article originally appeared in the Shenzhen
Daily on March 15, 2004]
did you come to China?
people have asked me this question, and sometimes I give the
"easy" answer: to be with my lovely girlfriend, to teach
English, to learn more about Chinese culture (and especially Chinese
religions), to travel. These are all true, but they are not the
real answer is: "Rounding and smoothing."
me explain. Imagine a ball made of a light metal, like aluminum.
Parts of the ball may be dented in, and they need to be rounded out.
And other parts may stick out, and need to be smoothed off. So,
through "rounding and smoothing," the ball is restored to its
philosophy is that if a person is to be a complete human being, he or
she must go through this process of rounding and smoothing. For
some, this can be done in familiar surroundings. Some do it
through spiritual disciplines; some through therapy; some through just
applying themselves to a schedule of "self-improvement."
I find the best method for me is to put myself in new and challenging
situations, especially through experiencing life in other cultures.
My five years in Japan put me on the path to being, like Diogenes and
Thoreau, a "citizen of the world." By living outside of
my "comfort zone," I have found those aspects of my
personality, my understanding, my self that are under-developed.
Likewise, there are certain aspects of my self that make people from
other cultures uncomfortable, and these need to be softened or
offers many opportunities for rounding and smoothing. Sightseeing
within Shenzhen-at Hong Fa or Tian Hou Temples, for example, or the Folk
Cultural Villages-gives me a connection with China's deeper traditions.
Just riding a bus (or a mini-bus!) gives me a chance to practice
patience and tolerance toward others! Trying to express my needs
(with no Chinese language skills) in a market, a restaurant, or a taxi
can lead to greater communication with others. And teaching my
first English salon for the Shenzhen Daily gave me a chance to discuss
deeper ideas with wise, wonderful Chinese people. I hope to do
many more salons all over Shenzhen, to increase my opportunities to
learn from the people here. I also hope to create some discussion
groups for foreigners living in Shenzhen, to share their experiences of
living abroad, and to learn from each other.
all of these experiences, I hope to become the roundest, smoothest
member of the human race that I can possibly be.