A Lesson in Not Giving a Rat's Arse What Other People Think...or is it in Not Judging Other Rats' Arses?



In Beijing I've been watching with delight while people dance freely in the public square, or do tai chi in the middle of a crowded park, or set up their portable karaoke at the palace pavilion to sing for passers-by, or exercise (with amusing arm-flapping) in a grove near a busy path. It all happens in full view of everyone, without a single self-conscious thought. Some men walk around drawing calligraphy on the dusty sidewalks with water, just because they like to. Others follow in their wake and study the characters thoughtfully.

They sit at the park and play their flute, or take a flute lesson from an old master. Some ladies will twirl slowly around to the sound of the flute because that's how they feel.

Also, they might see an unusual person (say, a certain young woman with pale skin and long red hair and hazel eyes) and they think, "I would like to document the moment that I saw such a person." No inhibition then prevents them from walking up to that woman and asking her (with gestures) if they can take a picture with her. And here, please hold my baby so I can take a picture of her with you. Because why not? For heaven's sake, life is too short to choose our actions based on what we fear other people might think.

Besides (and I love China for it), in this country nobody is judging or condemning anyone for it anyway. If they are doing what makes them happy, the attitude seems to be, what on earth could be wrong with that?

I have been an outsider in many places. My looks and actions sometimes scream "stranger, tourist, freak", and nowhere was my otherness more obvious than in China. In Tienanmen Square, people came from left and right to take pictures of me and with me, for no other reason than that I was totally weird. I would turn around to find someone with a big fat camera aimed right at me. Two minutes later, they are still there, still taking my picture. But what is most stunning is the feeling of ease and welcome we feel in Beijing. We've been freaks many times, but in Beijing we don't feel embarrassed or like outcasts. We feel interesting and special instead. How does China do it? How are they all so unshackled by judgment and self-consciousness?

2 comments:

Singletonmd said...

I love LOVE this! I am so moving to China!

KT and Lance said...

I've always been so intimidated by the thought of going to China, it's always been dead last on my list of places to visit, but the way you describe it, makes me want to go! It sounds exciting! And I bet they were taking your picture, because they thought that you were Skully from X-Files! Kidding, who can resist your beauty?