Sunday, May 27, 2012

I miss libraries

Today was a perfect Sunday.

It started with a 45 minute run cut short to 30 minutes because lately I have been having drained energy on my jogs around the track, fatigue on both the mental and physical side.  The fatigue might have been due to a Saturday college sponsored all expense paid for, day long outing including a three hour hike on an incredibly beautiful, lush mountain dotted with temples and Taoist monks, but I kind of doubt it.  For the past week, my exercise routine has been been off.

Brunching with a fellow volunteer, I treated myself to a yummy authentic eggs Benedict plate with all you can drink coffee sprinkled with thought provoking conversation, about sorely missed topics- culture, values, morals, diversity, etc... Questions like what kinds of actions are worse than cheating on a lover?  What happens when you mix Chinese and American college graduates in an intense 6 week training where they live as roommates, 4-6 to a dorm room?  What does forgiveness look like?  Do American women feel less threatened by Chinese men than American men?  Where is the source of my passion?  It was great!  Four hours of just drinking coffee and chatting.

Then I went home and opened up a sociology textbook, Race, Class, and Gender, edited by Margaret L. Andersen and Patricia Hill CollinsAs I read the stimulating essays, I realized that I miss libraries.  I miss university bookstores full of textbooks mirroring the latest trends in hot topics.  I wondered what kinds of essays Chinese sociologists are writing about their country.  After reading a Cornel West "Introduction" to the book Race Matters, I wondered if because I am Asian American I too might be one of the "rootless, dangling people with little links to supportive networks that sustain some sense of purpose in life."  I got angry reading an essay titled "Economic Apartheid in America" by Chuck Collins and Felice Veskel, an essay that reminded me of the trends that I fear about America, "less free time and more working hours, fewer households with health insurance, and diminishing retirement security."  In China, my mind tends to get lazy, numbed by too much Internet TV and conversations with beginner English speakers, so today's college reading material got the gears turning.

Compared to Gansu where the major topics of conversation were about family and weather, moving to Chengdu has been somewhat refreshing where colleagues start conversations on the environment, food safety, corruption, prejudice, luxury items, differences between the cost of living in America compared to China, and education.  Often the details are backed by something someone read off the Internet.

The thing is the Internet scares me even though it is the information age.  Do you believe that information leads to freedom, leads to truth?  90% of my students felt that Internet was a necessity instead of a luxury.

What percentage of the info on the Internet is well-researched opinions/ideas and not just some info byte issued by an interest group trying to further their own agenda?  There are so many outrageous "truths" believed because the point of view is well-written with a tone of authority.  With the emphasis on rote learning, the lack of critical thinking about Internet topics becomes apparent with the following questions I have been asked by both leaders, colleagues, and students:

"The local bank received an e-mail about the Nigerian government requesting to deposit money into their bank.  Could you please help me understand this email so I can translate it into Chinese for my friend who works at the local bank?" 

"Is it true that in French museums Chinese people aren't allowed to enter because then Chinese people will discover that France has many Chinese artifacts?"

And more that are a bit too sensitive to post here.

Feeling myself being pulled into a black hole of monotony, existing withing thinking, of living the cycle of working and watching instead of having books to read, how do I prevent myself from becoming a mindless person? 

Libraries or Internet?

I wonder why I never really got into gathering knowledge from the Internet preferring libraries and bookstores.  Maybe I am just out of date and need to get up to speed.  Buying English books in China is difficult, so maybe abandoning books to surf the world wide web for info is a habit I should adopt?

1 comment:

M said...

what about kindles?
My mom just gave one to my dad for his bday and he´s super excited about it.
I like the french museum thing :)
Come and watch movies and let´s talk about fun topics I somehow only talk about with you.