Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

We were going to leave for Mianzhu this morning, but we woke to a driving rain. Hank asked me what I thought, and I said, "Let's wait one more day. I really didn't want to go up to that devastated area in the mud. The sun came out after noon, so if we are lucky, tomorrow will be quite a bit dryer than this morning.

There remains one single duty. It is to keep one's gaze fixed on the master one has chosen and to be constantly listening so as to understand and hear and immediately obey his will. Nothing so well illustrates this condition as that of a servant whose sole duty lies in obeying instantly whatever orders his master may give him, and not employing his time on his own affairs, which he must put aside in order to be to his master all things at all times.

That's it. Immediate response to God's will for each moment. Ready to drop what we are doing to make God's irritating interruptions our top priority. I have always believed that poor planning can be costly in terms of wasted time and money spent trying to compensate for lack of preparation. But I am learning that even when we do plan thoroughly, sometimes God changes our plans. How do we respond when this happens? The mystic is saying that we should "put our own affairs aside." This implies that we each have an agenda that differs from God's purpose. One would think that the longer we walk with God, the less this should be true, but I suppose that, in one sense, it doesn't matter. What does matter is our willingness to put our agenda aside in favor of His. I think we all believe this in the larger sense. But it is the present moment that I struggle with. This is what I want to learn. To know, in each moment, what is God's highest priority.

Jinli Street. It's billed as an old street, but, of course, it is a very new street featuring an "old China" motif. Kinda nice , though, on a summer evening, to stroll through the area, grab some semi-traditional dishes, and watch the puppet show (last half of the video). Chengdu is known in China for having a "laid back" environment. Does this mean that Chengdu folks are lazy? No, I don't think so. I have seen neighborhood folks playing mahjong in the alleys in many parts of China. But this is definitely not Hong Kong. Chengdu is just not a fast-paced, trendy place. Places like Jinli Street are not really that revolutionary. They just allow Chengdu people to do what they have always been doing in a smaller area.

It's hard to give you the feel of a Chengdu summer. You sorta have to come here. And when you get tired of walking around, there will be an air conditioned Starbuck's waiting for you. Some in China decry this mixture of old and new. But Chengdu is known for the Sichuan hotpot, which everybody thinks of as a traditional dish, but which was actually developed by longshoremen in Chongqing in the first half of the 20th Century. So new ways of expressing an old lifestyle are not always bad. Sometimes a balance of old and new can be nice, as long as it doesn't get too touristy. Don't worry. There are still plenty of old neighborhoods here, too. China is changing. There are many new places and new businesses and new things being tried. But there is only one Chengdu.

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