The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The Good #3 and #4

3. Lectures on Marxism

I love being a nerd. I really do. I’m the most easily-entertained person you’ll ever meet. All I need is a book, and generally on something that would bore another person senseless. What in the world would be so appealing about a lecture in China on Marxism? Well, in the first place the literature department at Nankai is not given to toeing the Party line, and in quite a few instances has taken a stand on something that goes completely against it. The first book discussion Scott and I ever attended was about a book that was banned on the mainland. So I was intrigued to attend last night’s discussion, on Terry Eagleton’s Why Marx Was Right. The overall focus is that Marxism as it has been cast in the centuries since Karl Marx formulated his ideas bears little resemblance to the original form, and that anyone wishing to understand the system of thought needs to go back and see what Marx said originally. That’s especially pertinent in China, where all of the terms have been co-opted by the State to mean something diametrically opposed to the original. Several students last night noted that they were opposed to Marxism not because of its central ideas, but because they’d been force-fed it all the way through school. They were careful to note, too, that they’d also never actually studied Marx himself, but rather the Party’s writings on Marx, which is a very different kettle of fish. The professors last night encouraged the students to actually read Marx himself and test the Party’s definition of the terms. How many will actually do that is debatable, but it points out an interesting state of affairs in China. I’d venture to say China’s at a place with regards to Marxism that Europe is at with regards to Christianity. After years of it being the orthodox line of thought taught to all students as gospel truth, its very name has become distasteful and is considered arcane, totally inapplicable to our modern world. But is it really? Until you re-think the original terms and read what the system was SUPPOSED to be, it’s hard to say. I love that kind of discussion, and it was especially interesting to hear how the Chinese academy approached it.

4. My new pool

I hadn’t realized just how much stress my swim workout was causing me until I stopped going to the Nankai pool. But think about it for a second. If you know, every time you step out your door to go for a swim, that for the next hour of your life you’re going to be SERIOUSLY cold, and surrounded by shouting, smoking men, wouldn’t it be hard to relax? Well, it was for me. But things are different now. The spa I go to (Yes, I said spa. I’m not getting herbal soaks or anything, but I am going to a spa.) has turned out to be a wonderfully relaxing place for me. I share the pool with probably five other people at a time, and generally have the adjacent hot spring pool to myself. Do you have any idea what it does for your mental state when you can spend even an hour in a place with few people? A few weeks ago, when I went there for the first time, I’d just finished sending in my first big application for grad school in the States and I was SERIOUSLY tense, but after a hard swim, a quiet soak, and an equally quiet shower (the typical mob scene that is the Nankai locker room was not present), I was so relaxed I didn’t want to leave. I wonder what they’d do if I just refused to leave. Just threw out a blanket on the floor and shacked out at the spa for the rest of the winter.


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