Walking Along the Way Our Sun Goes

The sparrows that sometimes came to stay before my window were singing. Outside of the window, the trees whose names I was unable to utter were shining under the sun.

Ineffable Things Unexpressed

By Tome Loulin ( Tommy H. Loulin)

A year is a long time to leave any piece on a newspaper unlooked at, and the posts on the Wall Street Journal have been left without a glimpse even longer than that, perhaps since its description of a country in Asia as a man who is real “s-word” in an op-ed title. I say “unlooked at” instead of “unread” because it’s perhaps the most suitable word for me to describe the mental state in which I’ve been since or so. Ineffably, the very ordinary business of glancing over a page of certain news outlets has gone so tough that even a mere sight of certain titles appeared on the outlets has the potentiality of bringing my body trembled. I knew, certainly, the sentiment and reaction I have had since may not be the case for others; actually so certain that I wondered if I was the only person on earth to have reacted this badly and intensely to such publications. Am I in desert? I remembered, relying on my own memory, a very sense of unsettledness in the last Hubei version of spring when I was in search of a spiritual shelter for the very ways of our existence in certain eras like this that has been so often characterized by certain ultra-extremism ideologies shadowing this world. Unsettledness was not kind of the words that appear often in my mind; actually so rare that never once had it crossed my mind before my personal experience with certain adjectives I saw or heard somewhere online a year ago or so. And my endeavor to find a spiritual tranquility then and now has been as unfathomable as trying to walk out of a pathless wasteland without any navigation. And ‘twas then that I learned from some outlets online or so that the administrator of a country that is the most powerful in the year of 2020 name-called another group of people in Asia, whose ineffable and tireless endurance in testing eras like this has long been overlooked and untold maybe because of the fact that to go on living is to expect anything to happen, indeed, anything, imaginable or not. I should have known early that in order to maintain our self-composure we are to get prepared early for certain things, things that may get us if we didn’t get them first. That may be the reason why vaccines are needed, invented, and crucial. But too often than not, certain things are not here to be readied. It’s simply because to ready things that we could barely foresee risks us to appear thinking magical. So, when I learned that the paper had defended its usage of the s-word as the practice of free speech, listing several occasions of the word being used previously by other medias to describe the country as an example to demonstrate the commonness of the word, being silent or not was certainly not an option, for having our lips moved is one thing; getting the voice run out of our lips heard is quite another.

[The country] “has known how to exploit America’s identity politics to charge ‘racism’ in service of its censorship.”

“To exploit America’s identity politics” is perhaps too powerful a phrase to be swallowed by a person who, like me, is from the country in Asia and whose identity is most keenly related to and developed from it.

Houseplants on the windowsill of Tome Loulin’s rented room in Hubei, late March of 2021; photographed by Tome Loulin (Tommy H. Loulin)

“Nobody was minding us, so we minded ourselves.” Toni Morrison has written in the foreword of her book Sula, depicting the difficulties she had faced as a working woman then in the sixties with two children to take care of while at the same time continuing to write novels that were unencumbered of other people’s expectations.

For there are certain outlets whose very ways of depicting the reality have brought a lingering atmosphere of horrifying, I should stop looking lest I be overwhelmed.

Tome Loulin

We are travelers who travel around a world that we all share but fail short to understand. I knew it is hard, for there have already been so many physical barriers that estrange, divide, and isolate us, oceans, mountains, rivers, deserts and straits, just to name a few; and we are left with little wonders about the spiritual barriers that impede the completion of a common tower in our mental world. I used to have wondered the purpose of newspaper. Is it to inform or to influence the public, to make a difference out of the indifferent or to sensationalize the sensible. And anyone who believes that there would be an apparent distinction between the truth and the fact to be made would hardly find their relief in reading remarks that name-call any group of people; I also wondered that if what we read doesn’t matter, what would matter to us spiritually. No matter for what a purpose we are reading—be it getting informed, forming connections, finding spiritual relief, or knowing our world better—we are seldom interested in reading for misunderstanding, confusion, division etc. For there are certain outlets whose very ways of depicting the reality have brought a lingering atmosphere of horrifying, I should stop looking lest I be overwhelmed.

Asian is perhaps too powerless a word to be used as an identity marker for the people of Asia whose identity is usually reduced to certain abstract label and stereotypes that confuse the line between the us and the other and between the familiar and foreign. I wondered how come I call myself Asian or Chinese instead of Zhongguoren in the first place as the two are sensibly never the ones that we use to describe and define ourselves? Asia is from the initial naming of a place then called Asia Minor, which is not a place near where I’ve been living. Chinese, unlike the word Zhongguo, is not the word we utter in the language we use daily with our family members, friends, teachers, doctors, strangers, and persons who live here in Zhongguo, too.

Early spring in Hubei; photograph by Tome Loulin

When reading certain type of essays whose function, originally, should have been to inform with carefully checked materials but has now been way more confusing has turned into a tormenting process, I felt an urge to abandon it for good because, if this thing is left disregarded, there would certainly be a series of unquenchable surges of unsettledness and powerlessness that is to catch me, in the end of my day. I should think more of those who are compassionate, kind, regardful, and loving and who would not call our desire to a world, to which kindness, moral seriousness, altruism, and compassion are the passport, unrealistic.

It’s been about a year passed without feeling how warm the sunlight is. As I walk across the roads in one of serial cities to which I relate in Hubei province of Zhongguo(China), it occurs that not a moment has been passed without getting the impression that anything non-human makes more sense to me, from the houseplants I planted on the windowsill of my rented house to the birds that had come before the window to sing a while. I feel thrilled by these beings’ ability to look contented with so little materials they could get.

The sparrows that sometimes came to stay before my window were singing. Outside of the window, the trees whose names I was unable to utter were shining under the sun.

I crossed the road where taller trees with big boughs were dotted and lined sideways, sheltering walkers and bicycles passing by; not afar was the water of a lake waving and glistening in the sunlight as the clouds over us were spreading eastward or so.

‘twas so empty, yet so bright over the lake in the campus of my school. Other passersby beside the lake were watching sideways, picturing the gradual setting of the sun in an ordinary winter afternoon, the only sun we’ve had.

And it’s about time, perhaps, to go on walking for the spring is to come.

By Tome Loulin (Tommy H. Loulin) in Hubei

23rd, March, 2021