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Riding the Elevator

I’m leaving, but I enjoy things at my current school.

I’m glad the nerdy-looking guy wearing flip-flops and shorts may have actually gotten his Harvard t-shirt at Harvard.

I’m glad the cleaning lady laughed along with the rest of us as the polished metal elevator interior reverberated the sounds of her eating a cucumber.

I’m glad she kept right on eating.

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Mr. Right

I’ve heard a lot in the last three years about this man. Mr. Right is apparently one of those vocabulary words all Chinese learn early on. It rolls out almost as easily as Fine, thank you. And you? The funny thing is most girls I’ve talked with don’t actually know what he looks like, despite all their talk about him. So in our last English corner, we pushed through the vagaries to get the specifics.

As the only male present, I wasn’t really allowed to contribute. I served, instead, as the scribe to record this description, in chronological order:

Gentlemen meeting this description may contact me. I have about fifteen single girls looking for you.

Good luck.

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Google Voice

I’ve been waiting for a long time to say this. With thanks to my friend, I can say it.

I have Google Voice.

The idea is that it will let me manage connections flawlessly as I anticipate a move back to an as-yet-undetermined locale within those United States. I’ll give you the number after I figure out if it’s going to work right.

To help me figure out if it’s going to work right, call me.

That’s all.

For now.

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Who’s Fooling Who?

A student came to my office yesterday to practice her English, so we talked about all kinds of things. How curling her tongue may or may not help her pronounce heavy ls, whether talking to herself may improve her English and why she really didn’t know the history of Tomb-sweeping Day (清明节: Qing Ming Jie). My Bible knowledge came in handy as she pondered aloud the fairness of God in hardening Pharaoh’s heart (apparently, the culturally-focused introduction to Christianity she gets as an English major runs pretty deep—or at least to the controversial).

Perhaps the most interesting part of the conversation was her view of God. It started as “I believe in Jesus Christ.” From there, during the next hour of various conversations, “Jesus Christ” turned into “God”, then “someone that gives justice”, then “the moon god in Rome”, then the god who lives on the moon in a cartoon she saw where “everything is silver and everyone is happy”.

At one point, she asked if I believed God was with me. Given her range of religious knowledge, I didn’t expect my affirmation to shock her like it did. She couldn’t accept that I actually believed it in any way that influenced my life. It took five minutes and multiple dictionary queries to convince her that I actually thought God was real.

I was eventually to find out why: her teacher had explained that Karl Marx had proved scientifically there was no God.

When I asked her why she believed in her various expressions of deity she managed a circumlocution of the “opium of the people” theory.

I wish it had been an April Fool’s Day joke.

Here’s what Marx said:

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. (Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right)

I agree—in part. I know intimately those oppressed creatures; I inhabit a heartless world; I endlessly experience spiritless situations. I left a society where religion is often illusory to live in one where it is officially abolished. Somehow, the peoples’ real happiness hasn’t been effected in either.

Maybe religious forms aren’t efficacious. I’ve followed plenty of religious forms that proved worthless.

Maybe religion’s removal wasn’t the solution. My student is still looking for an opiate of some form.

Maybe knowing a God that’s really with you is what we’re all looking for.

Maybe that’s really what my student’s halting English and broken ontotheology were communicating.

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On Celebrity

I wrote this a few weeks ago, but managed to forget to post it in those rare moments when I had internet access. I now offer it for your nostalgic consideration.

The most recent distribution of Academy Awards finally found its way to my computer. There was some good, lots of bad, whatever.

I did use the occasion, though, to prepare the speech I’ll give when I win mine. And since I’ll never need it, I’m offering it on a first come, first served basis to anyone who actually gets nominated.

I’m assuming it’s for acting. Writing, directing, or editing might require minor adjustments. It goes something like this:

Uh, wow. [Insert various other sputter-mutterings to demonstrate the impact of the moment.]

Let me give you the backstory on this [hold up little golden man]:

Thanks to you—you being everyone in the room or at home or not even listening at the moment—I had the chance to have the most fun of my life. I mean, you gave me everything I could possibly need to take this hobby I had (and found really, really fun) and see where it could go.

And just to make sure it went well, you dunked me in a pool of the greatest talent in the world [motion to the rest of the cast and crew]. I absolutely loved the whole process, and I thought it went pretty well. Then you checked it out and, apparently, agreed.

Now you’re giving me a gold statue to remember it all.

So, um, thank you.

That seems a little more gracious than my original: “Seriously? You just gave me millions of dollars to play around all day and now you’re adding a gold statue? Um, OK. Suckers.”

If I win Best Actor, I apparently get more time to talk and am allowed (though obviously not expected) to be more than a sycophant, so I might add this little riff about how it’s funny that I’m getting an award for pretending to be someone with a life worth watching and how much more gratifying it is to have a life worth watching than to just hear other people talk about having one and how I plan to take the little man home to occasionally remember that fake life while actually trying to have a worthwhile life and how awesome it would be to give gold statues to everyone we know who has a real life worth watching. I might even cave to the name-dropping peer pressure and mention some people who would deserve those statues. No one in the room would be on the list, but some of you might.