The Outsider

My mother grew up in those red years of irrationality (China in the 60s and 70s).  Many things were destroyed during that unfortunate age: culture, tradition, moral, aesthetics… Yet, one thing, like cancer, grew, infested and exploded within every Chinese citizen across the entire country ­­– that thing is irrationality.

Today, the Culture Revolution has completed, and the Party is globalizing the nation, but irrationality hasn’t stopped. It is seen everywhere, in the way people think, spend and live… My mother is just an extraordinary living example of such irrationality. She’s not the child of her own parents (they never had a chance to teach her anything). She was brought up by the whole nation as one community, by the community’s senseless frenzy.

Since birth, I had been imprisoned by that suffocating irrationality. And one day, I escaped. At the time I was 17. 

In ‘The Republic’, Plato told an interesting story of a cave, where people are imprisoned from birth to grave. No one ever walks out of the cave. All they ever see is flickering shadows casted on a wall by fire. Finally one day, a man walks out. At first, he’s blinded by the sunlight, but gradually, he overcomes the sharp stinging in the eye, and manages to see – the water, the trees, the starry night, the blue sky, and eventually the sun. He goes back to the cave and tells his fellows the real world he saw outside. But his eyes, which are used to the sunlight, can no longer see those flickering shadows in the dark cave. His fellows are frightened; they are convinced that the outing has blinded the man, hence forbid anyone to go out again.

What is “reality”? The outside or the cave? And what is it to do with life? After all, society runs not on truth but collective belief.

I am one of those who walk out the cave. I cannot go back again. Yet to the outside world, I am also a stranger.

When portraying an artist, Camus wrote, “It was difficult to paint the world and men and to live with them at the same time.” Perhaps, I’ve found just the perfect occupation.