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China Commentary– Youthful Musings on the Environment, Culture & Development

Archive for December 2006

64% Bluff, Fear and Death

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Written by Miles

December 17, 2006 at 9:56 am

My SSAT essay

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I recently helped a student after her SSATs by explaining the relevance and arguments behind the phrase, “Success is a more a product of persistence than initiative.” Tonight, I thought to myself, Boo. Boo to the boring prick who wrote that comment. Persistence is for those stubborn enough to see life in the sense of finite list of goals and limited set of outcomes. Initiative is for those who seek new horizons, beyond those of the horizontal hegemony.

I think of myself as a work progress. I think of myself as having a lot of potential. I think of myself as lazy for not surpassing that potential already, at 23. I think I am not too young for retirement. I also think life should be about seeking means to a daily sensation of not-tiring. New things. New ideas. New boxes on the checklist.

Here and now, one asks? How much smoke am I blowing? Well, subtropical rain. Check. Done that. Could get used to not doing it.

I am far from a role model. I continue to mismanage a few simple tasks in my life, i.e. buying a durable rain suit. Yes, “suit.” A full-blown pavement-to-sky plastic paradise. Riding a scooter in subtropical rain, as we, the majority of Taipeiers do, sucks.

But I get by. I do persist. It makes me feel at home. I tell myself: everybody’s doin’ it. Yes, those same words we were taught to resist in D.A.R.E. Ah the rebirth of education, the bliss of cultural immersion!

On a positive note, a more functional and self-promoting point, I have begun the near-impossible task of self-educating. I am the proud reader of a dictionary. It makes for good bedside material. I simply could not find anyone willing to teach me simplified Chinese. Which left only me to blame, and thus Teacher Miles stepped up to the plate.

In other personal affairs: I must confess that I have recently broken a boycott of all Taiwanese (alleged “Chinese”) food. I feel I played a valiant role in the evolving war against awful food. There needs to be a disclaimer on all the websites that praise Taiwan’s culinary genius: 1) This author is freakin’ nuts; or 2) Take with a pinch of salt, a spoonful of soy, a mysterious watery brown liquid sauce that tastes like nothing in particular and comes on almost everything, deep-frying oil, MSG, black pollution dust, and betel nut loogie.

It is, honestly, embarrassing how much I have eaten at TGIFridays here. But Thank God for it! The WTO is forcing American beef into Asia, and it is sustaining my protein levels. That and 7-11 cans of tuna. Stapled together by the poor man’s banquet meal: pasta. I am a man with a plan when it comes to pasta experimentation.

I am proud proponent of random acts of creation. Here at ol’ Chengong Rd., D32, Fl24, for instance, one may hear a little Billie Holiday behind the grunts of a 2am room rearranging. Inspiration strikes at odd moments! Occasionally one needs to rearrange, reinterpret, and rejuvenate. “The journey of one thousand miles begins with one step,” according to the ancient Chinese proverb.

Persistence equals success? Perhaps determination was the intended word. Maybe G.W.B. did a little ghost-writing for some of these (No Child Left Behind) tests, eh? Persistence does not trump initiative. Persistence is for those stubborn enough to see life in the sense of few limited goals and outcomes. Initiative is the precursor to any persistence. I took the initiative to teach myself Chinese. It sounds ridiculous even to me. Without persistence, the effort will perish. But initiative first. Always. Always first.

I am the proud transporter of a personal checklist. Some of these are not shining points of initiative. Thai Fried Grubs: check. Taiwanese Pig’s Blood: check. Some classify as wandering initiative. Tubing the Mekong tributaries in Laos: check. Wreck-diving in the Philippines: check. Some are career-based initiatives. Owning my own business: halfway there. Fluency in Chinese: not close. Developing a “home”: suspended indefinitely.

Have many initiatives! That is my plea. “I am an idea man,” the great John Beckwith said. Support your local initiative; support your own!

Written by Miles

December 14, 2006 at 3:59 pm