It was a Chinese liberal intellectual and diplomat, Hu Shi, who in the 1930s provided the best answer to those afraid of Chinese soft power. He was writing in another era of intense debates in China about how to modernise its society and whether it should follow a Western path. If these was anything really valuable in traditional Chinese culture, Hu Shi told his compatriots, then it would easily survive the entry of Western ideas into the country. “If our culture really contains priceless treasures that are able to withstand the power of the cleansing foreign attack, this indestructible part of our culture will naturally emerge even more fully after scientific cultire washes over it,” Hu wrote. The threat to America’s soft power does not come from China, but from its own seemingly inability to solve basic issues of governance. The U.S. should worry less about the attractiveness of China and more about getting its own house in order.
Tell me what you mean when you say the word stranger.
- Someone you’ve only seen once.
- The entire world of people you’ve never met or encountered.
- All the people who are unknown to you but possibly knowable, the people who you’re aware of as individuals in some way, but have never met or encountered in person.
- People you have personal information about but have not met, like a friend of a friend, or a public person.
- A person who doesn’t share your context, whether that is ideological or geographical.
- A person you don’t have anything in common with.
- Someone who is not part of any group you define yourself as belonging to.
- Someone you can’t understand.
- Someone who is a threat.
- Someone you encounter frequently but don’t know anything about other than what you can observe.
- Someone whose name you don’t know.
We are surrounded by individuals, not categories. There are adventures to be had here, adventures you can set out for every day of your life. To really understand how you divide the world, to use your senses to choose whom to make familiar, and to stop and say hello to a stranger, these bold acts can transform your emotional experience of the public world. And you can transform the public world itself right along with you.
Cities are machines for interaction among strangers, and more than fifty percent of the global population now lives in cities.
One drop of water helps to swell the ocean; a spark of fire helps give light to the world. None are too small, too feeble, too poor to be of service. Think of this and act. –Hannah More, English Writer (1745-1833)
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. –Attributed to Chief Seattle, Native American Chief (1786-1866)
Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. –Lao Tzu, Chinese Philosopher and Poet (c. Sixth Century BCE)
OPENING TO THE SUN OF COMPASSION
Compassion is like the sun. We do not need to create the sun; we simply wait until the clouds part and the sun will shine. –The Happy Buddha
Create health, beauty and permanence and learn to live peacefully, not only with our fellow humans but also with nature. –Satish Kumar (‘Soil, Soul, Society’)
All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today. –Anon
Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love, to work, to play, and to look up at the stars. –Henry Van Dyke, American Author and Clergyman (1852-1933)
Art has a role to play in this manoeuvre of the mind upon which, not coincidentally, civilization itself is founded, because the unsympathetic assessments we make of others are usually the result of nothing more sinister than our habit of looking at them in the wrong way, through lenses clouded by distraction, exhaustion and fear, which blind us to the fact that they are really, despite a thousand differences, just altered versions of ourselves: fellow fragile, uncertain, flawed beings likewise craving love and in urgent need of forgiveness. – Perspective
(A Temple to Reflection) Because we are drawn in architecture to styles which seem to possess some of the qualities we lack in ourselves, it is little wonder that we should be readily seduced by spaces that are purified and free of distraction, and in which stimuli have been reduced to a minimum – Architecture
Reproduction Illustration by Cat Johnston
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