The forest beyond my window may be full of night creatures—deer, racoons, skunks, coyotes, foxes, and so on—but the pre-dawn darkness holds fast to the mysteries of the night, refusing to visually reveal those beasts.
By lighting a cone of incense in the dim light of my study, I attempt to create an enforced tranquility. The blanket of darkness, still thick and happily sullen, cooperates fully with my efforts. Here, where I am utterly alone, I am out of reach of the turbulence of daylight, with human voices and the hum of machinery and the sounds of delivery trucks in the distance, straining as they climb steep hills. My isolation in this room, where the odor of incense is strong and calming, imposes on me what I know to be a temporary serenity.
In this room—at this hour, in the early morning darkness—I can pretend only I exist in the world. I can imagine that I need not be concerned with the effects on other people of my actions or my absence. The peace extracted from the emptiness is mine to do with what I wish. This refuge I create with the juxtaposition of the odor of incense and the illumination of dim light in a small room with a small desk belongs only to me. Not just the physical me; the man sitting at this desk. This refuge belongs to the mind that inhabits this body. It is the refuge of aloneness. The refuge of selfish solitude. The refuge of withdrawal.
For years, a strange, long-standing fantasy has occasionally resurrected itself in the deep recesses of my brain. The fantasy is always there, just beneath the surface; sometimes it emerges like a whale suddenly breaching from that serenity. That fantasy breached this morning, even before I woke and got out of bed. There it was, in my mind’s eye. The fantasy is that I have entered a monastic order, a context that requires a vow of solitude and silence. This monastery, a complex of old but elaborate stone buildings, is in a rural setting within walking distance to a village.
My fantasy is half dream and half vision. It is an impossibility that refuses to succumb to practical reality. There is no religious aspect to the monastery, nor to the vows of silence and solitude. Yet the commitment to respect and adhere to the vows is deep and somber, as if it were embedded in the core of my being; living in accord with the vows is the price that must be paid for the gift of life. The “gift of life” aspect is difficult to grasp, because it sounds and feels religious. But it is not. It is transactional, like exchanging money for goods. A simple expression of the free market. Yet so, so, so much more meaningful. Sufficiently powerful that it can behave like a monstrously potent emotional windstorm that scours one’s attitudes and ideas, taking them down to their foundations. I can envision those storms, but I cannot adequately describe them; they are overwhelmingly powerful and unwilling to be pinned down to fit a description.
Some of the dialogue from a program I watched last night was especially thought-provoking. A conversation took place between two characters, in which they discussed a third character. The conversation revolved around the third character’s lifelong efforts to forgive himself for the way he had treated a fourth character, who was presumed to have died years before. Forgiving oneself. It is an impossibility. Only the person who was “wronged” can forgive. If that person is no longer living, forgiveness is eternally inaccessible.
A couple of articles on the China Daily website have caught my attention. The articles revolve around the dramatic growth in China of new energy vehicles (NEVs) within the past year. If my reading of the articles is correct, NEVs are electric-powered vehicles that operate on extremely energy-efficient batteries. One of the photos accompanying one of the articles shows a driverless electric tractor that was on display during the 19th China-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Expo. While a couple of articles are insufficient to confirm a trend, I suspect there is, indeed, a trend among Chinese companies to develop and sell an extensive array of NEVs. Driverless tractors, passenger cars, fork-lifts…who knows what else? The development of NEV technologies seems to be driven in part by government investing and governmental policies and regulations designed to benefit companies that advance NEV technology development. To my knowledge, if that sort of government investing, etc. is taking place in the “west,” the level of investment is small in comparison to the Chinese market. I imagine we soon will depend almost entirely on Chinese products and technologies to power our own NEVs.
In reading the articles, I learned of some Chinese auto brands: Neta, Hozon Auto, and Wuling. Learning of those manufacturers prompted me to explore what others exist. From what I found, the major Chinese automakers are: SAIC Motor, Dongfeng, FAW, Chang’an, Geely, Beijing Automotive Group, Brilliance Automotive, BYD, Chery, Guangzhou Automobile Group, Great Wall and Jianghuai (JAC). I can imagine that, ten or fifteen or twenty years from now. American highways will be full of Chinese cars, the same as our highways today are full of Japanese and Korean cars.
If not for the potentially negative geopolitical aspects and ramifications of advances in Chinese automotive research and development, I would be pulling for the Chinese automakers. Simply because I an intrigued by technological ingenuity. If, in some blast of magic, planet Earth’s unique populations and their respective world governments would join forces, I would get behind all of it in a big way.
It is Sunday. I must shave and shower and prepare for church. Back to the routine.