Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Unconsidered Life

I might arrogantly propose that my local chinese swimming pool could be taken as a microcosm of many aspects of Chinese society. It is a fifty by twenty metre pool with lanes painted on the bottom but no lane dividers on the surface. People swim both lengthwise and widthwise, standing splashing at all areas of the pool. Crashing and weaving. There are signs not to dive and jump into the water but the sound of bombs, dives and near misses (screams) prevails. Life guards watch from their platforms but only to blow the whistle when the pool needs its lunch break. Then it rains and people, for some reason, run out of the pool and to shelter...
The key themes are that words whether spoken or clearly written don't matter as much as what is being done. Even with a clear design of how things should work, people will find a way to subvert it, not with malice but with apparent laziness, or just a bizarre can-do attitude (it can be done so why not). People don't seem to consider their actions in non-set situations. (E.g. standing on the escalator they will think about everything except about how they are standing on the escalator and how their position affects others.) And even obvious supervision is not for the purposes you think they are there for. But anything unexpected can elicit the most unusual primal responses.
The general la-di-da-ness of your average swimmer here is depressing. They really don't seem to check where they're jumping, swimming and who might be coming from where. In the subway, people seem to treat getting to the scarce but hardly comfortable seats a matter of utmost urgency, worth preventing disembarking passenger getting out, worth pushing the elderly and women carrying babies. Apparently Guangzhou isn't the worst city in this regard but it is still a travesty.
I'm not sure which of the hoi polloi Socrates was musing when he pondered that the unconsidered life wasn't worth living. Was it just one that was considered for its Grand Purpose, or merely the correctness of their actions like I might like to regard it now? Probably both. Of course the relativist in the corner of my brain (he's often locked in his room) may cautiously aver that everyone has someone who looks at their lives as unconsidered.
All of this thinking while I attempt, in a wish though not a death wish, to swim a length of backstroke might lead you to think I've mastered the art of swimming while meditating on the universe. Regrettably this isn't the case. Getting back into swimming has been a relief as I've lacked a regular fitness habit but it is a recent thing for me. Swimming is perfect, and at 12 yuan (NZ$2.40) it is pretty cheap even though at peak time you'd be lucky to survive. And so close, barely 5 minutes away from home. Swimming in a hot climate is something I haven't had the pleasure of much prior to the recent months. The water is now at a constant air temperature close to 30 degrees, which allows entry without any shock at all. The "cold" shower after the swim is a pleasure. In fact, I might swim just for the freshness of the shower at the end. Swimming hasn't yet returned to the ease it had prior to my initial departure in late 2009 but that is just a matter of time.
The sooner I swim off this belly the better.

1 comment:

Bren said...

You have a belly?!?