Archive for February, 2008


February 22, 2008 1 comment

To be self-activated and to exist for yourself is a freedom that is not external to you. It is within you, and it depends on whether you are aware o f it and consciously exercise it.

Freedom is a look in the eyes, a tone of the voice, and it can be actualized by you, so you are not destitute. Affirming the existence of freedom is like affirming the existence of a thing, like a tree, a plant, or a dewdrop; and for you to exercise this freedom in life is just as irrefutable and authentic.

Freedom is ephemeral; and that instant of that look in your eyes, and that tone of your voice springs from a psychological state, and it is that flash of freedom that you want to capture. To express this in language is to affirm freedom, even if what you write can’t last forever. In the process of writing, freedom is visible and audible, and at the instant of reading, writing and listening, freedom exists in your mode of expression. To be able to obtain that small luxury of freedom of expression and expressive freedom is what it takes to make you happy.

Freedom is not conferred, nor can it be bought, it is your own awareness of life. Such is the beauty of life, and, surely, you savour this freedom just as you savour the ecstasy of sexual love with a wonderful woman.

This freedom can tolerate neither God nor a dictator. To be either of these is not your goal, nor would such a goal be attainable, so rather than wasting your effort, you may as well simply want this bit of freedom.

Instead of saying Buddha is in your heart, it would be better to say that freedom is in your heart. Freedom castigates others. To take into account the approval or appreciation of others, and worse still, to pander to the masses, is to live according to the dictates of others. Thus it is they who are happy, and not you, and it is the end of this freedom of yours.

Freedom takes no account of others and has no need for acceptance by others. It can only be won by transcending the restrictions imposed on you by others. Freedom of expression is also like this.

Freedom can also be manifested in suffering and grief, as long as one does not allow oneself to be crushed by it. Even while immersed in suffering and grief, one can still observe, so there can also be freedom in suffering and grief. You need the freedom to suffer and the freedom to grieve, so that life will be worth living. It is this freedom that brings you happiness and peace.

Gao Xingjian, One Man’s Bible (1998), Chapter XXXV

Categories: China, Gao Xingjian


February 20, 2008 Leave a comment

“There’s a rock there”, the joker in front of you points out.

You couldn’t fail to see a rock that size, and are on the point of going around it , when you hear the joker say, “Try moving it!”

Why waste the energy when you wouldn’t be able to move it anyways?

“So you think an insensate rock can’t be moved?” the joker says triumphantly.

You prefer to believe that is so.

“There’s no harm trying,” the joker is baiting you, and his face is all smiles.

You shake your head, not wanting to try something as stupid as that.

“It’s flawless and more solid than granite, a magnificent boulder!” the joker circles the rock, clucking his tongue.

Even if it’s a boulder, it’s got nothing to do with you.

“What a solid foundation it would make, such a pity not to make use of it!” the joker can’t stop himself from giving a big sigh.

You’re not erecting a monument or building a tomb, what would you want it for?

“Go on, try to move it!” the joker puts his arms around the rock and holds on to it.

You wouldn’t be strong enough anyway.

“It wouldn’t move even if you kicked it.”

You’re quite sure that is so, but still touch it with your foot.

This gets the joker all excited and he goes on baiting you, “Stand on it and have a go!”

Have a go at what? But succumbing to his egging you on, you stand on it.

“Don’t move!” the joker circling the rock is, of course, also circling you. You don’t know if he’s watching the rock or he’s watching you. You can’t help following his eyes, and in doing so, you also do a circle while standing on the rock.

At this point, the joker looks you squarely in the face, his eyes narrowing as he smiles, and says in a friendly tone, “So, it cannot be moved!”

Naturally, he’s talking about the rock and not about you. You smile back at him and go to get down, bu the joker puts up a hand and stops you, “Not so fast!”

He sticks out the index finger of his raised hand, and watching his finger, you let him talk on.

“Look, you’ve got to admit that this rock is solid and can’t be moved, don’t you?”

You’ve got no choice but to agree.

“Feel it!”

The joker’s pointing to the rock at your feet. You don’t know what he wants you to feel, but in any case, your feet are standing on the rock.

“Do you feel it?”

Does the joker want you to look at the rock or at your feet?

The joker’s finger suddenly moves upward; he’s pointing above your head, and you can’t help but look into the sky.

“The brightness and purity, transparency and boundlessness of the sky opens up the heart!”

You hear the joker talking, but the sun is hurting your eyes.

“What do you see?” the joker asks. “Try saying whatever you see, just say whatever you see!”

You try to look at the sky but say nothing and only get dizzy.

“Have a good look!”

“What do I actually have to look at?” you find you have to ask.

“The unblemished sky, with it’s authentic, true light!”

You say the sun is hurting your eyes.

“That’s right.”

“What’s right?” you close your eyes and there are gold stars inside your eyelids. Your feet are unsteady, and you go to get down off the rock again, but hear him next to you, reminding you: “What’s right is that you are dizzy, and not the rock.”

“Of course…..” You’re getting confused.

“You are not the rock!” the joker says decisively.

“Of course I’m not the rock,” you acknowledge. “Is it all right to come down?”

“You are far from being as solid as this rock! I’m talking about you!”

“Right. So I may as well- ” You give him the answer he wants and go to step down.

“Don’t be in such a hurry. But standing on the rock, you can see much farther than if you came down, right?”

“Of course,” you again give him the answer he wants, without even thinking.

“In the distance right in front of you – don’t look at your feet, I said look in front of you – what do you see?”

“The horizon?”

“What’s the horizon? There’s always a horizon. I’m talking of above the horizon.Take a good look – ”

“At what?”

“Surely you see it?”

“Isn’t it just sky?”

“Look again carefully!”

“It’s no good,” you say, blinded, “There are all sorts of bright colours….”

“That’s right, you can have any colour you want. What a brilliant,beautiful sky, everything to be hoped for is right before your eyes, and you may be considered as having opened your eyes.”

“Surely it’s alright to get down now, isn’t it?” You close your eyes.

“Look at the sun again! This time look at the sun in it’s golden, brilliant magnificence! You will discover, listen to me, you will discover miracles! Unimaginable miracles, the most beautiful miracles!”

“What miracles?” You ask as you cover your eyes with a hand.

The joker takes your other hand, and you feel that there is a bit of support as you hear the wind pouring into your ears. The joker gives a clue, “The world has such brilliance!”

The joker removes the hand you had over your eyes. You see an ink-blue-black bottomless pit and start worrying.

“You’re worried, aren’t you?” This joker is experienced. “When people see miracles, they always get worried, otherwise, why would they be called miracles?”

You say you want to sit down.

“Hold on a bit longer!” he commands you.

You say you really can’t hold on any longer.

“Even if you can’t, you have to. If the others can hold on, why can’t you?” he reprimands you.

Your legs give way, and doubling over, you sprawl on the rock, seeking his help and wanting to vomit.

“Open your mouth! If you want to shout then shout, if you want to call out then call out!”

So, following his instructions, you give a mighty roar, but can’t stop your nausea and chuck up a lot of bile.

Whether the cause is justice, virtue, an ideal, the most scientific ideology, or a heavenly endowed mission, it will cause a person mental and physical anguish, endless revolutions and repeated sacrifices. And God or saviour, or heroes on a lesser scale, or exemplars on an even lesser scale, and the nation on a grand scale, and this joker above the nation, are built on such a rock.

As soon as you open your mouth to shout, you fall into this joker’s trap. The justice you seek is this joker, and you slaughter for this joker. So you must shout this joker’s slogans, and having lost your own voice, must learn to parrot words; hence you are recreated, your memories are erased. Having lost your head, you become this joker’s follower and, even while not believing, you are forced to believe. Having become this joker’s foot soldier and henchman, you sacrifice yourself for this joker, then, after he has done with you, you are discarded upon the joker’s altar to be buried alive with him or set on fire to enhance this joker’s brilliant image. Your ashes must flutter along with the joker’s in the wind, until the joker is thoroughly dead, and when the dust settles, you, like dust, too, will vanish.

–Gao Xingjian, One Man’s Bible, Chapter XX (1998).