Erenlai - Identity and Self-Realization 認同感與自我實現
Identity and Self-Realization 認同感與自我實現

Identity and Self-Realization 認同感與自我實現

 

 

Where do I come from? Where do I go?... These contributions offer tools to explore the complexities of identity, overcome contradictions and recognize one’s true self.

你的文化認同感很薄弱嗎?這裡的文章帶領你探索認同感的建立、矛盾的根源與自我意義的覺察。

 

 

Thursday, 05 May 2011

Re/turn


My teacher gave me some tickets to see this performance, by the Tainaner Theatre Troupe. I'd been to the theatre in the Xinyi branch of Eslite before to see a play inspired by the songs of Chen Qizhen, a Taiwanese singer (膚色の時光 Once, upon hearing the skin tone). I remembered so clearly having been there before because the stage is slightly unusual, in that it is a round stage that divides the audience into two sections at either side of the stage, which means they enter through two separate doors. The last play I'd seen staged here had been interesting technically but weak in terms of plot. This play was similarly weak plot-wise - think a school production of Back to the Future fused with the cheese factor of popular Taiwanese TV dramas (Meteor GardenThe Devil Beside You). The story dealt with several connected love stories gone wrong. The death of the female protagonist's mother halts her wedding to a closeted gay man, and her mother comes back through time via a magic doorknob acquired in Tibet from an antique seller (who was portrayed with possibly the weakest piece of acting in the whole play). This sets off a series of events which changes the lives of the protagonists (in Sliding Doors fashion), so that they get the chance to "Re/turn" to the scene of their unresolved regrets and "amend" them. The female protagonist is, through this supernatural interference, reunited with her lost love, and the gay man is accepted by his best friend as a teenager (again thanks to the magic doorknob) so gets the confidence to come out early in life and so avoids the pitfalls of soliciting rent boys and using (God help us all) marijuana (there is an amusing scene where there is a major police bust over one joint).

The major problems with the play was not the acting, which was convincing, but rather the whole concept upon which the play was structured, certain elements of which seemed to be lifted right out of Taiwanese popular culture and films. The obsession with making the play "international" without incorporating any international actors was also a problem for the play. It pandered to the Taiwanese obsession with European and Japanese culture, in that a lot of the play was set in London - where the male lead Charles had apparently grown up with an American accent; there was also a Taiwanese actress playing a Japanese dancer, two very Taiwanese sounding Americans as well as a Taiwanese playing a British postman. Only the latter was vaguely funny, with deliberate use of British English terms designed specifically to make the audience laugh, and none of them sounded natural in english. The director and writer Cai Bozhang (蔡柏璋), though a good singer, was a little self-indulgent as he sang in Taiwanese inflected English through most of the play. My companion for the evening, one of my classmates, pointed out something that I think speaks true of my experience of the contemporary Taiwanese Theatre: that because the writers of a lot of the plays produced nowadays also act as director and actors, the scripts that they write are not really the focus of their work, and do not stand alone as literary works. Rather, the event and the production takes first place. The result is the rather paltry, soap-operaesque dialogue seen in this production. It was a pity that the talents of the actors wasn't put to a better use, more worthy of the stage, otherwise the only role of theatre in Taiwan would seem to be to give a live experience of soap operas.

If we are to take the piece seriously as a piece of theatre, the other thing I was not comfortable with was the moralistic pedagogy of the production, and its assertion that there is "right" path in life that we are diverted from, which seems a rather simplistic and egotistical exercise in self-affirmation by the director (people who don't follow my liberal ideology are following the wrong path). Any deeper exploration of the idea of regret and "fixing the past" is absent, sexuality too, receives quite a superficial treatment in the play. There are two major gay stereotypes in action within the play. The director plays the role of the "gay best friend" of the protagonist. She describes him as her "妺妺" (little sister) whom we "might think is a little unusual". There is, however nothing unusual to a Western viewer about this kind of character: the emasculated, non-predatory inocuous gay male referred to by terms usually reserved for females (think of a slightly updated version of Are You Being Served's Mr Humphries, or a character lightly based on Taiwanese celebrity Cai Kangyong (蔡康永). His "one true love", Peter, (pause - wipe off the vomit - continue) is dead, so his sexuality is essentially safely removed from the present for the audience. The closeted gay fiance's reversion to type after coming out also suggests that his previous masculinity was but a ruse, and at the end of the play he is shoe-horned into the "gay best friend" role as evidence of his acceptance of his sexuality. The other two representations of gay men, are also stereotypes, the predatory older man who chases the closeted gay man when he is a high school student, and the rent boy, whose brazen sexuality and drug-use lead him to arrest, which can be seen as divine justice within the play. As opposed to representing sexuality in a more diverse way, the production instead polarises the representation of alternative sexual and gender roles.

To sum up, the play is easy watching, its ending is predictable and safe. This is the territory of liberal morality and its pedagogical unfolding is suitably bland. None of which is what motivates me to go to the theatre, why pay 600NT or more to see a low-budget, albeit live, rehash of a feel-good movie. The night I went the production overran by about 40 minutes, so expect to be impatiently looking at your watch while you watch the happy-ending play out at length to the crooning wails of the directors singing.

Don't expect much and you'll have a long but vaguely entertaining night. 2/5

Performance attended: Friday 15th April 2011, 7.30pm. Poster taken from the play's blog, which can be viewed here.

 

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Dreams, Creativity and Intuition

A Time of Dizzying Change

We’re rushing up the ever-steeper incline of an exponential explosion in technological innovation that is leaving not a single aspect of our lives unaffected.  Our economies, our jobs, our environments, our illnesses, the nations we live in, their forms of government – nothing has escaped change, nothing remains unaffected.  If we turn around from where we are today and look back, we catch a breath-taking sweep of the past, so high have we gotten on the upward sweep of this powerful curve.  In some crucial areas, the last year has seen more change than the last ten years, the last ten have seen more change than the last hundred, and the last hundred have seen more than the last thousand.  The exhilarating prospect sweeps far, far back into the past where, compared to our frenzied and fascinating pace of change today, nothing much seemed to have altered for the longest stretches.  Into the distant past the curve looks from where we stand like a flat line.  Those times are gone by, the long boring tail of the exponential curve that got us to this explosion of newness we know today.  Filled with anticipation of all that is yet to come in our own lifetimes, we turn eagerly around to continue our ascent – only to find a few paces ahead the curve shoots almost straight up as far as we can see.

Daunting as it is, this two-dimensional representation does scant justice to our real situation – because it makes it look as though we know in what direction we are headed.  In truth, nobody today can be sure what new discovery will pop us off in a different direction entirely – not just in a hundred years, or ten years, or one year; but next week, tomorrow.  What’s more, no place is immune anymore from what happens next door or on the other side of the world.  In an important sense the concept of place, which reigned supreme in the human mind for millennia, is faltering.  Increasingly, any place is more and more like everywhere, and every place is more and more like anywhere.  Will our sense of time be next to go?  Nobody knows what’s going next, or what’s coming.

To survive in China, to survive in the West, or to survive anywhere, we’re called upon like never before to re-invent what we do, to re-invent how we do it – and even to re-invent who we are.  Not once, not twice – but on an ongoing basis.  This is true for countries, it is true for industries, and it is true for individuals.  Innovators like Google’s Sergey Brin, and Apple Computer’s Steve Job are the dazzling stars of our time.  The country or industry that can produce more of this kind of man will own the future.

Who Will Own The Future?

How to train people to be innovative, to be creative, and to succeed in a world so unpredictable?  Universities around the world, purporting to train students to meet the future, are schooling them in ways that no longer even fit the present.   It isn’t enough today to be intelligent and to be stuffed with the necessary knowledge.  Those who go out to succeed in today’s world already need to hone their abilities to deal with the unknown.  More and more in the future they will certainly need to deal with the unknowable.  To do this what they will need is intuition, creativity, and faith.  Of the three, faith is most important because it leads to the other two.  Faith doesn’t mean they have to gulp some outdated dogma down whole and for the rest of their lives resist any impulse from their heart or soul to chuck it up and be rid of it.  Faith means to have been given a way to find out for themselves there is that within them that knows better than they can, loves deeper than they know how, and is more true than they can ever be – and if they only move their own petty ideas aside and listen to it, they will acquire, not from an outside source, but from inside their own deepest nature, all the intuition and creativity they will ever need in their lives.

In Taiwan for these past years my wife and I have, each in our own way, been implementing a method of instruction that accomplishes these aims.  It requires no advanced expertise or expensive equipment to implement, utilizes existing facilities and staff, and is as practicable in the poorest most undeveloped areas of the world today as in the richest most developed ones.  It’s a simple course in dreams.  Not a course about dreams.  The course isn’t based on lectures, it doesn’t involve studying some textbook or outside material, and the students aren’t tested with exams.  In this course the students discover faith in themselves and learn to bring out and hone their own innate intuitive and creative capabilities by working in class on their own dreams and those of their classmates using the Montague Ullman experiential dream group method.  Of the methods I know for working with dreams, this one alone is safe, fun, and exciting for graduate students and undergraduates alike. (For a description of the method, see http://www.billstimson.com/writing/The_Process.htm).

The course is a boon to the professor because it involves no arduous preparation of lectures, no tedious grading of papers or exams, and mostly because in the Ullman process the professor, as leader of the group, is not the one in control (the dreamer is in control) but merely another group member – who obtains from each and every class the same benefits as the students.  The course is a boon for the students because it’s the first time in their lives that most of them ever experienced real education.  In the words of one student:

This course woke me up.  I can’t pretend anymore I enjoy my Ph.D. training.  I need something more enlightening in the way of education or I’ll wither.

Or, as another put it:

Except for knowledge from books, I don’t know what else I got in my other classes.  Maybe I learned to understand what people were talking about, but none of it touched my heart.  Now I don’t know how much of all that is real and how much I should believe.  By working with dreams in this class I got inside my own heart and I also got a chance to look deep inside the hearts of others.

The way the Montague Ullman experiential dream group process works is as follows.  The dreamer tells the group a dream she had that to her looks strange and nonsensical.  It doesn’t seem to have any relation to her life.  As the group goes through the various stages of the Ullman process it begins to become clear that from the perspective of the dream it is the waking life that is nonsensical, because it ignores certain important feelings in the dreamer’s heart.  The dreamer comes to appreciate how accurately the dream really represents her life as she begins to discover those exact same feelings in recent walking-life events.  When these “missing” or “underrepresented” feelings emerge to the fore, the waking life of the dreamer takes on a different shape and becomes more authentic.  Subsequent dreams carry the dreamer forward, rounding her life out more and more and making her more and more of a whole person.

The way all this relates to a real life situation at work is as follows.  Let’s say two individuals try out for the same job.  The job has several aspects.  The individual who has not worked with her dreams and who has not become more of a full person may be lacking in one or more of the personal aspects required by the job.  A zone of professional incompetence may mar her work.   But the individual who has worked with her dreams and gotten more in touch with all her feelings and various inner talents will more likely have the subtler aspects of the skill set the job requires.  Her performance will display no zone of incompetence.  She will approach everything she does with her whole self, like an artist.

This all seems very hypothetical.  It is not.  M.I.T. researcher Donald A. Schön conducted research on the way professionals in quite a number of different fields approached their work.  In one after another, he found that best-of-their-class professionals in essence invented their approach to each project much in the way an artist does.  Each job taught these superior professionals how to approach that particular job.  They learned by doing (Schön called this the epistemology of reflective practice).  In contrast, the mediocre professionals applied to every different job the method or methods they’d been trained in (Schön called this the epistemology of technical rationality).  They learned, and then they went out to do, in every situation they met, what they’d been trained to do.  The difference between these two ways of working is that the one is intuitive and creative, the other is neither.  An issue among educators since Schön published his findings has been how to arrive at a method of teaching that could make professionals into “reflective practitioners.”  What my wife and I have discovered in Taiwan these past years is that the Montague Ullman experiential dream group is the perfect method.

Schön’s discoveries are terribly important today.  Yesterday an engineer could be an engineer and get away with it, a scientist could be a scientist and escape scot free, without censure.  Not today.  Not just the engineer, not just the scientist – but every kind of professional needs to approach his work also as an art.  There is an art to dentistry, as anybody knows who has sat in a dentist’s chair.  There is an art to teaching, as anyone knows who’s sat in a classroom.  And there is an art to computer science – as Steve Jobs has shown us all, becoming in the process one of the richest men around.

How do you train a software engineer to approach what he does as an art?  Give him classes in oil painting?  No.  Abraham Maslow studied may different individuals and found, overall, that those who practiced their work as an art had more of a tendency to be whole people than those whose approach to their work was less enlightened, more rote.  This is why dreams can figure so importantly in training such individuals.  Working like an artist enables one to do fuller justice to the demands of a job because it involves more fully all the aspects of the self.  Apple computer had many competitors.  Steve Jobs always won out because the solution he came up with always did more justice to the product. Thus the product was more satisfying to consumers.

Most people laugh dreams off as impractical or whimsical.  Academics, even in the university where I work, tend to be averse to having a dream course in the curriculum.  They feel it is unprofessional and lowers the standards.  They ask how I grade the students.  They don’t seem to care about what the students learn, perhaps because they assume the students learn nothing.  When I invite them to come participate in the dream group to see for themselves, they decline.  These are individuals whose training blinds them to the connection in any field, and in every field, between professional excellence and authenticity.  Every one of them, though, would love to be a Steve Jobs and make the money he does.  But let’s look at what Steve Jobs tells us is behind his success:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Steve Jobs faced the computer industry.  He changed the computer industry.  He faced the music industry.  He changed the music industry.  He faced the telecommunications industry.  He changed the telecommunications industry.  Though he’s now ill, some think he might already have changed the book publishing industry, and who knows how many others.  He could have told us so much about innovation, about technology, about strategy.  We would have perched on the edge of our seats to grab every hint he cared to throw out at us.  Instead, he turns around 180° and points into the distant past.  It was Socrates, back down that long, flat tail of our exponential curve, who some 2,500 years ago in ancient Greece, gave the advice Steve Jobs gives us today, “Know thyself” and it was Lao Tzu in ancient China who around the same time hinted why this is so important, “At the center of your being you have the answer; you know.” Some five hundred years after these sages passed from the scene, the Gospel of Thomas quotes Jesus as saying, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you.  If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” Today every nation is frantic to put more math, science, and engineering into their schools so they can follow China’s lead into the future.  Steven Jobs instead sides with Socrates, Lao Tzu, and Jesus – schools aren’t the issue:  what we need is already inside us.  Our task is to access it.  The value of dreams is that they give us the freedom to do this.

(Photo: Jim Hansen)


 

hartwig_dreams_value_stimson

The Value of Dreams

The surprising thing about so many of us is the extent we’ve let others decide for us what we believe, what we want, what we feel, and even who we are.  Dreams arise from a part of ourselves that might listen to all that rubbish too, if only it didn’t know better.  It knows better because it was more fully present than we were every time throughout the long course of our life we ever felt a true love, were moved by a real passion, every time there welled up within us the recognition of an authentic worship.  More often than not we allowed ourselves to get distracted by what doesn’t matter and were not even aware of these powerful transformative moments – the real treasures of our life.  Hidden away inside us though, out of our sight, it did register them and it glowed stronger and stronger with inner enlightenment.  Where in us did it hide away these treasures?

In our hands and in our arms, in our legs and in our feet, in our organs and in our immune system, in our skin and in our blood, in our chest and in our gut, in our brain and in our genitals – it tucked them away wherever it could find to tuck them away, and with them it tucked itself away, quietly, inside us, the real person that we are, and the real knowledge of who that is, the truth at the center of a web of lies, the purity of the lotus flower rising up out of the muddy pond to open its unsullied blossom.  The moment we fall asleep it unfurls itself into the rich play of dreams.  Like a child inventing a story, or a Shakespeare penning a masterpiece, it fills out its creation with an appropriate cast of characters and settings.  Each is who it is.  None are all it is.  They may recombine and reconfigure from dream to dream.  The story told is always the same truth; yet always it takes a completely new form.  The creativity, the inventiveness of a Steve Jobs is not at all rare or special, or hard to find.  In our dreams we all have it.  It’s spontaneous.  It’s natural.  It happens the moment we relax control.

A problem most of us have is that we don’t readily understand its language.  It doesn’t much care to bother with ours, or try to compete with the cacophony of our outside world.  Yet it never stops whispering to us in a deeper, quicker idiom that came before that, a dialect of immediate knowing – a language of the senses, the emotions, the intuitions; one that, like the scientist sticking to his data, never strays far from its pictures.  These are, every one of them, complex and rich metaphors, and each has meaning on many levels.  They speak the way poets do, artists, and those whose lives have been brushed by the sacred.  They speak of things that cannot be told otherwise than the way they tell them.

It’s not a mode of expression that can be translated into words.  We attend to it, and if we attend closely we might just possibly translate it into being.  Dreams can change our lives.  They do that, quite simply, by showing us who we are.  To them this is nothing.  It comes easy to them, just as it comes easy to a mirror to reflect our image.  But to us what a dream reflects back to us can come as a big surprise, so far does our self-concept tend to stray from the truth.

Do dreams arise from some supposed “unconscious?”  Those who meditate become somewhat more conscious of the part of themselves that dreams arise from, as do those who work in Ullman dream groups.  Yes, there is the greater part of us that we are not conscious of at any given time.  But the problem with us is really that generally we are too insensitive, or distracted by the plodding mechanisms of thought, to register the quicker, more subtle awareness impinging on us in the moment.  So we miss the present, and incarcerate ourselves in the past.  What we call “unconscious” is really the part of us that, instant by instant, does register the complete truth each second of our lives.  Usually we don’t listen to that part.  To work with a dream in an Ullman group is to listen.  The value of listening to dreams, and working with them, which means listening to them even more deeply, is that they contain important information we otherwise miss.

But that’s not all.  The Ullman dream group process, by which we get that information from dreams, changes us in important ways.  Because this information is so vital, sometimes devilishly scandalous, usually deeply intimate, frequently profoundly touching, and always innocent, beautiful and pure – like the heart of a child or the wisdom of a saint – it really is exceedingly interesting.  Each member of the dream group gets deeply involved with the most intimate life of the dreamer, like some Sherlock Holmes with his magnifying glass.  Getting close to the dream like that, and staying close to it for so long, each person finds that some of the dream’s qualities rub off on him, like magnetism can rub off on a piece of iron from a magnet.  The group members, and of course the dreamer too, walk away from the process each time a bit more intuitive, a bit more creative, a bit more truthful to themselves, a bit more connected to and concerned with others and the environment, and a bit closer to the inwardly enlightened part of themselves.  They come away with faith in themselves because they know themselves a little better.  That faith can spill over into a faith in others and in everything.  This empowers them to engage meaningfully and to bring the deepest parts of themselves into whatever they do.

(Photo: Hartwig HKD)


seth_anderson_dreams_free

The Future Belongs to The Free And The Creatively Alive

In 1845 Elias Howe struggled unsuccessfully to invent a machine that could sew.  Then one day, exhausted, he dozed off at his workbench and dreamed he was in the African jungle, captured by cannibals.  They put him in a big cooking pot, filled it with water, lit a fire under it, and stood around pointing their spears at him so he couldn’t escape.  He awoke in alarm.  The image from the dream that lingered in his mind and struck him as odd was that the blades of the spears the cannibals pointed at him were all pierced by holes near the tip.  It suddenly dawned on him that what had been holding him back in his invention was the set idea in his mind that the needle in his machine needed to have the hole for the thread at the opposite end from its pointy tip, like a conventional sewing needle did.  He saw that if he put the hole instead at the tip of the needle he could immediately envision a mechanism for his machine to sew.  That very year he came forth with the world’s first sewing machine.

The power of dreams is their ability to democratize information and free us from what we think we know.  What we most need to learn isn’t something we don’t already know, like people assume.  Rather it’s something we do know, but know wrong.  The insidious hold that indoctrination, censorship, dogma, and ideology has over an entire culture and every individual in that culture – and also the insidious hold that even our own personal experience and common sense can have over us – is that they establish as unquestionable what in fact is very questionable.  Elias Howe awake would never think to question that the eye of a needle had to be at the opposite end from its sharp point.  This had been the case through the entire course of human history, since the first cavewomen carved from some bone the first sewing needle.  But for Howe to invent the sewing machine he had to be able to envision that this didn’t necessarily always have to be the case.  Awake, he lacked the capacity.  Few of us have the kind of intuition, creativity, or freedom of mind to question what we assume, or have been taught, is unquestionable.  But all of us, in our dreams, do have this ability – just as Howe did.

To be able to bring out and put to effective use what we know, even before we are able, or have the time, to go back and figure out exactly by what logical pathway we arrived at that knowledge – this is the faultless intuition of a Steve Jobs.  Who can guess by what means men such as him developed this ability.  But by using dreams all of us can do the same.  The feeling it gives when it starts to make itself felt in our life is positively uncanny.  The depth psychologist C. G. Jung developed the concept of synchronicity to explore the way in which a completely new sense of things can come about in our awareness when this happens.  We notice what we otherwise wouldn’t.  We see things others don’t.  The connections between things jump out at us, even though we don’t at first know exactly why.  Working with dreams gives us what it takes to recognize those instances when waking reality isn’t, after all, that terribly different from what we experience in dreams.  By working with dreams we develop the talent to navigate those moments in reality that to others and to ourselves are seemingly inexplicable and unknowable.  Others get stopped dead in their tracks.  From what we learned in the dream group we somehow muddle our way through to a path that gives to the situation an explanation and makes it knowable in an entirely unsuspected way.

The Culture of Freedom

Those who get stopped dead in their tracks and turn back to take refuge in the ways of tradition live in and perpetuate a culture that is dead, bygone, and stagnant.  But the ones who feel inwardly impelled to muddle their way through confusion, failure, loss, and censure somehow manage to rekindle out of that same dead and stagnant culture one that is free, vibrant, and alive.  They are the real artists of a culture, whether laborers, shopkeepers, or housewives.  By re-inventing themselves and re-inventing whatever work they do, they reinvent their culture.  The new free culture they invent, though, is not in fact different from the old stagnant one.  It’s the same living culture as has always hidden latent in the ossified conventional one.  Only now, each time it resuscitates an artist – in the form of any ordinary person capable of approaching their life and work in a creative and intuitive way – it is given new life.

A dying culture is one that can no longer mediate this re-creation of the whole of itself and instead devolves into a sad caricature of its more undeveloped aspect – imposed by authoritarian rule from above.  A living culture is one that can still facilitate the breakthrough of the individual to the culture’s flip, or creative and regenerative, side.  In this flip side, the culture and the creative individual become, in a sense, indistinguishable. They form one fused and vibrant living entity.  Thus the culture keeps re-creating individuals capable of re-creating the culture.  It’s like boiling water.  The bubbles come up from below.  They’re not imposed from above.

In these basic essentials, the Chinese individual and culture in Taiwan certainly do not differ from individuals and cultures the world over.  Thus there is no reason to suppose that the experiment my wife and I have begun in a Taiwanese university of using dreams to bring alive intuitive and creative individuals isn’t as relevant in every culture as it is in this one.

(Photo: Seth Anderson)

William R. Stimson, Ph.D. trained for many years under Montague Ullman, M.D.  who originated the Ullman experiential dream group process.  Besides his dream group at the university, he leads monthly Saturday dream groups (in English) in Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung.  There is no charge for these dream groups.  For locations and schedules:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Read more on dreams and their interpretation:
Stimson, William R. (2009) Using dreams to train the reflective practitioner: the Ullman dream group in social work education, Reflective Practice Vol. 10, No. 5, 577–587
Stimson, William R. (2010) The hidden dimension of Chinese culture as seen in the dream of a Taiwanese woman, Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 13: 5, 485 — 512
Ullman, M. (1996). Appreciating dreams — a group approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Wang, Shuyuan (2007) Chinese translation of Montague Ullman’s Appreciating dreams – a group approach.  Psychological Publishing Co., Ltd. Taipei, Taiwan

 

Monday, 14 February 2011

擊打生命之鼓──達德拉凡‧伊苞(Dadelavan Ibau)

2011第三屆「生命永續獎」得獎者-達德拉凡‧伊苞(演員,撃鼓老師)Dadelavan Ibau 簡介

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排灣族的伊苞來自屏東青山部落,早年從事田野調查及多年的研究經驗,成為她日後從事創作的重要養分。

1999年她投入劇場表演,於木柵老泉的優人神鼓山上劇場擊鼓習武、練拳修禪。

2004年與團員到西藏轉山,驚覺西藏和排灣故鄉擁有許多奇異的相似,開啟了她的心靈,使她重新面對自己的生命經驗與傳統文化。

Monday, 14 February 2011

從都蘭到新幾內亞──蔡政良

2011第三屆「生命永續獎」得獎者-蔡政良(紀錄片導演,學者)Futuru Tsai簡介

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蔡政良是新竹人。23歲那年第一次到都蘭部落,為阿美族人Kapah (林昌明)納為義子,並加入都蘭的年齡組織──拉中橋。

大學畢業後,蔡政良原在新竹科學園區的半導體公司工作,後來逐步轉而投入人類學的研究。

多年來,他致力於由影音媒介探討原住民文化與歷史記憶。2005年作品《阿美嘻哈》紀錄了臺東都蘭部落的阿美族年輕人,將時下的流行文化鎔鑄於當地文化與社會傳統,創造出獨樹一幟的身體表現。

Monday, 14 February 2011

守候後山的一粒種子---- 彭伯華

2011第三屆「生命永續獎」得獎者-彭伯華(花蓮啄木鳥全人發展協會創辦人)Bethany Peng簡介

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14年前,彭伯華嫁入光復鄉成為阿美族媳婦,從此愛上部落的兒童及青少年。喜歡他們的真,喜歡他們的純,也發現他們的需要。

10年前,她因著故事志工踏進校園,每週到校園為孩子們說故事,就這樣一步一腳印,從說故事志工到成立一訓練說故事的機構---花蓮縣啄木鳥全人發展協會。

我的民族我的心 --- 撒古流・巴瓦瓦隆(Sakuliu Pavavalung)

2011第三屆「生命永續獎」得獎者--撒古流‧巴瓦瓦隆(雕塑陶藝家)Sakuliu Pavavalung簡介

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排灣族藝術家撒古流‧巴瓦瓦隆來自屏東大社部落。

他的名字「撒古流」在排灣語意或可用箭頭來比擬,正如同他投身原住民文化及主流文化的溝通甚至衝突中--當兩軍僵持對峙時,起身衝出去的人,是排灣族賦予這個名字的人所應有的使命。

Monday, 14 February 2011

海洋文學家---夏曼‧藍波安(Syaman Rapongan)

2011第三屆「生命永續獎」得獎者-夏曼‧藍波安(海洋文學作家)Syaman Rapongan 簡介

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夏曼‧藍波安,蘭嶼達悟族人,以文字書寫他的民族與海洋的親密愛戀關係。

作為一個以海洋文學為職志的作家,他的書寫是以生命與身體真實投入的實踐歷程。

不論是閱讀他的作品,或與他對話,都會深深為他所吸引,不由得期待能認識影響他文學思想背後的海洋文化。

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Running Backwards, Moving Forwards

Barefoot he bounces energetically down the hot riverside concrete path under a blazing midsummer sun, ball to heel, ball to heel. Sweat drips from thin, taught lines of sinewy muscle which cling to his slight frame, which just passes the five foot mark. Even at the age of 60, a full head of buzz cut jet black hair, “soft like a baby,” as he puts it, sits defiantly atop his head. His name is Tony Hsueh, and today in Xindian, Taipei County, he's showing me his technique for running marathons ...backwards.

Just days before our meeting in July, Hsueh ran in the annual Gold Coast Airport Marathon in Australia. Proudly carrying the flag of his native Taiwan along with a camera to document the experience, and running backwards the whole way, he finished the race in five hours and 26 minutes, by his razor sharp recollection. This was far from the first time he had accomplished such a feat. He's been running marathons backwards and turning heads, both his own and those in the crowd, several times a year for two decades. By his own estimation, he has to turn his head from looking over his right shoulder to glancing over the left 10,000 times during the course of a single backwards marathon.

For Hsueh, going backwards is a way of life that is not just limited to running. He cycles backwards, sitting atop the handlebars with his back to the front tire, and roller blades backwards too. He's traversed the circumference of Taiwan using a combination of all three seemingly bizarre ways of transporting himself, and has cycled backwards around the island nation off China's east coast 29 times. In 2009, he ran three ultra marathons, races of up to 100 kilometers, all facing what most people would refer to as the wrong way, completing each in just over 13 hours.

It's all part of a wide ranging philosophy of organic living that the self-proclaimed “reversexercisophist” began to cultivate as a man in his early twenties. Thanks to this way of living and exercising, he claims his weight has remained steadfast at 53.5 kilograms for 35 years.

“You have to build your body like an organic machine,” he says to me in English, one of nine languages that he speaks to varying degrees. “Everything bad goes out when you exercise. Organic is not food, it’s your life. Organic is wisdom. It’s not a bottle, it’s not a can. Once you put it in a can it’s not fresh anymore, in my opinion. So I train my body organically.”

“You have to change your life into something organic,” he continues passionately, expanding on his all-encompassing view of how life should be lived, jumping rapid-fire from one thought to the next. “Sleeping without air conditioning. Running in the fitness center is not organic. The air is not fresh. Running should be like this,” he says as he gestures to the greenery of the riverside park.

After graduating from a vocational high school and completing his compulsory military service in Taipei, the native of the small town of Miaoli, about 100 kilometers south of the capital, took a job as a bus boy at the Taipei Hilton in 1973. He would eventually work his way up to the position of hotel manager, punching the clock for many of the major hotel chains in the city along the way. He also worked part time as an aerobics instructor at a fitness center, with “up, two, three, four, back, two, three, four,” becoming his daily mantra.

For some indefinable reason, doing the “back, two, three, four,” motions during these aerobics classes made Hsueh, who also goes by the nickname “Backman Tony,” feel good, and he decided to take it several steps further. He started out on a treadmill, and after two months he could run backwards, today known as retro running, for five kilometers. After that, he took his training outdoors into the sweltering Taiwan heat and humidity. He trained at various school tracks around Taipei, drawing curious stares every time, and occasionally tripping over runners who stopped to tie their shoes. By about 1980, he could retro run 10 kilometers uninterrupted. At that point he decided to take part in a race between two Taipei landmarks, Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall and Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, but only ran backwards when no one else was around. As soon as he caught sight of another runner, or a spectator, he turned around and ran like everyone else.

For his second race, Hsueh convinced himself to forget about what other people thought and run the race his way, but this time it wasn't self consciousness but race officials who denied him. They said running the race backwards was simply too dangerous, and so Hsueh was once again forced to switch back and forth when he caught the gaze of a track official. From then on, whenever he planned on joining a race, he would write to the organizers, promising that if he were to be injured as a result of his running style, he would not take legal action against them. Sometimes the organizers agreed, and other times his letters went unanswered.

It wasn't until 1995 that Hsueh's retro running ways came to be fully accepted in his homeland, and it only happened because of a trip abroad. In November of that year he ran the New York City Marathon, and his story was picked up by the New York press. The Taiwanese media, ever hungry for foreign coverage of Taiwanese nationals, also keyed on the story, and suddenly those who had written him off as crazy, a show off, or even a glory monger, considered him a national treasure. From then on, he didn't have to write any more letters. That same year he also quit the hotel business for good after over two decades, and began to focus on retro running full time, putting an end to years of damaging his body through overwork and lack of sleep.

“I was the kind of person who didn’t want to sleep. Work until two or three [a.m.], that’s why I had a problem with my liver and almost died in 1978. I was like a candle burning at both ends. My idea was if you sleep one hour less each night, you have 365 hours each year for reading, writing; that’s wrong. So after I quit my job, I went back to Miaoli, and somebody helped me, a consultant for the empress of Japan. After that I knew how to eat, how to sleep, how to do meditation.”

Today, in addition to his retro training, bicycling, and roller blading, he spends one hour per day meditating in the lotus position, focusing on his breathing, channeling his energy, or qi, as they refer to the life force in Chinese culture.

“It’s very refreshing for your memory. It makes your whole memory clean and clear,” he says between deep, relaxing breaths as he takes a moment to show me how it's done.

Though in the west, Kentucky fitness instructor “Retro” Ron Austin and Dr. Robert K. Stevenson, the author of a book on retro running that came out in 1981, often get the credit for pioneering the sport, Hsueh is actually just continuing a Chinese tradition that goes back thousands of years. Nevertheless, it wasn't until the release of Dr. Stevenson's book, simply entitled Backwards Running, that retro running began to enter the mainstream consciousness in the early eighties. In Europe, France and Italy are widely considered the flash points for the beginning of the retro movement at roughly the same time. But in the U.S., two researchers in particular have dedicated a large part of their careers to investigating the health benefits of retro walking and running.

Barry Bates and Janet Dufek, who also happen to be husband and wife, have been conducting tests and trials since the early days of the retro movement in America. Dufek has studied the effects of backward walking on the elderly, and has seen her subjects show improvements in both static and dynamic balance, findings she presented at the International Society of Biomechanics in Sport in July. She has also looked at a small group of athletes with lower back pain and put them on a three-week backward walking program. All saw decreases in pain, according to her, and their walking patterns mimicked those of the healthy, though of course back pain can subsist with time, she is quick to point out. Currently, she is looking at backward walking and its effects on children with cerebral palsy, but this particular study is in too early a phase to talk about yet.

BV_carton_running_henley2Bates, who is now officially retired but is still doing research, began investigating retro running in the early 1980s in what was then considered the running capital of America, Eugene Oregon. For him, it all started with a runner, the name of which now escapes him, who had a hip injury. This runner saw a lot of doctors, and tried everything to relieve the symptoms of his injury to no avail. One day he decided to run backwards, and was pain free. He wrote an article about it, and Bates decided it was worth looking into.

“We found out, anecdotally initially, that some orthopedists were using retro as a way of rehabbing post-surgical knees. We wanted to see if there appeared to be any scientific basis for that,” he recalls.

Bates, who today trains in retro running three times a week, also became aware of baseball pitchers who were rehabilitating hamstring injuries by walking backwards, and of another runner, Rod Dixon of New Zealand, who swore by incorporating retro running into his training, and was one of the few distance runners who was able to remain, for the most part, injury free. Over time, Bates was able to prove that the mechanics of retro running can actually be better for your knees than going forward.

“In running forward, there's always an eccentric loading of the knee—the knee initially flexes when you strike the ground,” he explains. “That's not good because eccentric loading is more severe than concentric loading. And when you walk or jog backward, what happens is for the most part you eliminate that eccentric phase. The knee maintains itself in an isometric mode from the very early phase of contact, and then goes right into concentric extension. It takes some of that stress off and still allows for dynamic activity.”

The pair has also noticed a correlation between retro running and an increase in hamstring flexibility, which can go a long way to preventing injuries to this oft-injured leg muscle. In this study, which involved young, college-aged women, Dufek says that each of the participants were able to improve their hamstring flexibility after a four-week regiment of retro training.

But the benefits of retro running and walking aren't just limited to the physical, according to yet another study conducted by Dr. Severine Koch and her Dutch team of researchers. In the May 2009 edition of Psychological Science, Dr. Koch, working out of the social and cultural psychology department at the Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, found that reaction times for people performing simple cognitive tests were actually faster when her test subjects were walking backwards than when they were walking forwards. And speaking purely from a layman's point of view, Hsueh swears that his uncommon linguistic ability stems from his retro training, and has allowed him to pick up languages more quickly than he could before he began running backwards. But for him, despite all the research on his chosen mode of exercise that has become his way of life, and the increasing focus on its benefits, his reason for training in this way comes down to three simple words:

“Health, wisdom, happiness.”

(Illustrations by Bendu)

 

Monday, 11 October 2010

Farewell, 雷公 and 老馬!

再見,雷公與老馬!

Within a few days of each other, two good friends of Renlai, who were also towering missionary figures of Taiwan, have left us. Their life accomplishment deserves to stay with us in memory. It is with emotion and gratitude that we remember these two French Jesuits who both gave more than fifty years of their life to Taiwan and its people

再見,雷公!

Fr Jean Lefeuvre went peacefully to Heaven on the evening of Sep. 24, 2010 at the Cardinal Tien Hospital, Taipei. Born in France, in 1922 雷公 (as he was called by his Taiwanese friends) entered the Society of Jesus in 1940, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1952 at St. Ignatius Church, Shanghai by Msgr. Ignatius Kung Pin-Mei. In his book, “Les enfants dans la ville” (The children in the town) he has left a vivid description of this troubled period for the Church in China.

After arriving in Taiwan Fr. Lefeuvre became a founding member of the Taipei Ricci Institute, and worked closely with Fr. Yves Raguin. He became a world authority on oracle inscriptions, and later, on bronze inscriptions as well. He published several catalogues of oracle inscriptions as well as several learnéd articles and research tools on this very specialized field of knowledge. Fr. Lefeuvre was probably the most important collaborator and author of the “Grand Ricci” dictionary, in charge of its etymological section. He leaves a completed manuscript of a Dictionary of Bronze Inscriptions, which will be published after the due process of revision.

He was also a pastor, founder of several Christian communities, and exercised an far-reaching influence on the Taiwanese church. In the “Aurora Center”, which he directed for decades, he was the first to welcome Taizé-style prayer groups.

Fr. Lefeuvre was passionate about bronze inscriptions. He saw in them the most ancient testimony of the concepts of “territory” and “ancestors’, central in the development of Chinese thought. His research made him also very sensitive to the spirit of popular religion, and he surprised many Taiwanese by his deep insight about the significance of Tudigong (土地公) or Mazu (媽祖) in the Taiwanese religious psyche. It is in these ways that one can call him a pioneer of inculturation.

Though handicapped during his last years by the loss of his hearing and the partial loss of his sight, he worked indefatigably until the end. Fr. Lefeuvre is mourned by members and friends of the Taipei Ricci Institute and Renlai. His absence will be deeply felt by all of us.

 

The departure of an advocate of inter-faith dialogue

poulet-mathis_photoA few days later, on September 30, it was another very close friend of Renlai, Fr. Poulet-Mathis (馬天賜) who left us. 馬天賜 was born in Strasbourg, France, in 1927. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1945, was ordained to the priesthood on July 30, 1958 and then came to Taiwan. He worked first as a student chaplain in Taichung and in FuJen. However, it was to be in interreligious dialogue that he found his true calling. 馬天賜 was friends with people of all religious backgrounds in Taiwan, especially with a great number of Buddhist masters. One can say that he was the most active and well-known among the clerics engaged in inter-faith dialogue in Taiwan. He had a keen enthusiasm for the variety of ways though which men look for the Absolute and their true nature; he was always anxious to hear about the specific research and questions of others. He cultivated friendship in the spirit of Mateo Ricci, and was faithful to his friends without any reservation. He also served as Jesuit delegate for inter-faith dialogue for the whole of East Asia.

His continuous travels and labors affected his health, and his last years were painful ones. He left us in peace, and the memory of a man of much sensitivity, always concerned by the welfare of the people around him will stay with us.

Farewell, 雷公 and 老馬! You have been faithful servants of God and great lovers of the earth of Taiwan. For everything you have given us, we thank you… and we confide you to the love and mercy of the God whom you followed all your life.

 

 

Monday, 11 October 2010

Farewell, 雷公 and 老馬!

再見,雷公與老馬!

Within a few days of each other, two good friends of Renlai, who were also towering missionary figures of Taiwan, have left us. Their life accomplishment deserves to stay with us in memory. It is with emotion and gratitude that we remember these two French Jesuits who both gave more than fifty years of their life to Taiwan and its people

再見,雷公!

Fr Jean Lefeuvre went peacefully to Heaven on the evening of Sep. 24, 2010 at the Cardinal Tien Hospital, Taipei. Born in France, in 1922 雷公 (as he was called by his Taiwanese friends) entered the Society of Jesus in 1940, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1952 at St. Ignatius Church, Shanghai by Msgr. Ignatius Kung Pin-Mei. In his book, “Les enfants dans la ville” (The children in the town) he has left a vivid description of this troubled period for the Church in China.

After arriving in Taiwan Fr. Lefeuvre became a founding member of the Taipei Ricci Institute, and worked closely with Fr. Yves Raguin. He became a world authority on oracle inscriptions, and later, on bronze inscriptions as well. He published several catalogues of oracle inscriptions as well as several learnéd articles and research tools on this very specialized field of knowledge. Fr. Lefeuvre was probably the most important collaborator and author of the “Grand Ricci” dictionary, in charge of its etymological section. He leaves a completed manuscript of a Dictionary of Bronze Inscriptions, which will be published after the due process of revision.

He was also a pastor, founder of several Christian communities, and exercised an far-reaching influence on the Taiwanese church. In the “Aurora Center”, which he directed for decades, he was the first to welcome Taizé-style prayer groups.

Fr. Lefeuvre was passionate about bronze inscriptions. He saw in them the most ancient testimony of the concepts of “territory” and “ancestors’, central in the development of Chinese thought. His research made him also very sensitive to the spirit of popular religion, and he surprised many Taiwanese by his deep insight about the significance of Tudigong (土地公) or Mazu (媽祖) in the Taiwanese religious psyche. It is in these ways that one can call him a pioneer of inculturation.

Though handicapped during his last years by the loss of his hearing and the partial loss of his sight, he worked indefatigably until the end. Fr. Lefeuvre is mourned by members and friends of the Taipei Ricci Institute and Renlai. His absence will be deeply felt by all of us.

 

The departure of an advocate of inter-faith dialogue

poulet-mathis_photoA few days later, on September 30, it was another very close friend of Renlai, Fr. Poulet-Mathis (馬天賜) who left us. 馬天賜 was born in Strasbourg, France, in 1927. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1945, was ordained to the priesthood on July 30, 1958 and then came to Taiwan. He worked first as a student chaplain in Taichung and in FuJen. However, it was to be in interreligious dialogue that he found his true calling. 馬天賜 was friends with people of all religious backgrounds in Taiwan, especially with a great number of Buddhist masters. One can say that he was the most active and well-known among the clerics engaged in inter-faith dialogue in Taiwan. He had a keen enthusiasm for the variety of ways though which men look for the Absolute and their true nature; he was always anxious to hear about the specific research and questions of others. He cultivated friendship in the spirit of Mateo Ricci, and was faithful to his friends without any reservation. He also served as Jesuit delegate for inter-faith dialogue for the whole of East Asia.

His continuous travels and labors affected his health, and his last years were painful ones. He left us in peace, and the memory of a man of much sensitivity, always concerned by the welfare of the people around him will stay with us.

Farewell, 雷公 and 老馬! You have been faithful servants of God and great lovers of the earth of Taiwan. For everything you have given us, we thank you… and we confide you to the love and mercy of the God whom you followed all your life.

 

 

Tuesday, 05 October 2010

Yang Fumin: The Future of "Tai Ke" Literature

Yang Fumin (楊富閔) is a promising young writer whose recently published short story anthology Huajia Nanhai (花甲男孩) was lauded by many famous writers and critics including Luo Yijun (駱以軍) and Shi shu (施淑) amongst others. His work captures the interesting duality of the Taiwanese psyche, with descriptions of folk customs and beliefs humorously juxtaposed to icons of popular culture in Taiwan, like Star Boulevard, BBS and the Wolf 125 motorbike. The satirical humour of his work is underscored by a note of compassion and self-identification which makes his work more human and touching than a lot of his predecessors. The proliferation of cultural references and the use of Taiwanese language structures make it a difficult but (with the help of a good search engine and Taiwanese dictionary or friend) worthwhile read for foreign students. This is an interview with him conducted in the Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature at which he is currently undertaking a Masters degree.

{soundcloud http://soundcloud.com/erenlairicci/final-yangfumin}

Yang: I come from Tainan, and I’m just the kind of person who likes writing… When I say Tainan I mean the countryside. Actually I’m just a normal guy, just kind of a typical Taiwanese young person. I grew up in a good family, I grew up going to cram schools, studying, taking exams, went to university, graduated with flying colours and got into graduate school. I haven’t had any major problems in life, nothing really bad happened to me.

Nick: So you would say you grew up in an average Taiwanese family?

Yang: Well yeah, my family is average, but everyone’s family environment is different and particular to them, so you can’t say it’s “average”, but no matter what the peculiaraties, you can say that at least it wasn’t bad. However there were certainly some exceptional aspects to the way we grew up. One example would be because we lived in the countryside, so I have an interest in things related to temple festivities, including worship at temples, gods, ghosts and monsters. I like this kind of stuff.

Conor: Who do you think reads your work?

Yang: Who reads my work? People with an affinity with me, because I don’t really know… When I started writing…

Conor: So you were writing for yourself or with other people in mind?

Yang: I just wanted to write, and then I discovered if you want to write you have to publish too, to publish you have to enter competitions, so when I finished writing something I would enter it in a competition. So I would put it like this, I wanted to write so I started writing, somethings would bother me, so I wrote them out, in the style of a short story.

Conor: In your work you often seem to bring up Taiwanese…

Yang: …Folk customs?… I write about so much folk culture or customs that maybe it might come across as overly superstitious. But writing about that kind of thing I find is a kind of mal du pays, like reminiscing, the melancholy affection for my hometown that reminiscing triggers in me. And actually, I don’t really like these folk customs that much, I actually despise them. I despise them, and I grew up amongst these customs I’ve seen too much of them, I’ve also seen the negative side to the whole thing. When people think of temple festivals, they think of people on the margins of society, children who don’t study hard, with bad grades, so folk culture is stigmatized in a way. So when I was younger I kept away from it, but it’s only when I grew up that I realized that that is where I came from. So in the process of writing about it, I stopped despising it. I realized that it is still a part of who I am. I not only stopped despising it but I accepted it as a kind of energy… one of my motivations for writing.

Conor: Has coming to Taipei influenced the writing process or the content of your writing?

Yang: After coming to Taipei I’ve only written one short story, Huajia (〈花甲〉), the last story in the anthology. I still haven’t really become accustomed to the pace of life in Taipei, the busyness of it, and I’m also taking my Masters degree, so I feel I should focus on my studies for the moment. I still haven’t really settled in yet, so I get nervous.

Nick: What does Huajia Nanhai (《花甲男孩》) mean?

Yang: Well, as you know, Huajia (花甲) is one of the stories in the anthology. Nanhai (男孩), because it would be too simplistic to just call the book Huajia (花甲), so I added Nanhai(男孩)… Huajia (花甲) means 60 years old, and Nanhai (男孩) is the word for boy, so the title means 60 year old boy providing a paradoxical contrast, which I thought was interesting.

Nick: Does this refer to yourself?

Yang: It’s not me exactly. I think it’s a work that reflects the way I think.

Conor: In the book you use a lot of Taiwanese language, in terms of sentence structure and vocabulary. How do you feel about foreigners reading your work? Is it strange for you?

Yang: Actually I’d be very interested in whether you both were able to understand it, or if there are lots of things that you can’t quite grasp.

Conor: I think that there were certain bits that were hard to understand, but if you just look them up on the internet you can find out what they mean.

Nick: In your work you mention computers and you also mention more traditional things.

Yang: Yeah, there’s a lot of very Taiwanese things, but also a lot of modern things.

Nick: Do you think these provide a contrast?

Yang: They do, but that’s not something I deliberately tried to write about, because this contrast is a part of our lives. In my own life this kind of extreme contrast often arises and you realise its absurdity. It is these kinds of contrast that I like, so I write them into my work, they have the effect of making people not sure whether to laugh or cry.

Nick: Do you think that Taiwan has a very Taiwanese identity?

Conor: Would you say your work is self-representative or representative of a common feeling of being Taiwanese?

Yang: Of course I think my work is self-representative. It’s not my place to represent Taiwan, but you could say I represent my view of Taiwan. My view of this imaginary place. Taiwan after all is just a place, an island.

Nick: How would you compare Taiwan literature to other Chinese literature in China and the Chinese diaspora?

Conor: What is the definition of Taiwan literature in your mind?

Yang: I don’t think I’ve captured this in my work. I’m still grasping for a definition. We’re studying Taiwan Literature now. In the process of studying it, you try and understand what it means. It’s natural for me to speak Taiwanese, so it’s not a contrived gesture. It’s natural, just like when I talk with you I sometimes use a bit of Taiwanese.

Nick: What do you like to do when you’re not writing, studying or working?

Yang: I like sleeping. Haha, I like walking but I also like watching TV a lot, but it’s not like I am addicted to it. I like watching the news, there is lots of news in Taiwan, don’t you think? 24 hour news channels, so there’s news to watch 24 hours a day. I’m pretty normal, I like cycling, riding my scooter and just generally being out and about. So I’m not a geek who just stays at home all day (awkward laugh).

Conor: How would your friends describe you?

Yang: Eh… well how would you describe me then? Haha. My classmates all say I’m good fun, and not a very serious guy.

Nick: I saw on the internet you styled yourself “the revolutionary Taike author who swam down the Zengwun River .”

Yang: That actually came from the publishing house. It’s kind of a marketing technique, it’s not really that dramatic. Embarrassing though it is to admit.

Conor: Would you like to publish more?

Yang: I think I’ll continue to write, but I guess that’s up to fate. I think continuing to write is more important than getting published. You write if you want to write and not just to get published.

Conor: Do you get any pressure from the publishing house?

Yang: No, it’s not everyone who wants to get published. A writer has to have a certain attitude towards their own writing.

Nick: Where do you get your inspiration for writing?

Yang: Inspiration? Like I said from life, from TV, from walking and from the my background and where I grew up. I write what I’m familiar with, I don’t write science fiction or detective novels, because I don’t have that kind of experience.

Conor: You mention death quite a lot in your work.

Yang: I’m pretty scared of death actually because from when I was very young, I was often in contact with things related to death. Like for example in our institute we often hear the sound of funeral parades going down the street, the sound of dead people. An important part of my writing is death.

Conor: You write about spirits and ghosts? Are you scared of them?

Yang: I don’t write horror stories. It’s just part of the mal du pays and missing home. Everybody was together there, there was a sense of homely humanity.

Conor: Along with the nostalgia and the reminiscences there also seems to be a sense of duty and guilt no?

Yang: Yes…

Nick: Do you think this sense of duty is too much of a burden on Taiwanese people generally?

Yang: I don’t think it’s so bad, and I think for some people, they wouldn’t think of it as a burden or pressure, but rather they think it’s just what is right… Its of use to them. Sometimes it can be pressure, for others it’s helpful. It can make you more determined or it can be a burden.

Nick: Who has influenced you most in terms of other writers?

Yang: 100 years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and in terms of Taiwan, at my former university Tunghai University (東海) one of my professors was also a writer, Professor Zhou Fenling (周芬伶), I’ve read a lot of her work. However I’ve also taken courses like the Literary History of Taiwan, and I liked the majority of the authors we read, it’s part of the process of literary enlightenment. I’m a little bit embarrassed that I started writing without having read a lot of the work of other writers, after writing it leaves you slightly empty. So I think it’s necessary to read more widely, both Western and… it’s not even just about reading, but about broadening one’s horizons.


(1) Taike refers to a subculture in Taiwan stereotypically characterised as beetlenut chewing, with dyed red hair, wearing blue and white sandals.

Read an excerpt from the short story anthology below:

〈逼逼〉

Yang Fumin’s blog and 〈暝哪會這呢長〉

Update: Catch up with Yang Fumin here:

http://okapi.books.com.tw/index.php/p3/p3_detail/sn/72

conor_yangfumin

 

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Dancing Prince

A Portrait of Li Wei Chun (李偉淳) aka Prince Lee, a Taiwanese dancer and choregrapher who started his career as a member of the Cloud Gate dance company.

You can also visit his blog (in Chinese).

(Video edited by Pinti, subtitled by Conor)

For readers in mainland China:

 

 

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