“By three methods we may learn wisdom:
First, by reflection, which is noblest;
Second, by imitation, which is easiest;
and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
Confucius’ life probably overlapped a couple of years with that of Buddha, Laozu, and Socrates, 2500 years ago. They could all have met, and their disussions would have been the must-attend event anywhere BC.
Did they suspect what lasting legacies they set in motion?
But… Is China normal? Practically everybody I know has never been to China, and they are much more certain and vocal in their comments than the few people I know that did travel there – as if it’s that important to have an opinion at the ready about why NOT having ever gone there.
As a European, all the views I hear on China – stereotypical, derisive, fearful, but also curious, puzzled, in awe – are the outsiders’ perspective, from which China is strange to the point of leaving most available reference frames altogether. But this is not the right approach at all: the question must be
“Is China normal to the Chinese?”
Of course it is.
My aim is to put the visitor’s boring ballast of comparative judgement aside and treat my life in this huge country, where 1/5 of the world’s people live, as a normal life in a normal country among normal people. If anybody is strange here, it is me.
Of course it is me. And I will use all three of Confucius‘ methods to get my wisdom here.
What I am leaving behind is my medieval house in the UNESCO city of Toruń, Poland. It will be waiting for me.