where the writers are
Wordless in the face of genius
I'm so blown away by the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics that words seem superfluous. Hyperboles are inadequate. There are the obvious things to write about like the melding of athletics and artistry, an intricate interplay so grandly expressing the designer's vision of genius, so exquisitely beautiful, and so precisely carried out by 15,000 performers, it boggles the mind. China superbly demonstrated the power of its people in combination with its command of technological advances.  Never has an Olympic torch been so inspiringly lit, the medallist racer's gravity-defying path to reach it achingly choreographed around the entire top of the stadium. "We are here," the 'production numbers' that surpassed the best Broadway can produce proclaimed. "On the map, as we have been for centuries, joining past achievements, such as the invention of paper, the kite, gunpowder, and the artistic heights of the T'ang dynasty to the modernity of the present. Joining them with grace and mastery. Better take note, rest of the world, all 4 billion of you that are watching. Look at what our billion and more people can accomplish all together. We are here to stay." There is little doubt that a militant note was struck as well, literally, in fact, by the opening number: 2008 drummers beating out their rhythms and practised gestures in unison on tambours dating from ancient times, recreating the army of terracotta soldiers discovered some decades ago, to general amazement, in archaeological digs. It would have been frightening, had not the musicians been taught to put Western-style smiles on their faces. Nor did the fluidity and grace of the subsequent Tai Chi demonstration mask the fact that the technique is a martial art as well as a Daoist philosophy. Yes, I'm blown away. It made me think of how Germany used the Olympics in 1936 to trumpet its growing power to the world. Oh, but young people don't remember much about that. How could they? They weren't born yet. (As a matter of fact, I was in the process of being born.) And I am uneasy about China's current chumminess with Iran. Overlaying this base of artistically expressed militancy was the more welcome alternative: the Chinese characters for harmony, the dove of peace with columns of unseen Chinese people flapping its wings, the five Olympic rings representing the continents interlinking, the traditional luck of the number 8 (8808) -- and a theme of openness to the wide world. Symbolically, a giant LED screen witnessed the imprints of all participants. There have been other times in history when China has opened its doors to the world, gathered the latest knowledge, advances, technology and then shut them again when the world abused China -- when the British tried to ply China with opium trade, for example, and, trying to protect its people from "foreign devils," China quickly shut its open door policy down.  For most -- certainly not all, as intolerance and human rights violations have marked recent decades -- of its long history, China has been open in other ways, and yes, tolerant towards other religions. The Chinese of centuries ago were grateful because Jewish traders helped them establish the silk route and treated their Jewish population so well that most of them assimilated. Centuries later, China provided one of the few refuges for Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust (www.museumoftolerance.com;www.wiesenthal.com). Some of my friends are alive because they were able to live, albeit meagerly, in designated refugee areas in Shanghai during World War II. One of them is recording her childhood memories of her family who lived as Jews for five generations in China. In television interviews during and after the ceremonies, Chinese interviewees expressed their pride. I am not Chinese, but I am proud for China.