Dreams of My Own

A surreal dream sequence went something like this:

General setting: A Taiwan university, set imposingly on a hill, almost Gothic but inside everything is brightly lit and serious, sort of.

Sequence: I stumbled first into the administrative area. And I write stumble, not because I was drunk, but because I have scant regard for hierarchies. I was nuisance with a vague trajectory toward the old professor, who I knew to be in the office somewhere as the President of the school. I wasn’t stopped by the secretaries, I supposed, because my lack of interest in and respect for hierarchies does not compute. I am supposed to be put off by the signs of power and seriousness; they usually need speak not a word.

Eventually, I met him in the hall. He was small and shaking. He told me that he was leaving his post. I told him he was a truly decent man. I was stumbling and emotional like a stupid drunk. He went away, and I hung around a little longer. I wanted to say something more. By now I was getting more than looks; people were making their (whatever people like this feel–dogs in Animal Farm) feelings known. Was it telepathy? In any case, I had another chance, and I told the shaking president that I was also glad that the three presidents I had known at the university were all trained in the social sciences. (A very naive thing to say I know, but I was full of “love” without regard to power and hierarchies).

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I wandered out of the offices and passed through an area were students were doing some testing of some sort. (In Taiwan, anything outside the orbit of family and business is tested for entry and advancement).  Who did I see? A former student of mine from a major national university in 1993. I put my hand over his head and hugged him to me. He didn’t speak, as usual, but looked at me with friendly and tired eyes– eyes that told me I should know what he’s doing but he also knows that we both know the entire situation is absurd; for he showed me the carbon copied worksheet with its absurd questions. Then he pointed across the long, lunchroom-style table at a class mate from his class. She too was always bright and kind, and she smiled. I realized the truth. There was no advancement. Students of mine (and in Taiwan this means something serious) were still taking the tests. Still stuck in the system.

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By now my lack of respect for hierarchies and conventions was drawing not only ire but the attention of a group fixated on eliminating me. I wandered out, horrified yet naive in my affections.

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I woke up and recalled what bothered me most about teaching in universities: the hierarchies and pretenses to status. The soul really of high functioning societies. Communities, love and affection are nice, so long as they serve the institution. To serve the institution, one must recognize it, fear it. Even Mao knew this.

Considering the emergencies we face in the environment, e.g., Fukushima, and our incapacity to handle them administratively, the dangers are enormous. When people realize that institutionalized love and prefabricated hopes don’t work, will (ha ha, I will persist forever in naivety) the answer come as authoritarianism and violence?

how it ends

Professor 阿Q.

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