"I prefer the voices in my head to the voices outside" Said my friend. "The voices in my head know when it is time to be quiet." Before he continued before I called over the bored waitress and asked her to get a beer for my friend. My friend has seen quite a lot in his life that people were not meant to see and as a result his sanity tends to move in opposite directions from his sobriety. I would learn, a couple of years later, that this was a mistake and he having a rare moment of sober clarity.
I am in China now. It is a wonderful country. Oh I am quite aware of all the controversies but I cannot affect any of them. As I sit in the park, listening to the birds gossip amongst themselves I have come to realize the wisdom of his words. The birds do not gossip about the impending economic Armageddon that the world is facing, or about conflicts in cities I cannot pronounce nor about health care. They seem quite content discussing about whatever it is birds fancy talking about and they seem to feel no guilt doing it.
My life in China is the same. I spend my days gently prodding students to dip their toes into the wading pool of English. My lunches are spent, as they should be, with friends discussing matters of no relevance. I don't have wi-fi, or HDTV, or save my itouch and microwave, many of the conviences of home. And I find my life more full as a result. At night I walk though the campus listening to the music played by the student radio station as the speakers warm up the frigid air.
I have, in short, found what it is to be human. It is not what I expected nor what it forced upon us by the manufactures of happiness that dominate our lives in America. I listen to my students as they tell me about their hometowns as we eat a meal or in the classroom and I find myself wiser for it. I have learned far more in the past weeks from them then I did from some of the best professors the American continent has to offer.
I am, in the words of Pink Floyd, comfortably numb. There are many controversies in the world but I have disowned them. They are no longer my masters and even when I return to America I won't let them regain their throne. There are still unjust acts in the world but I do not care about them. I have chosen instead to build a new world built on friendship and trust instead of fear mongering and hatred. I am not rejecting my country; I am just going on a different path then the hordes of worried masses.
On this path the sky is blue. Things that I would have thought of as an inconvenience, are now consider good fortune. A late bus becomes not a sense of stress but rather an extemded opportunity to share jokes with some friends. While the world boils over in conflict, the voices around me have silenced. My friend, in his despair and loosening grip with reality, in the end, was actually quite right.