My bloody Macbook Air 11inch starts flickering in one particular column towards the middle of the screen. This occurred after the first module of the Chinese Flagship Capstone program at Nanjing University ended. And this cumbersome annoyance has been a recurring theme. (Chuckle chuckle… sighs) I must have had accidentally dropped it? Or someone must have kicked it or dropped it for me for this to happen. Sighs. Half a year of super inconvenient and frustration as a result, especially when I was interning since this was my primary computer. You guessed it, I am writing this blog while this is happening.. Usually, I have to whack it a couple times for the flickering to stop or squeeze the bezels of the metal frame. However, at times, it refuses to correct itself and it becomes a trial of perseverance and long-suffering.
Meaninglessness, Foreignness, Loneliness- Blah
Out of the blue, former Chinese Flagship classmate from ICLP Taiwan sent me an unexpected message asking a few questions A response to someone who I told my story to summer 2013 in Taiwan after karaoke:
Hey man, John was it? I cant see your English name on Facebook. Nice to hear from you since summer 2013 huh? Where were you in China? Was it through Flagship?
As of recent:
I am Hong Kong as we speak. I just completed the Nanjing Capstone program, did an internship at a NGO doing social entrepreneurship related work, yet primary did a lot of translation work and article composition. I traveled to 30+ places this year, 25+ cities in China.
Disinterest in Religion: It is Real.
In the past, as you mentioned, I have been heavily involved in religious affairs, however, presently speaking, I truly regret my one-track-mind service and investment in ministry or religious outreach events. Being in China for close to a year (11 months), and participating in churches in 7+ countries, it is probably permitable for me to say I have a more comprehensive outlook on Christianity as an individual who wasn’t born into the faith. That being said, I still identify as a Christian, yet, I have lost that zeal and fervour that I used to have for the faith. This moves on to the next paragraph..
This detach from centralizing my life around Christianity or religion has rattled my worldview and my overall being. The people I tried to convert or convince Christian values towards now all have moved on with their lives. No appreciation for the sacrifices I given for them. Presently, I realized how far behind I am in terms of real-life: the struggle for survive.
Being in the crowded streets of Hong Kong, in a sea of similar looking individuals as I, I just felt really small and insignificant. This was kind of the case in China also. But at the same time, a foreigner in this familiar shell. This sense of being a foreigner for the majority of my life probably is the reason I gravitated towards religion.
Presently, I am trying to find value within myself and increase self-reliance. The more I think about God, the more I feel frustrated, cheated, and betrayed. I felt that I gave everything I had for God these past 4-5 years. Gave Him my youth, energy, and identity to him. In the end, I didnt take care of myself and give greater thought for my future, meanwhile, God remains silent.
In light of all these considerations, my view of having a child, for example, has changed dramatically. True love is to spare any other potential soul to being born into a world of suffering and meaninglessness. Born to be a slave to all sorts of masters, and ultimately, to the greatest master: God. To live is a burden. Contrary to the popular notion, life is not a gift. It is designed test that is rigged from the start by its maker, the few select will be saved, and the rest will perish. God solely makes that choice.
As a believer, I just hope He will spare me of his hell, however, simultaneously, I don’t know to live in his presence will be any better.
Life is a miracle. Life is a mystery and amazing. These cliche phrases are normally prevalent when witnessing a child birth. This is great marketing, however, the final product I am not too pleased with. I believe the billions upon billions of babies also support my proposition, why do you think babies cry when they are born? Point given.
Similarly, its quite a stretch of a metaphor, yet my relationship was pretty much like that. The initial expectations towards the relationship was promising, full of hope and future. (The baby was not crying yet) Then, it slowly sank in when I realized all my efforts were Wasted. I mean, I felt like I gave it my all, 150% but the relationship was dying from the start.
I remember there was an argument one night that left me with a gapping hole in my chest, the worst type of emotional pain I ever felt which kept me awake throughout the night. I experienced being belittled, unappreciated, criticized, and ultimately, unwanted. Yet, I suffered through that episode and carried on. In retrospect, I should have given up at that point. Foolish and prideful was I.
In the end, the real culprit was misunderstanding breed by insufficient heart-to-heart communication or frequent communication. Furthermore, a case of a circle trying to date a triangle. Highlight green trying to match with brown. Nevertheless, I still have high respect and admiration for the type of person she was, I really looked up to her, thats probably what sparked my initial spark and interest in her: to be captivated by her character, work ethnics, attitude, unremitting strive for self-improvement, independent and strong spirit. Without a doubt, though she caused me pain, the rubber pellets of honesty and tough love are bloody painful, however, not lethal. I know it will only make me stronger and better as a person.
Anyways, I know I gave it my all, traces of regrets are inevitable, however, my overall self-evaluation is: “that theres no need for criticism, you gave it your best, move on, no need for self-torment.” The ending of this story will not be disclosed. You can take a wild guess of course.
Places Traveled in Shenzhen
Where Did They Go?
As previously mentioned, I spent the previous 4-5 years attempting to please an invisible force, therefore, missed the opportunity to be present and proactively cultivate the friendships around me at the time or take the risk to chase the girls who caught the apple of my eye. I was living, but not really living at the same time. After traveling and being distance from family members and a handful of friends.
I look at my social media accounts and realized there was no friendly message coming my way, and it remained that way throughout the whole year. Heck, my own family didn’t really maintain the connection with me. But thats another issue. In one respect, yes, I lacked the proactive spirit to initiate those conversations and maintain those bonds, yet, in my attempts, those text-lines only went one way.
However, being in Hong Kong with relatives gave me warmth and hope in family, moreover, re-connecting with a couple friends here also aided in retaining my sanity. Looking back, I am like, what happened? 7 years just flew by in a blink of an eye! It seemed like yesterday I just started college haha. Was I really living life on auto-pilot?
Coworkers and Friends
Lost and Not Found (Yet, hopefully)
Life is truly confusing. Paradoxically, my adventure abroad expanded my worldview and allowed myself to better understand what it means to be living and catch a deeper glimpse of the world within and the world at large. However, at the same time, as I saw more and more new things, the more confusion set in concerning life meaning, security, belonging, purpose, etc. Man, I just hope the future me will have better luck at deciphering and unraveling life’s simplicity yet complex nature. We will have to see whether existence is a blessing or a curse or maybe a bit of both. Time, hopefully, will tell.
First Couple Months in Shenzhen
20 squared meters, 2400 rmb
Hong Kong 12/12-12/17/15
This song best captures and resonates with the story of this part of my life and journey. Great band. Sadly, they aren’t as widely known and recently are still dealing with lawsuits. The song really helps depict the struggles in my life: faith, religion, God, purpose, legacy, personal value, fear of death, yearning for comfort, feeling conflicted, rat race of life, hope, fear, sadness, encouragement, rebelliousness, striving, survival, etc. The list can go on. In the end, I truly hope my life can make a Mighty Sound in the lives of my family, friends, community, career, romantic relationships, society, and the world at large. Just had an epiphany: Common misunderstanding is to abstain from comparing oneself to others, fear comparison. This type of negative fueled concept is destructive, whereas, the right mentality is to positively reform this misconception into this: Embrace diversity and competition as a way for self-improvement, on the contrary, comparison is not a channel to hammer yourself or to employ self-criticism.
God be willing and God please give me the means to make this a living reality. Future Alex. I won’t let you down. We will make a Mighty Sound.
No more than a hundred years are we given
And we spend most of that to survive than barely living
As soon as we’re born, we’re starting to die, to be immortal is still just a lie
Running a race, no one is winning
Is it true in one man, we are forgiven
That he held our souls in his hands from the beginning
Or is this just one chance that we get to live our lives without regret
pay no heed to whether or not we are sinning
Will we live forever, will the saints receive their crowns
Will we be remembered, when we’re six feet under the ground
Or can a short life, still make a mighty sound
All the wars and disease and the cries and pleas and the fearing,
and the faith that we had long ago now disappearing
Millions of souls beg you to hear, for most of us you’re hardly near
We still pray, hoping you’re listening
Will this last forever, will our hopes and dreams be drowned
Our prayers never remembered as our tears soaked through the ground
Or can a small voice still make a mighty sound
Can a fearful heart still find courage when there’s no more faith to be found
Can a broken world, still make a mighty sound
Will we live forever, will the lost and last be found
Our sorrows never remembered, as every knee falls to the ground
And a short life will make a mighty,
and a million voices will make a mighty,
and a broken world will make a mighty sound
*These experiences were made possible by the Gilman Scholarship