China by Bicycle :: April -- October '98

Subject: Going east to get West.
Date: Wed, 21 Oct 1998 18:27:43 -0700

19:01 Narita International Airport, Narita; Japan :: WE 21 OCT 98

Rain pummels the watery coating of every surface in sight, streaks glance off the window while rain-geared mechanics and staff clamber uncomfortably over the behemoth jets, looking like patients in an intensive care ward with all the umbelical lines and blinking machinery crowded close to the bedside.

The rain. An omen. Vancouver. The Wet Coast. And perhaps a metaphor.

Since departing Hong Kong earlier this morning, I've been poring over copies of Newsweek and The Economist, trying to osmose the Western perspective on the events of the past half year. News of the world, particularly since departing Xian in July, has been sparse as the desert rains. It's a little overwhelming. The planet seems a less stable place than before I ducked behind Beijing's gauzy veil. Less stable, and more absurd: President's, assistants and cigars.

The last four days of my ride to Kashgar were a small torture. Each day of the desert crossing a count-down mantra. "Three days to Kashgar...three days to Kashgar...." Then, "Two days to Kashgar...Two Days to Kashgar...." and, finally, "Downhill to Kashgar...Downhill to Kashgar..." Now, in the familiar rain which could be Vancouver's, in the morose drizzle of disturbing news, I am already nostalgic for the remote desert, and the small villages and cities where rain rarely falls and sexual proclivities of the world's most powerful man do not matter.

It is a nostalgia based upon experience of returning from past journeys. Given the ubiquity of my country's media, and the devotion of my culture to endlessly repeating and restaging its reports, I will be no better able to shelter myself from the disheartening reality this media creates than the poor sods trudging through the miserable rain here in Narita. Again, I will be drawn in, as if it all really matters.

Or have I finally learned something?

He who is in harmony with the Tao
is like a newborn child.
Its bones are soft, its muscles are weak,
but its grip is powerful.
It doesn't know about the union
of male and female,
yet its penis can stand erect,
so intense is its vital power.
It can scream its head off all day,
yet it never becomes hoarse,
so complete is its harmony.

The Master's power is like this.
He lets all things come and go
effortlessly, without desire.
He never expects results;
thus he is never disappointed.
He is never disappointed;
thus his spirit never grows old.
  graphical element Attributed to Lao Tse
The Tao Te Ching
Chapter 55
trans. Stephen Mitchell