Thursday, June 20, 2013

Jesus is the reason for the ... what, now?

I know, let's talk about why I reject Christianity - -that'll surely be fun for all and sundry, if admittedly a bit off the subject of China. Today I got a hymn stuck in my head, thanks to someone's Facebook post. I will do you the favor of not getting it stuck in your head, too, but let's just say it was one of the many, many hymns that reference how Jesus loved me enough to die for me.

Now, I could cite a lot of reasons, actually, as to why I've severed my ties with church/religion/belief. Let's see, there's ... the logical inconsistencies, the sexist patriarchy, the inability to appreciate the Bible -- a work of literature -- as literature, the !@#* creationists and abortion clinic bombers (yes, I know, they are the extremists, but quick: name three ways their churches try to put a stop to their actions), the sheer unmitigated boredom of the hours and hours and hours of my childhood and adolescence wasted in church ... yeah, there's all that, but I'm here for a much more fundamental (see what I did there) reason today, to wit: the whole "Jesus died for me" thing.

 I mean -- what the hell? So to speak.

And no one will explain it to me. (Believe me, I've asked.) They like to say things like "You have to take it on faith."  But they miss my point. This isn't about the impossibility or possibility of it, no, nor is about the (totally respectable) question so many have asked as to why exactly their loving, omnipotent, etc. God-the-father would send His Son to be savagely butchered and all that. No, I ask a much more to-the-simple-point question of how exactly one dies "for" another.  Like, OK, you put this guy (sorry, this Guy) on a cross and pounded in the nails and he ascended to Heaven and -- this was for my sins?  What's the connection? I'm pretty sure I never asked for all that. And this atones for my sins how exactly?

I mean, it's clearly like all the other barbaric, old-school, ritualistic, like-so-many-cultures, pagan, animism, Aztec, whatever, bloodthirsty animal sacrifice just amped up a bit, like if the people who wrote the New Testament were sort of the Quentin Tarantinos of their day. But everyone has totally fallen for it. I find it to be no small coincidence that many of these same people are convinced that the young men and women who are routinely slaughtered by savage, institutionalized, government-led butchery in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Germany, Japan, Bull Run, Valley Forge, etc. are also said to have died "for me."  It's as if that argument is too powerful for anyone to resist. Oh, this terrible sad awful tragic deplorable thing .. oh, wait, it was for me? Oh well, then it's so powerful! Oh, I'm so moved!

No, dude. Someone was murdered. How does that help you? What does that have to do with you? Nothing.

But government leaders who convince you of that get to be rich(er) and (more) powerful because your powerful belief enables their slaughter. And so it is with the Christians. You can almost hear a warmongering council back in the day: "How can we really get this Roman Empire off the ground? Hey, what about those wacky Christians -- remember that guy we killed? He said, 'Greater love hath no man than this...'  Sure, maybe he was talking about running in front of a car chariot to push an innocent child out of harm's way, but let's say instead he was laying down his life for the sins of his friends - of his people - wait, I've got it! ALL humanity! Then everyone has to believe in us! Let's put a Holy in front of our name."


I will give a hundred dollars, straight up, to the first person who can explain (actually explain) just exactly how the f**k (even ostensibly) Jesus died for us. What does that even mean? It is the absolute most basic tenet of Christianity, I mean, that is the WHOLE THING, and no one can explain it.

No, thanks! say I.

OK, but it really was boring going to three hours of church every week, too, though.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Guangzhou and permanence and skies

I've been having technical issues recently - it may be time for a new laptop - and that is why the posting schedule has been yet again thrown off. Sorry! 

Five months of living in Guangzhou. Seven months remain. How does Guangzhou compare to the other places I have lived and taught?

Well, Korea in general is easier in a few ways than China in general, as far as just living there goes. In Korea, an expat teacher feels s/he can pretty much do whatever s/he wants all the time. This is largely true, within reason, but the problem is that so very many expat teachers -- so very many twentysomethings the world over, of course -- lose their focus on that "within reason" part. In China, I don't have the same sense of abandon that I can do whatever I want and that everything will be conveniently somehow available. Many, many things are here, sure, in terms of food, fashion, transport, technology, etc. But, I do have to put forth what I perceive as more effort as opposed to the ease of daily life. It is also so much easier to become functionally literate in Korean, and being unable to read everything around me is really, really, really annoying -- almost as annoying as being unable to find an affordable literacy/reading/writing class here.  Living in Mexico is on a whole other planet from the Asian bewildering-days experiences. I mean, living in Mexico is not even exotic or particularly "different" from my Southwest U.S. heritage, geography-climate-food-wise -- plus, Spanish is easy, being in North America is easy, eating is cheap and delicious and easy, and basically everything except cockroaches is easy there. But, you don't get paid enough money to live or do anything much, so you definitely finding yourself wanting to head back to Asia.

Job-wise, I much much much prefer my current gig to all of my other ESL teaching jobs, mainly for the reasons of hours worked per week, the materials and curriculum provided, and the fabulous adult students as compared to the cat-herding atmosphere of teaching five or six or seven classes of Korean kids and 'tweens all day.  I loathed the split shifts in Mexico and the only problem here is that we have had a very recent development in which they have changed all the foreign teachers from five to six-day schedules for the summer (and possibly beyond). Needless to say, we are livid at having our "weekends" (two days off in a row) taken away. My 26 hours of work are now spread across six days, so I've got time to organize my life and do things, but can't take weekend trips for three months -- or possibly more -- which is so lame.

Food is easy and cheap here. Not quite as cheap as Mexico, more vegetable options than Korea (and far less seaweed, thank you very much! said the allergic-to-seaweed-lady), not much English on menus, lots of pictures though, and in Guangzhou, plenty of Western, Indian, and other foreign restaurants including multiple expat-filled pubs and taverns.

But am I planning to stay in Guangzhou past this year? No. One might wonder why, since I seem to like the job and whatnot. Yesterday, it hit me quite strongly while I was running, the reason why I won't be here forever. As I ran through my neighborhood of tall, gray, skyscrapers, "Useless Desires" came on my running play list and Patty Griffin sang that wonderful line of hers, "The sky turns to fire/against the telephone wire..."  I looked around me and realized that in the gray Guangzhou rainy season haze and the utter lack of expansive view, I haven't seen that sight in ages! For that alone, I will hie myself to a good ol' open space to wander and ramble again in my lifetime.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

I sit 10 stories above the street

I was unable to post on Thursday due to a random can't-connect-to-Blogspot error. Apologies!

Anyone who likes music and/or deeply loves some band or other has probably listened to quite a few live albums in his/her day. The story I am about to tell will resonate with Indigo Girls fans but also, I think, anyone who enjoys a live album -- as for you people born five minutes ago who only download your music one track a time, I can't help you.

I enjoy listening to a live album (say, 1200 Curfews) that is put together with songs from various shows and interesting artist chatter to link and introduce the songs, but there is one thing that just really annoys me. There are a few occasions on the aforementioned album when one Indigo Girl (OK, its's usually Emily) starts to talk about the next song and before actually introducing it, she gives it away by something she says in her little intro. For example, "So I was thinking about Galileo..." which elicits a huge cheer from the crowd and even a sarcastic "Nice segue" from Amy. Well, before another certain song she mentions that she was thinking about her little boyfriend Danny in sixth grade, and a faint recognition cheer can be heard from in the background, clearly coming from the tenth or so of the fans who now know she is about to launch into the story behind "Least Complicated" because we are just that devoted and know all about the whys and wherefores of most of their songs' origins. OK, fair enough that some people are still in the dark - no problem. She then says, "I went to Woolworth's and I bought him a ring." At this point, there is a huge, loud recognition cheer (for which Emily has to pause in her story, even) because now most everyone knows what's coming. The damn chorus of the song, after all, involves the fact that "[she] bought [him] that ring because [she] never was cool." OK, great. Now we are all in. Here come's "Least Complicated." Emily finishes talking about the "beginning of the rest of [her] life" and we're off ...

Except! Except then!  When they start playing the song, there is another recognition cheer a few bars into the guitar-strumming intro. It's like, what?!  Who is doing that?  We've already established that we knew what was coming and cheered for it. The people who give that oh-my-god-thank-you-for-playing-this recognition cheer at that point just remind me of the jackasses on Facebook who comment on someone's "OMG thanks for all the birthday wishes!!" status with a "Happy birthday!"  Do you just want the whole world to know how entirely you have missed the boat, or what?

Yes, these are the musings of someone with too much time and/or Indigo Girls trivia on her hands.

And here we are in June. Summer in Guangzhou is shaping up to look a lot like spring in Guangzhou: warm gray, hazy days punctuated with rain. I guess it is a bit hotter, because we are running the A/C. Haven't yet got an electric bill with this new cost factored in. Our bills overall have been pretty cheap, so here's hoping it's not too much of a shock to the system!

What an adult-like nerd I am blogging about weather and electricity bills. Other recent happenings in the GZ; work, work, work; a new schedule at work about which the foreign teachers are not happy; two consecutive first-place trivia wins at the pub quiz in two different Western-themed, expat-filled taverns in Zhujiang New Town; occasional Chinese class; Game of Thrones withdrawal this past week just like for everyone else around the world who watches it; reading; being crowded on the Metro -- you know, the usual.

I think June needs a thing. You know how March has in like a lion, out like a lamb? Why doesn't June have a thing like that?