Archive for February, 2012


 

I recently wrote an article on China’s morals which, needless to say, was quite “edgy.” The senior editor of the English magazine I wrote it for, requested I soften it up a bit. I rewrote the entire article from a foreigner’s point of view. Hope you enjoy it.

For most foreigners, arriving in China for the first time is nothing less than an adrenaline rush. Culture shock skips gears and settles into high as our curiosity works overtime. Wherever we go, whatever we see, we witness something new: people trampling over one another to get through a line; construction sites where only women carry heavy materials up flights of stairs; families boarding small motor scooters, and perhaps cuddling a newborn. Our impressions are faced with a new reality – things we’ve only seen in a film, or have read about. We are in the midst of a new world order, behind the great wall of China.

 

Foreigners visit China for various reasons and length of times. Our preparation consists of obtaining our visa, researching cities, tourist sites, cost of living, jobs, and wishing farewell to our friends and loved ones. We visualize obstacles, and how we’re going to cope with the communication gap. Trading the comfort zone of our home country isn’t an easy decision, but we convince ourselves, “Hey, what the heck, it’ll be a new adventure.”

 

Most foreigners I’ve come into contact with planned on staying for only a short term. Most of those foreigners decided to remain here… indefinitely. What changed their minds? Was it the exquisite cuisine? Was it the discovery of 101 uses of toilet tissue? Was it the challenge of dodging taxis? Or was it the people and their culture? Whatever the reason, it’s apparent China has the magnetic capability of keeping a person here.

 

For some of us, it’s an introduction to what freedom is all about. I know where I’m from, every step made is accompanied by a look over the shoulder to see if there’s a waiting policeman ready to pounce on the most petty of actions, especially when it’s nearing the end of the month when their quotas have to be met. In most parts of China, people pretty much do what they want, without fearing consequences. As a foreigner, this is a new revelation.

 

China revels in thousands of years of traditions and customs. In some parts of China, the standards of moral behavior remain in less educated ancient times. Foreigners who witness some aspect of immoral behavior may be shocked at first, but as time elapses, our shock turns into simple acknowledgment – not giving it a second thought. For some of us, I don’t think we’ll learn to approve immoral behavior, but we do need to learn to live with it if we are to remain in China.

 

Confucius visualized a utopian society exhibiting great harmony, made up with rational individuals displaying the values of etiquette and benevolence as its nation’s moral benchmarks. His theory extended to society acting in a manner acceptable to the norm. I don’t think we should forget our morals, but we should respect the existing levels of morals which are “acceptable to the norm.” To borrow a cliche’, it’s just something we must agree to disagree with.

 

Most people in China agree that China lacks the morals and manners of western civilizations. Several students and high positioned authorities in China were asked their opinions for their country’s lack of morals. Their answers were unanimous, lack of education. An intuitive fourteen-year-old student from Dongguan, Harry Ylin Liu, believes that morals should be taught in school, and enforced at home. Perhaps a required reading of Emily Post is necessary? Whatever direction taken, I agree with Harry that education is important to fuel acceptable behavior, especially if a student plans on attending a university abroad.

 

In extreme cases, when lack of morals become life threatening to another, some people believe it’s time for legislature to intercede with appropriate laws. In a recent catastrophic event, people stood by and witnessed a hit and run accident, and did nothing. Chinese legislature is now considering a law similar to America, referred to as, “The Good Samaritan Law.” Nie Lize, an associate professor at Sun Yat-sen University, is in favor, “It is necessary to legislate because the morals of Chinese people are getting lower.”

 

Most of us foreigners were raised being taught proper manners and morals. We have been taught to be polite and benevolent towards others. Our moral standards are at a high level, knowing the difference between right and wrong, not because it was the law, but because it was instilled in us and an early age – manners that assured us we wouldn’t disrespect or offend others, and necessary if we were to succeed in life. Our moral upbringing and manner bearing behavior became instinctive habits – never having to give them a second thought. China makes us review what we’ve learned, and discover examples why we were taught them.

 

Everyday is a sightseeing day for foreigners. We discover new places that have always existed just around the corner; we meet new people wherever we go; and we’re always soaking in new knowledge, or a new Chinese word. Venturing out of our protective caves we call home, we often witness some kind of moral faux pas taking place on the streets. We’re almost tempted to whip out our camera phones and take a snapshot, but we were raised to respect other peoples customs. Besides, chances are we’ll see the behavior again sometime.

 

One of the things that appeals to many foreigners is the fact they are never judged or ridiculed for their behavior or looks – a newfound freedom to be who they are. China is an opportunity to express ourselves in ways that perhaps were not acceptable, for one reason or another, in our home country. Being a foreigner in most parts of China must be how celebrities feel, always the center of attention. That being said, I believe we have a certain standard to uphold, to set an example with our behavior. What’s defined as acceptable morals in one country, may not be considered acceptable in another. As we are not judged, so shall we not judge others. Sound familiar?

 

Enamored by the way of Chinese life, many foreigners want to “fit in” with the populous. In America we have a TV show called, “Girls Gone Wild,” which could easily be translated to, “Foreigners Gone Wild.” There is no shortage of nightclubs, parks, bars, and other foreigner frequented fares. During the day, we’re respectable and knowledgable, teachers or business people; at night, our inner demons are released and encouraged to come out and play. Every night in China is a Saturday night, and a foreigner is never alone. We toss immoral behavior aside, and blend in with the others. Gotta love China!

 

On the other hand, there are some foreigners who believe it is their responsibility to act as saviors, and preach the importance of morals. They use their positions as soap boxes to grandstand their righteous beliefs. As tempting and commendable their intentions, they border on displaying a superiority complex, which Chinese people have a tact for recognizing. Unless a foreigner’s job specifically designates, humanitarian efforts are highly recommended to be shelved until such time they are requested.

 

I first arrived in China at the tail end of the coldest winter in thirty years. My first stroll down a street was more of an exploration, acquainting myself with my immediate surroundings. Although my new home was a far cry from even a three-star neighborhood, I was surprised to see how many doctors lived in my area. There were more people than not, donning surgical masks. Pretty strange, especially since there was no hospital nearby. I soon found out that they were worn to help prevent the spreading of ones germs. That’s something I’d never see in my country. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a foreigner in China wearing a surgical mask. Maybe there’s something we can learn from this? I’m sure if we probe further, there are many explanations that would reveal the logic as to why certain behaviors are acceptable. Allow me to digress, although I’ve been explained the reason for painfully pinching oneself to take the place of over the counter medicine, I still have a difficult time trusting its effectiveness.

 

For some foreigners, China is a giant playground full of freedoms we couldn’t enjoy in our home country. As time goes on, and people continue to be more educated, and legislature enacts laws, the emerging superpower of China will eventually raise the bar on its moral standards. For now, we go with the flow, and be careful not to chip away at the great wall of China.


Scrivener Writing Program

If you’re anything like me, I’ve downloaded and tried almost every available writing software program available in hopes of finding something that suits my specific writing needs. Being a faithful Microsoft Word user my entire life, I never realized how competitive the writing software industry was. I mean, there’s even software that claim to write the story for you. What’s that all about?

While visiting one of my screenwriting forums, I stumbled upon several people mentioning how good Scrivener was. I decided to search it, and found it was perfect for what I needed. Scrivener is an organizational writing tool, for Windows and Macs, focusing on non-linear writing, developed by the folks at Literature and Latte’. It is geared for any kind of writing, from screenplays, short stories, novels, or school projects.

What attracted me to Scrivener was that it doesn’t impose a specific structure. You maintain the ability to customize it any way you choose.

All files are easily subdivided into sub-folders for partitioning off Parts, Acts, Chapters, and Scenes, for working on each individually. After completing, you can compile them into one document for easy viewing.

Another great feature I like to use is the split screen and snapshot feature, horizontal or vertical, which allows for revisions or taking notes from my research folder in the binder.

Scrivener was designed by writers, for writers. Although there are many templates to choose from (or you can design and save your own), Scrivener won’t ask you about birth dates, personality quirks, color of hair, height, favorite food, or what side of the bed is slept on. You’re the writer, so outline and write. Oh yea, it does have an outlining feature as well.

If you need to access an on line dictionary or thesaurus, you can easily access it directly from Scrivener. One of the best features I like, is never having to leave Scrivener to search for files or research. It’s all there in one program with the touch of a finger.

If you choose, you can complete the location and character descriptions, as well as download photos of them. Like most programs, there is a learning curve. It took me about two hours to learn everything I needed, but it’s actually ready to go the minute you install it. To be honest, I only use it for what I need, but the capabilities are endless.

Other features include target word counts, and the capability to keep you on track daily, according to the days you write and total word count estimation. When I come across an idea I need for better organization, I simply type it in the help box, and sure enough, there it is.

The spell check feature is nice. You can set it so it suggests misspelled words for you, and even correct them as you type.

Scrivener provides various templates to choose from, but all can be customized in the fashion you prefer; imposing no unwanted structures. The binder and other screens are collapsible for undistracted writing. There’s even a research file to help create character profiles, location profiles, and the ability to upload photos.

If you’re a self motivated writer just looking for a program that suits your specific needs, then I urge you to download the demo which as a more than generous time period. The price for the Windows program is $40, and the Mac program sells for $45. Both prices are extremely low for what you get, and compared to other programs.

As far as support goes, they lead the pack. Depending on which part of the world you’re in, the response time is much quicker than other programs. You can also search the internet for tips and tricks from other users to get ideas how others use Scrivener.

Good luck and happy writing!

P.S. I do not work for Literature and Latte’, nor am I being paid to write this. I’m just trying to help out fellow writers.

Author: Ken Kuhlken

Writing and the Spirit is an inspirational book that helps combine the joys of writing with the love for Christ. The abundance of thought provoking material on attitudes, habits and practices are not only inspirational, but helps a writer gain perspective of the spirit as she performs her craft.

Reading about the Holy Spirit, and at the same time being told to relish the uniqueness in even the most sinister of antagonists was quite the paradox. We are quickly directed to what The Old Testament tells us, that beauty resides in all things. A dark and sinister character should be developed in such a way that reminds us to avoid passing judgement on them. Like Dostoyevski, we should strive to truly know and love all our characters. Everyone has a background and uniqueness, and their motives and quirks should be presented in such a way that reminds us to avoid passing judgement on them. Emulate Dostoyevski’s dramatic structure where every scene has a character suffering a setback, reversal, or disaster.

To better express our uniqueness as a writer, and allow ourselves to be open to the spirit that moves us, we should abide by 1 Corinthians 2:16 which tells us, “But we have the mind of Christ.” We should minimize the cliche’s of sentimentality, propagandizing, and pornography, and accept the capabilities Christ gave us to tune in and accept his divine hope. We must realized what Joseph Campbell suggests, that following our bliss and promises without fear, doors that we didn’t know existed will open for us.

If our hearts are open to the spirit, it will deliver us with wisdom, but it is our job to deliver that wisdom. Making writing our top priority, the spirit will seek out those who can help and guide us, Blessing those who have helped guide us. We must allow the spirit to drive us, filling our hearts with the qualities of Christ.

Raymond Carver suggests we write every day without anxiety or ambition, which only takes away from our imagination and the spirit that moves us. Writing requires peace of mind, leaving our thoughts of ambition outside the door from which we write. We need to listen to Alan Ginsberg who suggests, we loosen our minds and accept contradictions without aggressively grasping for answers. Trusting in the magic of chance is accepting the generosity of the spirit that moves us. Nothing drives our attitudes, habits and challenges more than the opportunity to write in peace.

1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.” We mustn’t fear our writing or the results it produces, but write for the love of writing.

We must write like journalists, focusing on painting pictures with words, and clarifying the obscure and simplifying the complex. We must incorporate brevity, taking out every paragraph, sentence and word that does not propel the story forward. While adhering to the rules of writing, it is for our betterment that we realize the reason for the rules.

It was obvious the author was a Dostoyevski fan, as the ending of the book was more of a summary of The Brothers Karamazov, which was difficult to tie in with the major content of the book.

Although a short book, just under seventy pages, it is is not meant to be fast read. There are too many passages that leave one to stop and ponder about ones own perceptions of writing and the Holy Spirit. For me, it was a reminder of how important revision is. Like a story continuously being rewritten and revised, so shall we do with our lives, allowing the spirit to exhibit truth and honesty so we can love, write, and become more of a person in the eyes of Christ.

Writing and the Spirit is a good read, and I recommend it for Christians and people of any Faith.