And on the other hand...

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Sit-down Comedy: A Running Gag (Part 2)

Traveling back to someplace always makes you reference previous visits, and this latest to Wudang is no exception. Novelty is replaced by routine and ordinary, but no less wonderful.   I'm sure my companions got tired of my constant comments,  "When I was in Beijing in 1988..." and "This hotel used to be moldy..." and "When I broke the hermit's stool...".  That last reference has to do with my big western butt overwhelming a delicate wooden stool provided to me by the famous Bee Taoist. In the middle of a solemn little talk about Tao, my stool suddenly collapsed, put me on the ground in a big sudden shift in yin/yang, and provided the hermit with some new bits of firewood.

When one of our companions this trip was having some trouble getting a proper ticket from Beijing to Wudang with the rest of us in hard sleeper, he was encouraged to do what countless desperate Chinese must do: buy a little portable stool to sit on during the nearly 24-hour overnight journey in a crowded cattle car. (There are hawkers roaming the station selling stools for just this purpose.)  I joked about my stool adventure, and we decided that we would make a trek to present his little stool to the hermit as a kind of offering...assuming he would remember.
The stool became something of a sitting joke (as opposed to a running gag) for much of the journey. We never did deliver it to the Bee Taoist, who did remember me, but probably not because of the stool episode.   I gave him a copy of my Chinese-style ink portrait of him and a photo from our previous visit, and inadvertently left my Camelbak bottle on his little terrace, guaranteeing that I had to visit him one more time to retrieve it. (I was dropping and forgetting things all over the place on this trip; some practical lessons in attachment, or just paying attention.)
Bee Taoist Jia Ye (and a tiny Sufi), September 2013. 

I would like to know the story of this. This is like finding a statue of Lao Tzu in a mosque.
Later in Beijing, when I was alone after the last of the group had scattered, I spent an afternoon in the National Art Museum.  I never did find the shui-mo shan-shui scrolls I was looking for, but did stumble into some unusual modern installations, in particular, one involving...stools.  I guess I could call it an instoolation.

So the stool metaphor continued through the end of our trip and then some. If I can consider it a metaphor. (There were not a few stool jokes made related to the previous blog post. You can get very preoccupied with stool in China.)  The train stool purchaser and veritable art critic commented that the installation "represents the non-linearity of the journey of learning that we undertook interspersed by reminders of our humanity within the unfolding humanity of China.  I am glad I was sitting down on my stool at the time I opened these [photos] as I couldn't believe that someone could actually mutilate such objects of beauty..."  I couldn't have put it better.

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