”), I grew more desperate than ever. How to introduce transculturality and transcultural studies to China, if we don’t even have a proper, and better classy and elegant name for it? (Ok I am a perfectionist!) Anything I can say in Chinese, which are in fact able to describe transcultruality include:

万物有同有异,它求同存异。

万物亦动亦静,它由动观静。

Wuxi-China

These mean the following:

Everything in this world has similarities and differences. It searches for the similarities among the differences.

Everything in this world is still and also in motion. It observes the motion through the still.

Well, translation can be a hardcore work. This is already the best I can do, for now.

Buzzing Buzzing…20150116 Time to Socialise?

Perception of Time
Is it really like we always say, today in this capitalist world, we are so occupied that don’t have time to socialise, don’t have time to leisure. What has changed in our life comparing to hundreds years ago? Has humans’ perception of time changed?

In the era of internet, do we have more time to social or less? If we should call communicating with others online as being socialising?

Using internet contains always, and only information input and/or output. News reading, movie/video watching are mostly input process. Writing Emails is counted as the newest form of writing letters. Writing instant messages can happen at the same time when you do other things or a single thing you do. You can also writing messages with several people at the same time. People can group chat. Isn’t it “hanging out”? Some video chatting with friends and families for hours, or watching the same TV programs while skypping, just like they are “hanging out” and spending time with them. Can’t all of these activities be consider as “socialising”?

Has internet changed the meaning of “social”?
If one talks about “social space”, most young people today would instantly think of the virtual social space. “Social networks” as they call it. On Google plus, one can add friends’ accounts into his own “circle”, and then one can see if they are online, if so, ask them if they want to “hang out”.

i think, whether or not an activity can be called socialising should be defined by how the participants feel, instead of how it looks like, how “weird” it might be. Feeling is always a tricky and unrecognised way to define and to measure. But isn’t it an ultimate criteria or everything we do? Maybe this is a possible topic for sociologists and phycologists, to find out how we can develop a system to measure if we are “feeling” ourselves socialising, as if we can’t tell by ourselves.

Coming back to perception of time, I believe, if we modern humans carefully count how much time we devoted into professional tasks or studies, the truth is, not so much as we imagined. Working from 9 to 17 is 8 hours in total. If 8 hours sleeping time not calculated, we still have 8 hours to do whatever we can and want — socialising, meditating, eating (for some who say them being too busy to eat), exercising, and reading and writing.

But why don’t we feel the 8 hours? Comparing to Bengali men sitting everyday 5 hours together and chatting, we live in a seemingly much stressful way.

In fact, we still have the 8 hours, but we only have them as small pieces, instead of hours of time chunk as people have living in pre-modernity.

Urbanisation of cities make people spend more and more time on transportation. So much junk and useless information on the internet and television distract us every day for one or two ours. involuntarily and voluntarily we give away so much time a day. And still feeling lack of time.

We are living in a completely different world than our ancestors. They faced big chunk of time a day, from dawn to dawn. Later, specialisation of labour re-decided the world’s resource distribution; while for individuals, specialising certain activities and distributing them into small sections of time is a favoured way to solve this problem.

Buzzing 20150108: The Unchallengeable Freedom of Speech

What happened in Paris at Charlie Hebdo is an absolutely horrible terrorist attack. Violence is a brutal way to defend Islamic holiness. The al-Qaida terrorist cell in Yemen, according to British media, is involved. This bloody attack has been condemned by the international. Not only the western media is reporting the ruthless murder, they are somehow also conveying additional sentiments to the public. Something provocative, radical, hateful, and worse.

By reading through Weibo feed, I noticed Chinese people’s attitude towards Islam. Some show their fury and some show their fear. What is even more shocking to me is that, some well-educated and renowned journalists/writers, who advocate for well-spread western values (democracy, human right, equality and freedom), all voicing from the same and only term “press freedom”, as the same in almost all western media. Not ANYTHING ELSE. Is this really only another tragic conflict of terrorism and freedom of speech? In China, people never say ill of the dead. (逝者為大) Because they are, well, dead already. What’s the point to talk about if there’s anything that they have done are questionable. But it seems that, since I have devoted to train myself as a qualified journalist from western training, I should of course take the responsibility to tell THE TRUTH, of mine, which is to say of their misbehaviour.

pencils symbol

Have Islam ever enjoyed sarcasm on their holiness?

No.

Why not?

Modern Communist-trained Chinese people all know the following: I won’t offend others, if they don’t offend me; if they do, I will offend them too. (人不犯我,我不犯人;人若犯我,我必犯人。) The words from Mao has become a principle of Chinese diplomatic behaviour. The West has tried for many decades to understand it, and tried to deal with the Communist China.

The West are quick learners in terms of dealing with China. However, dealing with Islam from the beginning of seventh century, the West seems to hardly learned. Learning not how to submit, but to understand, and further, respect, if possible.

If someone has fatal allergy to nuts, another person, who’s playful and is aware of this person’s condition, comes and gives him a nut to eat. He would be furious and think if this guy is trying to kill him and “better kill him before he manages to kill me with nuts”…

image of islam in the west

What can be laughed about, and what should remain serious? Is there a limit of this so-called “absolute and holy” freedom of speech?