Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Monday, January 17, 2005

You cannot understand life and its mysteries as long as you try to grasp it. Indeed, you cannot grasp it, just as you cannot walk off with a river in a bucket. If you try to capture running water in a bucket, it is clear that you do not understand it and that you will always be disappointed, for in the bucket the water does not run. To "have" running water you must let go of it and let it run.

--Alan Watts

This quote speaks to me about life on so many different levels. So many things are beyond our control or comprehension. You can try to make things happen, but sometimes you just need to let things happen; you have to let go. It's a difficult balance- proactively working towards a goal and at the same time, being attuned to the environment around you (seeing, acting on or accepting the "hidden forces" around).

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Dinner Table Discussions...

A typically amusing dinner table discussion with my parents this evening:

Mom: "So former President Lee Teng-hui is celebrating his 84th birthday today. And he hopes to continue his work for Taiwan for another 10 years."

Dad: "Well, every year he says that. I'm not sure how many good years he has left."

(Note to my little sister: If the seething sentiments you expressed in your email this summer in response to the possibility of Lin offspring still apply, please stop reading here or proceed with caution!)

Mom: "How could you say that? You're not so young yourself. Let's hope that *somebody* has the chance to become a grandfather before reaching the age of 70..."

Wishful thinking and a complete impossibility where I am currently concerned... I was sitting directly across from my Mother as she said this. I laughed as I responded:

"Well don't look at me!"

Of course my parents weren't pinning their hopes on me--a thirty-something single, independent woman, living in Taiwan, who has long given up any hopes of being in a normal dating situation as long as she remains here (in limbo), having declared way too many times: that she's getting ready to leave and return back to North America--where she's certain that she'll be back in a normal dating pool. *Right* well the grass always seems greener...

"Of course not", laughed my Mother. "So, Dad said that he recently received an email from your younger sister saying that she and her husband are looking for a bigger house. That's interesting. I wonder if that means..."

Oh no not the *B* word... I thought.

Mom: "Well she did say that they'd be looking for a bigger house if and when they were ready to consider having a b----"

My Dad just laughs at my Mother's suggestion.

Me: "Don't hold you breath on that one. The last time I brought that up as a completely innocent joke- the response I got was basically *when hell freezes over*. That was pretty much the consensus among the few married, childless couples in our family (among them my sister and cousins). Once I got that response, I was like- Okay, I won't even touch that topic with a ten foot pole!"

Mom: "Well, so what about you? What are you waiting for, would it matter- if there was someone who asked you out on a date, whether he was a local Taiwanese or foreigner- wouldn't you just go on a date for fun or something?"

Me: "Well, problem is that there haven't been many people asking me out on dates lately. I don't understand Taiwanese men or the rules of dating here. And the foreign men- well, that's another story. I don't _just_ want to 'go on a date to go on a date' and it's really hard for me to meet the right person in my current situation."

Mom: "There's always email and the internet. Can't you meet someone that way?" As she looks knowingly at Dad, "Didn't so-and-so, that lovely young couple- who was part of our tour group- that we met during our trip to Europe this past summer, didn't they meet on the internet?" Looking at me, "And your friend S who got married to Y a few years ago, and now they are now having a baby- didn't they meet over the internet too?"

This... coming from a woman who doesn't know much about the world wide web, doesn't have an email account or know how to surf the internet. It just cracks me up! The internet- it is now the new magic pill for my relationship (or lack thereof) crisis.

Me: "Here's an even better idea than finding love through the internet- if you're so eager to help me find someone, why don't you just start a T.V. show called, 'Who Wants To Marry My Daughter?'"

Mom: "Hmmm... sounds like a good name for a sitcom or novel... Maybe you could write something like that based on your life..."

We all had a good laugh as my parents started going off on ways that they could find someone to introduce to me.

Problem is, I have a very strong aversion towards being setup in any way shape or form by any friends or family- it doesn't seem to matter how close a confidante, or well-intentioned the *matchmaker* is. Am I a control freak when it comes to this or have I just had a few bad experiences with setups? I think that I'd just like to keep it simple and be able to say that I, myself take full responsibility for any dating foibles that I've encountered.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Oh Glory!

At last the sun is back out again for the first time in days since the temperature here dropped by more than 10 degrees centigrade. I know it may seem odd to be complaining about the cold weather over here in Kaohsiung, but when the temperature suddenly drops by ten degrees (from the mid-20's to above 10) in less than twenty 24 hours, you notice. And you also begin to notice that most buildings are poorly insulated, have drafty, single pane glass windows and no central heat.

Having the sun out in full force is what made those harsh, long, cold winters in Canada seem bearable. Clear blue skies, cold crisp air, traces of breath hang in the air, and the warmth of the sun kisses my cheeks through the window of my parents' car. Outside- blinding, bright whiteness, reflecting off all whiteness, vast and soft, awakening the senses.

The source of all life, slowly melts away the layers, reminding us that was lies beneath is dormant not dead.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Something I read a few years ago, from the Ethics for the New Millennium , written by His Holiness the Dalai Lama:

"At a public talk I gave in Japan a few years ago, I saw some people coming toward me carrying a bunch of flowers. I stood up in anticipation of receiving their offering, but to my surprise, they walked straight past and laid the flowers on the altar behind me. I sat down feeling somewhat embarassed! Yet again I was reminded that the way in which things and events unfold does not always coincide with our expectations. Indeed, this fact of life--that there is often a gap between the way in which we perceive phenomena and the reality of a given situation--is the source of much unhappiness. This is especially true when, as in the example here, we make judgments on the basis of partial understanding, which turns out to be fully justified."

Over the years I've often thought of this excerpt. It's a pearl of wisdom that has helped me to accept others and to understand their expectations--which are often bound by their perceptions of a situation. Even more importantly, it has served to ground me, remind me not to take myself too seriously, that we don't always know the whole story when it somes to other people, situations, or even the situations we find ourselves in. It's a reminder not be bound by the limitations of our perceptions, which as a practical matter, inherently require that certain assumptions must be made.

Well, these words of guidance--words to live by were just as easily forgotten as I rang in the New Year this weekend.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

An Editorial from the Taipei Times today:

The Crisis Of Our Own Making

By the Liberty Times editorial

Sunday, January 2, 2005, page 8

As China's National People's Congress prepares to review an anti-secession bill, Beijing has released a white paper on defense in which no effort was spared to intimidate Taiwan.

According to the white paper, "China will never allow anyone to split Taiwan from China in any manner or form. If the Taiwan regime boldly proceeds with a major independence campaign, the Chinese people and armed forces will do everything within their power to crush the plot with unwavering determination at all costs."

The simultaneous release of the white paper with the push for an anti-secession law suggests that Beijing is raising the heat against Taiwan using a threat of war to bully it into submission.

Since 1995, Beijing has released five defense white papers, three of which were released after Taiwan had its first transfer of political power in 2000 and a native consciousness became part of mainstream thinking.

The central theme in China's Taiwan policy has been none other than warning that once Taiwan declares its independence, the Chinese people will crush Taiwan's claim in order to protect Chinese sovereignty.

The threats and coercion contained in the white paper this time around are really no exception.

Yet there is no real change in the level of threatening language, so there is really nothing special about it.

However, the fact that the white paper has been released while Beijing is seeking to enact an anti-secession law does suggest there is growing worry in Beijing about the direction Taiwan is taking.

Thus, although China is unable to stop the trend toward self-determination displayed by the Taiwanese people, it is still vainly attempting to counter the popular will by turning up the volume with its threats.

Every step of the process by which Taiwanese seek to establish a normal country -- nativization, a referendum, arms procurements, name rectification and a new constitution -- was labeled by the white paper as "the obvious intensification of the Chen Shui-bian (???) regime's deliberate challenge to the status quo that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to the same `one China' and the movement toward Taiwan independence and the splitting of Taiwan from China."

The white paper went on to state that "[Chen] continually promotes the splittist stance of `one country on each side' of the Taiwan Strait, uses the referendum to engage in splittist activities, incites the people of the island [sic] to resent the Chinese mainland and purchases offensive arms on a large scale. It has not given up on heading for Taiwan's independence through drafting a so-called `new constitution of Taiwan' and is still waiting for the opportunity to instigate a major incident relating to Taiwan independence through so-called constitutional and political re-engineering."

The things that are being rejected and criticized by the white paper are the core of Taiwan's democratic reforms -- the most precious accomplishment in Taiwan's history.

The white paper essentially suggests that Taiwan can be free of Chinese threats only if it relinquishes democracy and its sovereign status, returns to the embrace of authoritarian rule and accepts the "one China" principle.

However, once Taiwan accepts the "one China" principle, and gives up its democratic reforms, it would be no different from returning to a prehistoric jungle and becoming the political, economic and cultural slave of China.

The livelihoods and lives of the Taiwanese would be comprehensively diminished as a result.

China released the white paper to give the impression that its military expansion is for the purpose of self-defense and that it will not constitute a threat to any other country.

That is to say, in addition to concocting a justification for military threats against Taiwan, the white paper further means to depict China as an angel of peace and so conceal its actual agenda of military expansion, thus easing the suspicions of other countries.

The white paper is filled with deceptive statistics and lacks credibility.

For example, the defense budget for last year is put at 211.7 billion yuan (US$25.66 billion), a 12.5 percent increase on the figure from 2003.

If this figure is right, then it would mark China as the country with the third-largest military expenditure, trailing only the US and Russia.

However, studies indicate that the defense budget announced by China is only part of the actual budget, and that the actual figure is much higher than the official figure.

It is believed that the real defense budget is three to five times greater than the figure released -- approximately 500 billion to 630 billion yuan. If these studies are accurate, then how can China only have the third-largest military expenditure in the world?

China has enormous military power, yet it has the audacity to accuse Taiwan of being a "troublemaker" and the "biggest threat and danger to peace and security in the Taiwan Strait and the Asia-Pacific region." What a charade.

The white paper also declares that China insists on a defensive military policy.

But if China had truly adopted a defensive policy, how does Beijing explain the military preparations it has made to engulf Taiwan?

Taiwan does not have the capability to invade China. If China did not intend to invade Taiwan, peace in the Taiwan Strait may be secured on a permanent basis. Under the circumstances, what kind of threat can possibly exist in the other direction?

Chinese military preparations to invade Taiwan and become a regional hegemon is the real source of tension and instability in the region.

The white paper brazenly says that "stopping Taiwan independence is the sacred duty of the Chinese military forces," and revisits the so-called "three absolutes" and "one never."

These are absolute opposition to any form of independence activities, absolute opposition to any country selling arms to Taiwan and absolute opposition to military alliances between Taiwan and any other country, as well as never allowing anyone to split Taiwan from China.

In a word, the target of the 30,000-word white paper is Taiwan. China does not even hide its intention to use force against Taiwan.

With such a severe threat hanging over it, Taiwan must give top priority to building up adequate defensive capabilities.

In view of recent developments in the international arena, the US' willingness to sell Taiwan advanced arms such as submarines, anti-submarine aircraft and Patriot missiles presents, therefore, an invaluable opportunity. Taiwan must seize this opportunity.

What is puzzling is the opposition lawmakers' boycott of arms purchases.

They refuse to even submit a budget for review. What a total and flagrant disregard of the interests of the people and the security of the country this represents.

As China homes in, Taiwan has been trapped by rivalry between the pan-green and pan-blue camps, delaying budget approval indefinitely.

Beijing's white paper is no cause for concern, regardless of how vicious its threats may sound.

It is the nonsensical standoff between the government and opposition that threatens to become the biggest crisis facing this nation.