When You Don’t Speak the Same Language

We sip tea at a long table, waiting for another Taoist monk to speak to us. This will be the third this morning. Our translator has had some difficulty with concepts the monks have been trying to convey to us. He apologizes for his not having the vocabulary to translate some of the more difficult ideas.

Up here in the mountains above Zhejiang, it is cold and clear, with vistas that reach out forever. We can see to the horizon, and almost beyond. This is a beautiful place, despite the fact the meals are strictly vegetarian. The gentleman enters. Rather than wearing the blue robes we’ve been seeing today, he’s dressed in a button-down long-sleeve shirt and cargo shorts. He’s wearing rubber slippers.

He sits and wishes us a good morning, and his hope we’re all well and enjoying China.
Our guide is shocked. “Wow, you’re English is much better than mine.”

The monk laughs, tells us he lived in the US for 15 years, working in the software industry, living in California, New York, and Texas. He apologizes for not partaking in tea with us, preferring coffee, he says, as part of his Westernized half.

He talks about Taoism and longevity. They have recently lost their head monk who lived to 108. One of the goals of Taoists is to develop a seed, he says, that we are all born with inside ourselves, nurturing that seed through lifelong learning and lifelong teaching. If you pursue these two things, it’s possible to extend your life. The outside goal for them is 125. If you live that long, then you have truly done your finest job possible as teacher and student. Anything beyond that age is a bonus.

At the end of his speech, he tells us that we are welcome to come up here and live with them for a week, a month, a year, as long as we like up to two years. At that time we must leave, because there are many other people who would like to experience living here for a while too, and dorm space is limited.

“And if you do join us here, be prepared to work. Besides your duty to teach something and to learn, you must work, even if its peeling potatoes, and chopping vegetables. If you’re thinking about coming up here to meditate, you may want to try a Buddhism.” He laughs. “They’re into that. With us, there’s no time to meditate. We’re always busy.”

They have a university up here, situated across a huge reservoir, that they’ve been building themselves, brick by brick. It’s nearly finished. I think that must have kept them very busy.
At this university they offer a BA, an MA, and a PhD in Taoism. While he is describing the coursework in these programs, I think about how wonderful it would be to pursue a degree in this field.

“The only requirement, besides a history of good academic performance, whether it be in high school, or previous college experience,” he says, “is that you be fluent in Mandarin.”
I think about how long it might be to become fluent in Mandarin. At my age, I’ve been noticing, I’m starting to forget English.

Fleeting, my momentary dream of living up here dies a never to be nurtured early death.

* * * * *

Happy #WriterWednesday : ). Today’s #WritingPrompt is


Use it to inspire a piece of any kind of writing, even it’s just a sentence, and then post that piece as a comment below. I would love to read it : )

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