God is dead.
I just wrote a three page blog post about that quote. But it’s long and it’s boring and it’s probably not appropriate to be placed on the internet so nonchalantly. That’s a big thing with writing. You never know who will connect with you.
God is dead but I still went to mass on Saturday evening. It was down near the center of the city, right by Tiananmen Square. It’s a very odd thing, to listen to a Catholic mass in Chinese.
Yet it made me feel simple and complete. It reminded me of the days when I was younger and I used to go over to a classmate’s house every Tuesday after school. We would eat nachos and do our homework before going to the church for the local CCD classes.
I still go to Church now but only to hear the priest tell me I need to come back on normal days. Not just Christmas and Easter.
It’s very interesting too, how many Chinese are coming out to the services. It seems China is so morally void that most religions are growing here. I can understand them. The world is a very difficult place to be. We need all the help we can get. All of us.
And it was quite odd, looking out the window after mass on Christmas Eve in the taxi headed north. To pass by Tiananmen and all those buildings. To drive down that big wide road with all that history. Then out, beyond the second, third, and fourth ring roads. Out to my home in a lonely apartment complex just south of an industrial park.
Holidays abroad are tough. Most people with any kind of sense will travel home so they can spare themselves the pain. The only thing is with me that holidays have never been so special to begin with. I am used to not doing much of anything.
I will say though that it was really nice to be in the center of Beijing. Not because of Christmas or the people or anything like that. The mass was nice, but it wasn’t that either. It was all those memories.
In my early Beijing days I used to rent an apartment Holright down the street from that church. It was in an old slate gray communist apartment block and you could push open the fire escape if you wanted to get out onto the roof.
I lived in a spare room with four other people. I would ride my beat up flying pigeon scooter through the hutongs a few blocks over to my office in Wangfujing everyday. In the evenings I would go to one of two restaurants; one that served boiled veggies with soy and peanut sauce or one that served local faire. I wanted to try other places but I still didn’t know enough Chinese.
I had a dutch roommate.He lived right down at the end of the hall. We used to work out together in his room. He had a cheap stereo system he bought off Taobao and some weights too. We would work up a sweat and he would tell me that he wanted to train me in martial arts.
I had another roommate from Tennessee that was an ABC and wore cowboy boots. He lived in the cheapest room in the apartment. The landlord had made it by building a wall in the middle of the kitchen. You felt bad for the guy when you cooked, but there wasn’t much anything to do about it.
There were others too. They passed in and out of that place. One of my first real homes in the city. A computer engineer that biked from Amsterdam to Beijing. A 30 year old Chinese woman that worked at a famous advertising firm for below market place wages.
And it was quite odd, looking out the window after mass the night before Christmas in the taxi. We drove across the city and down that big road, pass Tianamen, big hotel buildings meant to impress, and a picture of Mao Zedong plastered above the doorway leading into the Forbidden City.
I thought about all those times I had walked up to Jingshan Park just to see the sunset light fade over Beijing.
Then I was gone, heading north on the expressway away from my past. Christmas Eve in Beijing.
God is dead. That much I agree with. But maybe just a part of him is still alive down in that old center of the city. Where you can eat boiled vegetables and climb up on the rooftops of old slate gray communist apartment blocks. I like to think so. And if I think it, it must be true.