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East meets West

david hume and the geisha

This young woman was standing next to the statue of David Hume on the Royal Mile last weekend. She was one of a number of people who perform as “living statues”, standing very still for long periods as people gather, watch, photograph and maybe leave some money. It’s such a strange phenomenon, this kind of performance. What amazes people is their stillness. Isn’t that interesting? In the bustle and hurry and continuous doing of life passers-by are caught by these artists’ stillness, their not-moving. And what effect do they have on the crowds who rush by? Well, either only a passing glance, or they are caught. They stop and they stand and they watch, sucked into a moment of stillness. It’s quite something to see.

But it was the juxtaposition of this performer and the huge solidity of David Hume’s statue which especially caught my attention. Set me off thinking all kinds of things……..the relationship between contemplation and philosophy; between thinking and acting (who’s thinking and who’s acting here?); and, probably because this is the EIGHTH day of the EIGHTH month of the two thousand and EIGHTH year today and at EIGHT minutes past EIGHT tonight, the Beijing Olympics will commence, it got me thinking about the intermingling of East and West, of different traditions, different views, different cultures and how they influence each other.

This is a time of change. The old orders are creaking and shaking. As China engages with the rest of the world and the rest of the world engages with China we’re going to have a lot to learn about each other and, actually, right at this moment, I find it awe-inspiring and mind-boggling. I think many of our presumptions are going to be shaken to the core. (BBC2’s Culture Show special on China is an example)

It’s times like these when great opportunities arise to wake up from un-reflective, passive ways of life, (zombie life), to creative, radical, active ways of life (hero life).

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