Erenlai - Looking at the World from Other's Eye 透過他人的眼睛看世界
Looking at the World from Other's Eye 透過他人的眼睛看世界

Looking at the World from Other's Eye 透過他人的眼睛看世界

 
 
Here is an offering of the traditions, insights, experiences and stories of others so as to enter into their world, enrich our personal development, stir up our consciousness and open our eyes. A path to embracing everyone everywhere…

就算我們的生活經驗再豐富,總有我們沒看到的、沒想過的或沒體會到的事物。在這裡,讓我們一起來分享不同的觀點、論述與生命故事。但願因心界的開放讓我們學會更大的包容力,讓我們能全心去接納那些跟我們完全不同的他者

 

Sunday, 17 January 2010

影評:出走,尋回自己

是鋼琴演奏家,她的美好生活,被一個劈腿之吻顛覆。目睹深愛15年的男人偷腥,安決定一切歸零,重新找回自己。

於是她取消演出、賣掉公寓、變換造型、告別家人,讓自己人間蒸發。之後她來到一座島嶼,占據崖邊的空屋,跟自己認真相處。在無盡的大海面前,安開始放空,讓一波波未知,刷洗出一個她不知道的安。

電影《女人出走》改編自龔固爾文學獎得主巴斯卡‧季聶(Pascal Quignard)的小說《亞美莉雅別墅》(Villa Amalia)。導演班諾‧賈克深受小說的故事吸引,在該書正式出版前,便決定購下電影拍攝版權,並邀得坎城影后伊莎貝‧雨蓓(Isabelle Huppert)、凱撒影帝尚雨果‧安哥拉(Jean-Hugues Anglade)演出。另外還有法國名導札維耶‧波瓦(Xavier Beauvois)在片中的精彩客串,與雨蓓有場對手戲。

隔過一層不透明紙的迷濛氣氛,加上雨蓓特有的冷傲與疏淡氣質,整部電影讓觀眾彷彿也置身霧中。故事隨著安踏遍巴黎市區,出走德國、瑞士,最終在義大利具體地形塑起安與這座遺世小屋間的共生關係。


境遇隱喻生命

原著小說作者巴斯卡‧季聶,生於1947年,對於哲學、歷史、音樂各方面都有深廣的研究。他自1969年開始創作,著作豐富多樣,無論隨筆、評述或小說都廣受好評,而且有大量小說膾炙人口,如《溫特堡的沙龍》(Le Salon du Wurtemberg)、《香波堡的樓梯》(Les Escaliers de Chambord)、《美國占領時期》(L'Occupation américaine)等等。

巴斯卡‧季聶1991年出版的小說《世界的每一個早晨》(Tous les matins du monde),後改編為電影《日出時讓悲傷終結》。這改變了他的寫作生涯,直到2000年,才重回文字創作懷抱,以《羅馬露台》(Terrasse à Rome)一書獲多種獎項。2002年,他以《漂泊的陰影》(Les Ombres errantes)一書榮獲龔固爾文學獎,被《世界報》(Le Monde)譽為當前法國作家中最具創作與創新力的一位。

本片原著小說也有著這位作家一貫的風格――對藝術的反思、對人生的洞察,對生存的探索與表述。簡單卻明確的故事梗概,讓主人翁的整趟旅程瀰漫大量未知與不確定性。而主人翁一路上的遭遇,恰恰也是生命的隱喻,不斷的遇見與分離,不斷地陷入其中卻也抽身離開。

在巴斯卡‧季聶另本台灣有中譯本出版的小說《羅馬露台》,有這樣一段文字:「到了某個年紀,人所遭遇的即不再是生命而是時光。我們停止了注視生命活著,我們看見的是時光正在大口吞噬生命。於是心為之痛。我們死命攀附著幾片木頭,為的是尚能再多看一些從世界的這一頭到那一頭的流血演出,而不要身陷其中。」這傳達了作者一貫關切的中心題目,而這也無處不在地流洩在電影改編的《女人出走》。


片段拼貼全景

HuangYiXi_VillaAmalia02導演班諾‧賈克1947年生於巴黎,曾與名作家導演瑪格麗特‧莒哈絲(Marguerite Duras)合作,擔任助導。1974年開始個人影像創作生涯,編導過三十多部影片,也導過舞台劇,擔任過坎城影展評審,代表作品包括《托斯卡》(Tosca)、《再會十九歲》(À tout de suite)、《賤民》(L'Intouchable)等片。《女人出走》是他第五度和伊莎貝‧雨蓓合作。

班諾‧賈克在台灣放映過且最知名的作品,有與瑪格麗特‧莒哈絲合作的《夜舶》(Le Navire Night,他擔任副導),以及近似公路電影的《再會十九歲》。論者嘗謂班諾‧賈克電影為「班諾‧賈克電影中有故事,但敘事並不占絕對重要性,更多的心力是花在經營角色。班諾‧賈克的電影特別關注事件與情境,不管其作為背景或主要敘事場景。將所有的段落組合起來,創造了一幅刺繡、一個大型謎語,像是有個人站在那裡,描述起整個大千世界的視野,它們既是片段的,卻又拼貼成一個完整的全景。而這些故事,通常又以女性角色為中心」。


斷然起身離去

《女人出走》有一個很唐突的開場。女子發現情人外遇後,決然地說走就走,不只不要這份感情,連工作、房子、一切都不要了。而且一路離開,一路隱姓埋名,簡直不像是傷心出走,而像是被追殺到天涯海角的通緝犯。

跨過了不同城市鄉鎮與國家,不斷改頭換面,女子的表情始終堅毅。這份無法從她的行為或表情追蹤到動機的古怪,慢慢地瀰漫成一種更為本質性的,關於個人對於其生存之風雨飄搖之對決的勇氣或決定。非常誘人而迷人。

攝影機得急急追趕,才不會跟丟這位電影的主人翁。追著她像是明確知道要前往哪裡地拐過每個彎角,追著她忙不迭地又換下一套服裝、扔掉一批私人物件,追著她的不斷拒絕、刪除、隱瞞。一路下來,銀幕彼端的我們卻從困惑、錯愕,到變得了然與會心。


問題反求諸己

人生陷入空乏,想像起來,應是一種流散、鬆解、全身綿軟無力的狀態,因為我們一直賴以為生的人生突然被抽走了底,我們還要很久時間,需要恢復理智,釐清事情,努力振作以開啟新人生。《女人出走》中,安的行徑因此顯得如此唐突。她這般堅毅,大步跨開……,妳怎麼會知道妳要去哪裡呢?

但慢慢的我們就領會過來了。是的,我們確實不知道我們要去哪裡,但我們太確定、太確定一件事,那就是――離開這裡。

離開這裡,越遠越好,離開這個男人這個我們的房子,離開這個城市,離開這個事業與全部人際關係,離開回憶,離開所有曾有的願望、展望、慾望,離開曾經與此刻的恐懼……

核心的問題不在任何地方,而在我們自己身上。我們不是因為那樣的場景突然心碎倒下,我們是因為自己是這樣的自己,便在某個最後一根羽毛的降臨時刻砰然倒下。要站起來,不是解決那個男人相關點滴,而是重審、重啟與整個自己的關係。


----------------------------------------
導演:班諾‧ 賈克(Benoît Jacquot)
片名:《女人出走》(Villa Amalia
出品年分:2009年
台灣上映時間:2009年12月(佳映娛樂發行)
----------------------------------------

{rokbox album=|myalbum|}images/stories/Feb_2010/HuangYiXi_VillaAmalia/*{/rokbox}

劇照提供/佳映娛樂



本文為節錄,完整內容請見2010年2月號《人籟》論辨月刊

No68

女子為何出走?欲知箇中緣由,請購買本期雜誌

您可以選擇紙本版PDF版

海外讀者如欲選購,請在此查詢(紙本版PDF版訂閱全年份

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Sunday, 17 January 2010

顛覆生死禁忌:瑞可雷塔墓園小記

阿根廷首都布宜諾斯艾利斯就像世界其他大城市一樣兼容並蓄。在那裡,最富有的居民和底層窮人的住所也許相距不遠——這些人幾乎沒受過什麼教育,也鮮有棲身之所,完全屈居於社會體制外。

這座城市是個大雜匯:來自歐洲人的影響和彭巴草原上南美牛仔的風格共存一處,而為城市增色不少的當代拉丁流行文化,則依靠足球與「康比亞」(cumbia,起源於黑奴舞蹈的一種拉丁舞曲,特色是小幅度的步伐和獨特的胯部擺動)、「雷鬼動」(reggaeton,融合雷鬼樂和Hip Hop的電子舞曲,節奏十分強烈)一類的樂種,製造出當地獨特的色彩。從文化上來說,光把城市中相互交織的部分拼湊在一起,還無法解開布宜諾斯艾利斯的謎團;這個方程式還有許多值得思量的地方。


社會名流安息之所

瑞可雷塔(Recoleta)墓園是阿根廷上流階級最後的堡壘之一,許多有錢有勢者皆葬於此地。這座由法國工程師普羅斯伯‧卡特林(Prosper Catelin)所設計的大理石迷宮裡,聚集了軍人、政客(前阿根廷第一夫人艾娃‧裴隆(María Eva Duarte de Perón)是其中國際知名度最高者)、科學家與地主,以及其他權貴。

最墮落與最傑出的阿根廷人,其長眠處可謂近在咫尺,而有些前衛人士與作惡多端者亦安息此地。墓園的建築相當精緻,散發著鮮明的宗教氣息,看起來既肅穆又充滿不祥。這裡表現出天主教圖像的陰暗面,藉由刻意強調的憂傷,提醒我們人生的有限、死後的懲罰,和痛苦之必然。


模糊生與死的界線

但真正讓我們看清瑞可雷塔墓園的,卻是隨之興起的夜生活與歡樂的迷幻世界;今日圍繞在墓園旁的除了酒吧和餐廳,甚至還有妓院。我們可以將這些有趣的插曲,視為時下虛無主義對那些墓園聖像的表態:因為在傳統上,宗教肖像理應喚起寧靜和尊重的情感,不過相反的是,這裡每週聚集了許多享樂者,距離墳區只有數公尺之遙。他們不僅挑戰了亡者的領域,更當著對方的面,展現食色之欲和邪惡帶來的滿足。

在死者安息處讚頌生命」大概是這些活動奉為圭臬的座右銘。有件奇聞更能彰顯這種瑞可雷塔的特殊心態:幾年前,在墓園附近找樂子的人開始入侵生與死的界線——有些膽大的性工作者,選擇在荒廢的陵墓裡提供性服務。她們的客戶相當奇特,會對四處瀰漫的陰森鬼魅氛圍感到特別興奮。這聽起來令人毛骨悚然,卻是真實發生的事。


在地詮釋,顛覆禁忌

Marcos_Recoleta_02瑞可雷塔墓園也是都市發展的沈默見證者:當地的生活被固定在一種類似迪士尼樂園的形式裡,彷彿處於更為保守與傳統的昔日時光。但布宜諾斯艾利斯並非聖者之地;打從一開始,這裡便靠著走私與黑市生意得以繁盛,而相較於其他因素——尤其是宗教規範——城市的擴展動機總和「非正當」交易有更密切的關係。

在整塊美洲大陸上,天主教一類的信仰,和其他從西班牙或歐洲諸國進口的商品並沒有太大區別。舉例來說,天主教本身的外來特質在阿根廷北部相當明顯。我到當地旅行時,常常訝異於原住民所蓋的教堂:因為使用在地建材,兼以當地部落接受耶穌會士的教誨,在建築裝飾中,透露出異教在圖像與藝術動機上的深遠影響,讓這些建築看起來十分怪異而奇特。當然,這些原住民逐漸吸收了天主教的教義,卻沒有照單全收。

瑞可雷塔墓園和周遭發生的事情大約便是如此:它們既是宗教的在地性詮釋,也是對於禁忌的顛覆性表述。比起點綴墓園的冰冷大理石小天使和聖母像,布宜諾斯艾利斯的其他地方似乎更能以異教形式實踐天主教信仰;這應該算是對宗教禁令的一種回應吧。

也許激情和聖性可以共處——至少在瑞可雷塔的特殊心態中是這樣沒錯。


攝影/ 龔武(Marcos Gonzales Gava)      翻譯/吳思薇



本文亦見於2010年2月號《人籟》論辨月刊

No68

想看看更多關於這座傳奇墓園的奇妙風景,請購買本期雜誌!

您可以選擇紙本版PDF版

海外讀者如欲選購,請在此查詢(紙本版PDF版訂閱全年份

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Thursday, 14 January 2010

Yo's Sitar

A Japanese musician bringing the Indian sitar to Taiwan

My name is Ryohei Kanemitsu but everyone calls me Yo. I have been playing the sitar since 2001, so for almost 9 years. I was 17 or 18 when I went to India for the first time. There I was introduced to the sitar and since then I have learnt the sitar and performed in Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Macau and of course, India and Bangladesh.

The first time I came to Taiwan was in 2006. My musical partner, Waka, who plays the tabla, invited me to come to Taiwan and to perform together.

In my case, India is special to me because my mum, when she was young, was traveling in India and nearby countries. Since my childhood, almost everyday she talked about India. She would cook Indian curry and make Indian tea. I always wanted to go to India.

The first time I went to India was not really for the sitar, I just went as a traveler. I saw a sitar performance in Varanasi and it was really impressive, this was the first time I met the sitar. I studied sitar in India for a little bit and then went back to Japan. I then went back to India every year but in 2003 or 2004 I met my present teacher who is a great master of the sitar. I then stayed in India for 4 years, practicing a minimum of 8 hours a day and a maximum of 15 hours a day.

Now I live in Taipei, teaching and performing all around Taiwan.

Ryohei Kanemitsu was interviewed by Paul Farrelly.

For readers in mainland China (apologies for the advertisements):

Friday, 08 January 2010

Re-learning how to live

Mr Lin was a 31 year old computer engineer and married with two children when his life stopped on 3 October 1996.

A man intruded his house during the night and attacked Mr Lin, throwing knives towards his eyes. Mr Lin was admitted to hospital where he stayed for one year and four months. Having lost his sight, hearing, and ability to talk, Mr Lin then had to go through 200 surgeries.

Listening to Mr Lin’s horrific story, I could not believe the man who was sitting in front of me had the courage to stand up and start a totally new life.

Now a qualified masseur working at China Health Massage Center in Taipei, Mr Lin has many regular customers who want to be massaged by him.

I believe Mr Lin found a deep inner-strength to continue to live. I admire his ability to have been able to adapt to the limits of being blind in his new life.

I would like to believe I would have the same strength as him to go on and learn, if one day I was to face such difficulties.

 

Monday, 04 January 2010

Avatar – look beyond the green and blue and you’ll see blood burning red

(Spoiler alert)

A holiday blockbuster on the scale of Avatar is always going to be carefully scrutinised. Does the story make sense? Are the effects realistic? What about the acting? Is the movie popular? And for some of us, what does the movie say about the world we live in? For certain commentators this is proving irresistible, viewing James Cameron’s sci-fi epic as leftist anti-capitalist propaganda, left to soak in a big bucket of green-wash. Perhaps this is true; it would be hard to sit through nearly three hours of Avatar and not have noticed the pro-environment narrative whereby evil white men plunder the pristine forest home of enlightened aliens, the Na’vi, in the pursuit of immense wealth. In this context, a disabled human soldier—alienated from his own terminal society—comes into contact with the Na’vi whose natural lifestyle allows him to transform into a more fully realized being, both spiritually and physically. All this is done, of course, with the most spectacular of special effects, doubly so if viewed in 3D.

But what sort of propaganda is Avatar really pushing down our throats? Yes, the movie is pro-environment but undoubtedly Cameron would have had great difficulty getting a studio to fund a movie that was as proportionately anti-environment. That the most expensive movie ever made can have this theme indicates just how deeply environmental marketing has penetrated our society. But I don’t think too many teenagers are going to go home from the cinema, throw their playstation and laptop out the window and walk off into the jungle to commune with the majesty of nature.

A much more powerful (and by no means politically correct or leftist) theme underpins the movie and has a far greater influence on the outcome – that is, success is achieved by violent confrontation and brute force. Sam Worthington rouses his new Na’vi kinsmen by delivering a stirring rallying cry that harks back to Braveheart and Henry V. Rather than passively accept the incursion of the greedy invaders from earth, the Na’vi should wage war. From this point Avatar turns into a gigantic battle – man versus alien. The ensuing carnage makes for spectacular cinema and the casualties on both sides are severe and in the case of the Na’vi, not without regret. For all the criticisms of Cameron dredging up Hollywood clichés into the story, the final battle is the one that is the least creative and most disappointing.

Fears that Avatar is brainwashing the public into becoming greenies are wide of the mark. The real threat that Avatar poses is more mindless consumption of fighting and brutality. As the decade ticks over and we move on from yet another 10 years of conflict and war, at all levels of society all over the world, the ongoing glorification of violence is something that we should be giving more consideration to.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Drugs, addiction and literature

It is now common place to link drugs to the world of Arts and Literature.From the 19th century onwards, many writers have taken over the subject to describe either its psychical or physical effects. French poet Baudelaire published an essay on hashish and opium in Les Paradis artificiels (Artificial Paradises, 1860) inspired by Thomas de Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. In the mid-20th century, writers from the Beat Generation in the US put the use and the experimentation of drugs at the center of their works, as for example with William Burroughs’ novels Junky and The Naked Lunch. Since then, the subject has also been exploited abundantly by film directors who have adapted novels such as Requiem for a Dream realised in 2000 by Darren Aronofsky from the eponymous novel by Hubert Selby Jr. published in 1978.

 
It is certainly very difficult and maybe impossible to objectively assert or analyse the relation between the taking of drugs and creativity, although many writers have evoked their own use of hallucinogenous substances to stimulate their imagination. Indeed, the use of drugs is known for its power of transgression, of modifying the perceptions and also sometimes making the body and the mind more efficient and productive. Drugs could tally with the fantasy of a creator who would not need to sleep or stop in order to achieve his work. For example, Jean-Paul Sartre was reported to having used mescaline and amphetamines by his companion Simone de Beauvoir (in The prime of life); he would have injected himself with mescaline while writing L’Imaginaire because he wanted to study and observe the process of hallucinations while being himself the subject of these visions. In fact, apparently Sartre was also distinguishing different uses for different drugs: he would take mescaline when writing literary works while he would take amphetamines for philosophical works. Pascal Nouvel, the author of Histoire des amphetamines (The History of Amphetamines, 2009) recalls that Sartre would have written La critique de la raison dialectique under the influence of amphetamines as apparently, for him, philosophy was the development of an idea that he already had; then the amphetamines would help him to produce more energy in order to develop this idea when mescaline would be more reserved for the stimulation of creation. Pascal Nouvel also quotes another original use of amphetamines by science fiction author Philip K. Dick. The latter took these drugs to reach a state of paranoia (also called ‘amphetaminic psychosis’) which would inspire him to reproduce this atmosphere of fear and paranoia in his novels.

 

These alterations and modifications of perception once under the influence of a drug are described by Baudelaire in his essay on hashish and opium, Les Paradis artificiels. In the first part of the book entitled “le Poeme du hashish”, he relates his own experience of hashish; in the second part of the book, named “the Opium Eater”, he analyses the book written by Thomas de Quincey (1785-1859), a British writer who related his addiction to opium. Baudelaire describes precisely the different steps of his intoxication, starting with the physical symptoms and the behaviour changes which result. And Baudelaire mentions a hallucinatory phase which he himself compares to poetic analogies, when the senses seem to take a more distinct power:

“It is, in fact, at this period of the intoxication that is manifested a new delicacy, a superior sharpness in each of the senses: smell, sight, hearing, touch join equally in this onward march; the eyes behold the Infinite; the ear perceives almost inaudible sounds in the midst of the most tremendous tumult. It is then that the hallucinations begin; external objects take on wholly and successively most strange appearances; they are deformed and transformed. […]The enthusiast eye of the hashish drunkard will see strange forms, but before they were strange and monstrous these forms were simple and natural. The energy, the almost speaking liveliness of hallucination in this form of intoxication in no way invalidates this original difference: the one has root in the situation, and, at the present time, the other has not." (’The Theater of Seraphim’, Chap.3, translation by Aleister Crowley, 1895)

But the final judgment of Baudelaire is not positive: after the acme of the drug’s influence, there is the ‘comedown’ which he qualifies as “terrible”:

“But the morrow; the terrible morrow! All the organs relaxed, tired; the nerves unstretched, the teasing tendency to tears, the impossibility of applying yourself to a continuous task, teach you cruelly that you have been playing a forbidden game. Hideous nature, stripped of its illumination of the previous evening, resembles the melancholy ruins of a festival. The will, the most precious of all faculties, is above all attacked. They say, and it is nearly true, that this substance does not cause any physical ill; or at least no grave one; but can one affirm that a man incapable of action and fit only for dreaming is really in good health, even when every part of him functions perfectly?“ (’The Moral’, Chap.5)

At the end, Baudelaire condemns this drug because it forces one to abdicate their will and takes away the control of one’s thoughts. Drugs may be a way to reach a certain ideal and to increase one’s imagination but this ideal remains “artificial”, “fake” as the creator should be the master of its own creation and realisation.

Here we can suggest an approach to the definition of addiction. If drugs usage is necessarily a transformation of oneself which is not necessarily a bad experience in itself, the negative ontological effect of using drugs could rely on its potential addictive power, as addiction would be the dissociation of the subject from its autonomy through the alteration and the submission of oneself. Heir of the Beat Generation, Hubert Selby Jr. describes in a very striking way the mechanism of addiction in his novel Requiem for a Dream. The book follows the four seasons of one year to depict the relentless decay of the four main characters: Sara, the mother of Harry, his girlfriend Marion and his best friend Tyrone. The latter are all young heroin users. The addiction of Harry is evoked since the very first pages of the book: in order to get money to go buy drugs, he has established a ritual during which he takes his mother’s television set to the pawn shop where Sara has to re-buy it. It is summer; Sara is a widow who spends her days watching the same television show and eating chocolates. She receives a phone call which announces to her that she may participate in the television show. She becomes obsessed with her appearance as she wants to wear a special red dress on the day of the show and, in order to slim fast, she starts a regimen of amphetaminic diet-pills. It is probably in the middle of the book that the reader becomes conscious of Sara’s addiction when she calls her doctor’s office to complain that she doesn’t feel the effects of the pills, then after the physical addiction comes the mental one almost inevitably follows.

All characters share the same craving for an ideal of happiness which they see as attainable at first. The youngsters have entrepreneurial dreams which define their ideal of success while Sara dreams of seeing herself on television. Harry’s leitmotiv is that there is never anything to worry about: whether it’s when they do not find their dose, when they get into trouble, when he recognizes his mother’s addiction she’s unwilling to admit it etc. But their passivity is what also condemns them; all four are waiting: Sara for the confirmation letter from the television show, the three kids for the stroke of luck which will decide their future. Their will is totally annihilated by the use of drugs and their habits, the automatism of their daily lives which is symbolized by the television set. Whether it is to relax after taking drugs or to feed one’s fantasies, the television is the symbol of this artificial paradise created by addiction. Actually, the author doesn’t only relate the addiction to drugs, he tells more the story of people who have renounced their will and, somehow, their ability of living together and acting their own lives. All their addictions could be exchangeable (Sara for example exchanges her bulimia for anorexia); the drugs are the means and the symptoms of the characters’ meaningless life, which reinforce somehow the idea that anything can be an object of addiction.

So one cannot say that literature, or art, have participated in normalizing the use of drugs as one can see that drug usage and addiction, whether the actor or the object of the writings, belong first to the social sphere: literature and philosophy might be able to help put into words the ‘language of drugs and addiction’ but it is also a matter of knowing what kind of society we want, how we want to consider the margins of our society, if we want to stigmatize them or to help the distressed instead.
 
 

Read a study on cocaine (in French)

 
 
 
 
 

 


Additional information
There is no doubt that rehabs for drug addiction can help treat drug addicted people from all walks of life.
 

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Learning to Be a Rukai

Here is the video of my experiences during the summer of 2009 when I visited the Wutai Rukai Tribe (Taidong County). .

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Thursday, 24 December 2009

紀錄片作為改變的媒介

《青春不流血》的導演鄭晴心與她的同學,談論如何以紀錄片作為開創社會議題的手段。

2006年,當時還是大一生的他們訪問了三位家暴受害者,並將整個訪談過程拍成紀錄片《青春不流血》。現在他們藉由回顧這部紀錄片,對於藝術如何改變社會這件事提出自己的省思與看法。

 

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Monday, 30 November 2009

Documentary as a medium for change

In the summer of 2006, six first year students at National Taiwan University’s Department of Social Work spontaneously formed a group with the intention of getting a better understanding of the phenomenon of domestic violence in Taiwan through interviews with those who had suffered domestic violence. They found three victims willing to talk about their trials and tribulations. Being young and inexperienced they found the process far more difficult than they had originally expected, never being quite sure of how to conduct the interviews and what attitude to take. Nevertheless all the mistakes, embarrassments, failures and doubts allowed them to learn things that could not be taught in class. Most importantly, more than just painfully observing, they were able to constantly ponder whether they were helping these people and what more they could could do to help similar cases in the future. Pinti (Qingxin) Chen was there directing and filming the interview and learning her own lessons on how best to use her art to raise these social issues. Four years later and now graduated, two of the students, Chen Rujun and Huang Yuling rewatched the documentary and gave their reflections. Here, with Pinti, the three of them looked back discussed their involvement in this project, and the contributions art can have in affecting social change.

 
Watch her documentary here

 

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Sowing Seeds of Faith on Television

Some years ago, I received a letter from an American Catholic man, married to a Taiwanese woman, living in the United States. One day, he walked into his Father-in-law’s room and found him watching an English language teaching program on the Mandarin satellite channel. Although it was not a religious program, he noticed that some stories closely resembled those found in the Bible. He thought to himself, “Wow, those Protestants are clever! They use English TV programs to spread the Gospel!” Only at the end of the program, when he saw “Kuangchi Program Service” and my name among the credits did he realize that the English teacher in the show, “Uncle Jerry,” was actually Father Jerry, and that the program was produced by a Catholic production center in Taipei! He wrote to congratulate us and encourage us to continue.

I was pleased that he was able to detect the Christian values subtext of the English series, even though no specifically Christian terminology was used. He is not the only one who—as Jesus put it—“has ears to hear.” Many others have told me that they watch Kuangchi educational programs on TV or via the internet, not just for their educational value, but as material for reflection, meditation, and prayer.

Kuangchi also occasionally receives negative comments on the internet, posted by anti-Christian viewers who feel that our programs are part of a subtle plot to use TV to convert all Chinese to Christianity—even though Jesus Christ is not explicitly mentioned in most of our programs!

These audience reactions serve to prove a point that Kuangchi Program Service (KPS) has always understood and followed, but is not understood by all viewers, especially Catholics; that is, one of the best uses of the media to share the teachings of the Gospel in a non-Christian culture is to broadcast programs that effectively highlight Christian values, but do so in a modest, unobtrusive, and entertaining way.

All media is educational—even soap operas and variety shows. All media influences attitudes and values—even situation comedies, sports, news, and talk shows. I have discovered that, regardless of what kind of program Kuangchi produces, Christian values inevitably shine through at certain points and leave their mark on the viewing audience.

One especially dramatic example concerns a man from southern Taiwan who saw me on the street one day, ran up to me, shook my hand, and thanked me for saving him from committing suicide! Some years before, he had been so depressed that he had picked up a knife and was preparing to end his life. Then he happened to hear me telling a story during a radio broadcast. The program was discussing music, not religion, but the story I shared described a person who overcame serious difficulties by facing life with courage and optimism. Somehow, it touched the man’s heart, and he put down the knife.

All TV advertisers know that what we see on TV influences attitudes and sometimes behavior—for better or worse. If we see a beautiful person on screen and notice that he/she is wearing a pair of Nike shoes, or a Rolex watch, or driving a BMW, our brains associate these products with “beauty,” and we automatically want to acquire them. If McDonalds shows happy children and loving parents in their TV commercials, we unconsciously feel that consuming their products may bring happiness to our family.

Christian media producers should never try to brainwash the TV audience or use aggressive or dishonest means to coerce viewers into believing or doing what the producers want. However, we can broadcast programs that attract viewers to the Good, the True, the Beautiful, and ultimately to the Holy.

For 51 years of radio and TV production for Chinese and Taiwanese audiences, Kuangchi Program Service has done this by producing and distributing a wide range of educational, cultural and religious programming.

Kuangchi’s programs on the indigenous cultures of Taiwan tell the people that the Catholic Church treasures cultural diversity and a wide variety of cultural traditions. Our TV series for Taiwan’s foreign worker communities and foreign spouses show the Catholic Church’s concern for minority groups. Our TV series on the mentally and physically challenged give witness to the Church’s concern for the needy. Programs that highlight persons who are models of disinterested love and service witness to the fact that Christian faith can influence people to become exemplary leaders in society. Programs which depict the best aspects of other religions and faith communities—Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, etc.—clearly show that the Catholic Church respects and embraces all of God’s children. Kuangchi’s historical documentaries on Catholic figures like Matteo Ricci, Xu Guangqi, Adam Schall, and Giuseppe Castiglione are now enlightening Mainland Chinese audiences on contributions to Chinese culture and people’s livelihood made by Catholic missionaries and Chinese Catholic communities. Even programs and documentaries on business and social issues can promote the values of the Kingdom of God through a careful choice of material and perspective.

Soon the Archdiocese of Taipei will announce a daily Catholic TV Series, produced in collaboration with Kuangchi Program Service. This will mark the beginning of a new stage in the development of the 150 year life of the Catholic Church in Taiwan. This program series will be clearly identified as a gift of the Catholic Church to all the people of Taiwan. It will address the daily concerns of TV viewers while showing how Faith can enrich their lives and enhance the spiritual dimension of society.

Perhaps the Catholic Church in Taiwan has finally understood how the media can be properly used to gently and effectively sow the seeds of Faith throughout our beautiful island and far beyond.


Tuesday, 24 November 2009

My first years in Taiwan


“Father, where do you come from?” Before I started to answer, the young man standing in front of me, the uncle of a student I was driving back home at the beginning of the winter holidays, apologised for daring to ask that question; I did not find his curiosity embarrassing in the slightest, at least he didn’t immediately label me as an American. My national pride was safe! “I am sorry Father, for asking you this; I did not mean to put a distance between us”. Being a “foreign” missionary I did realize how delicate his attitude was. He wanted me to feel at home on this piece of land that was now, with me present here, common to both of us. I remember years later when I tried to learn some Taiwanese, exactly how I realised that this attitude was rooted in the mind of the people: in Taiwanese, when answering the phone don’t people say “Lan ti te wi?” (Where are we?): this is inclusive language, so say the linguists, which already welcomes the stranger, or the unknown voice as a friend.

As a foreigner in a foreign land, the first thing I did experience profoundly in Taiwan was friendship. No need for a manual in hand to make friends. Far from France, I was often thinking that foreigners over there have a less enviable fate. But even when you are a priest, making friends is not the same as evangelising them.

My first assignment, after language studies, was to take responsibility of a dormitory for senior high school boys coming from the surrounding areas to study in Tainan. That was tough for me during in my first few years. I had to cope with teenagers speaking to me very fast. The boys, besides memorizing lists of English words, had very limited experience in learning a foreign language and were therefore pretty unaware of my difficulties. Our relationship became a mutual exercise of patience, and for me, wonderful training for my listening ability. After all, listening ability is a must for both a student in foreign languages and for being the teacher I was supposed to be. I’m really grateful to them for that. In a role where I was the intermediary, so to speak, between the parents, students and the school, I gained precious insights into the educational system of the country, which like the French system is endlessly reforming. Going to classes during the day, then in the evening (at least for some of them) to cram schools in order to secure good grades did not leave us much time for ‘evangelisation’ or any kind of religious instruction. Besides, I was not the principal in charge of their curriculum; time left after classes and study was scarce. My conversations with them were often limited to small encouragements to help cope with the trials of the educational system, the pressure of progressing to the next grade and of course the high expectations of their parents. My continuing to learn the language and their pursuing of their studies was for all of us a painful, though bonding experience! What I was doing during these five years was simply giving a little help, an accompaniment and I was thus happy to be part of the service that the Catholic Church was giving to the youth. Living in Tainan was also an ideal place to enjoy Taiwan. Knowing a different culture starts with the senses and all the Taiwan street snacks imaginable, were there at hand. Anytime, anyplace; street stalls, day and night markets were providing something to quench any little hunger.

I witnessed in the basement of our church the beginning of the now famous ‘Tainaner Ensemble’ (台南人劇團). Later they staged some of their productions at the French ‘Festival d’Avignon’. One of their special features has been translation into Taiwanese and adaptation of famous plays from the world theatre directory. A few years ago I remember attending and assisting their own interpretation of Macbeth at Taipei’s National Theatre and Concert Hall. Like me, some of them only had a smattering of Taiwanese phrases; nevertheless, for all of us it was a grand pleasure!

The dormitory building, Beda Student Centre(百達學生中心), still exists but it no longer hosts high school students. The alumni association that was formed about ten years ago (我為人人協會), now runs the place that has become a cultural centre harbouring different groups and activities including the theatre troop ‘Tainaner Ensemble’. Since the foundation of this dormitory more than 40 years ago, the needs of Taiwanese society have changed with the times. Services provided to the boys for 40 years have instilled the desire in those who benefited from them to take their turn to serve society in a different and creative way as men, and citizens. Is that not the beginning of evangelisation?

After five years in Tainan my next job in Kaohsiung was the care of Catholic college students. I was the chaplain in charge of the campus ministry (天主教大專同學會輔導神父) for the diocese (教區). The Catholic Church in Taiwan is a real minority. Thus I had to develop the necessary skills to find a handful of young Catholics willing to form a group, on campuses filled with thousands of students. Young people like to be together in big groups; for them it makes sense, for them its fun. The huge scale of a college campus makes it so obvious that not only Catholics, but all Christians really are a minority in Taiwan. How to overcome the frustration of being a minor group and nevertheless accepting to form a community of faith? For seven years my ministry was to accompany young people to keep faith and to grow in faith.

Furthermore, to accept that groups with a membership that could often be counted on the fingers of your hands could become the pinch of salt that brings the flavour of the Gospel to the world. Thank God very few groups were composed solely of Catholics. Friendship brings people together. At the same time College years are somehow relieved from the study pressure typical of senior high school years, creating opportunities for acquaintance with the Christian faith and thus for evangelisation.

I remember with yearning those years spent in Kaohsiung and the neighbouring districts. The challenges I encountered then are for me still the same now. On one side building communities of faith is always a priority. On the other side I do believe that Christian communities must be really open and avoid the temptation to huddle up amongst themselves for the sake of a ‘pure identity’. Evangelisation takes time. Some friends have been walking with us, sharing with us for a while, but we say, punning in Mandarin, “they are not yet Catholic friends教友, but already friends of the Catholic Church 教會的朋友”. In Chinese both if these meanings can take the same characters. Any ‘evangeliser’ must remember that he himself is in the process of becoming a Christian. Friendship is for that: from you I learn more about myself. What I appreciate in you may challenge my desire to live up to my Christian standards. Is a Christian community (whether Catholic or Protestant community) able to initiate and carry on projects where people from different backgrounds can contribute? Once, a parish priest talking about his flock drew my attention to the fact that one third of his parish were of mainlander descent, one third native Taiwanese, and one third aborigines. For celebrations and liturgy it was necessary to take into account these differences and sensitivities. And, I think perhaps there was more too it than simply handling sensitivities; amongst the differences in his parish a real potential for creativity was ready to be unveiled. I am so happy to enjoy the diversity of Taiwanese society that I hope that my Church, the Catholic Church, can be a catalyst for projects fostering harmony, comprehension and compassion. Compassion not only for this island too easily satisfied with its own economic achievements, but also for the less privileged world outside expecting some generosity from the rich.
This requires debate and discernment. For debate and discussion we will always be able to find mindful, passionate and reasonably critical friends willing to search together. Discernment requires time, silence, what we call prayer, because at stake are our desires, our projects which run in accordance with the spirit of love that comes from God and is shared by all men and women of good will.

Indeed I do cherish the memory of these years in the South with my friends the students. From them I was designated a form of address less formal than that of “Father”. Even if by being bestowed this nickname I was somehow upgraded from father to grandfather. That is why, now exiled in Northern Taiwan, I sign ’Kenyeye’ (Grandfather Ken): 肯爺爺.

Read the original version in French

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