Preserving Culture and Eventually Creativity

That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath.  But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances:
“‘Saul has slain his thousands,
    and David his tens of thousands’?”
David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath.  So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.
Achish said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me?  Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?”

  • 1 Samuel 21:10-15

But the Philistine commanders were angry with Achish and said, “Send the man back, that he may return to the place you assigned him. He must not go with us into battle, or he will turn against us during the fighting. How better could he regain his master’s favor than by taking the heads of our own men?  Isn’t this the David they sang about in their dances:
“‘Saul has slain his thousands,
    and David his tens of thousands’?”
So Achish called David and said to him, “As surely as the Lord lives, you have been reliable, and I would be pleased to have you serve with me in the army. From the day you came to me until today, I have found no fault in you, but the rulers don’t approve of you.  Now turn back and go in peace; do nothing to displease the Philistine rulers.”

  • 1 Samuel 29:4-7

After John’s messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind?  If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces.  But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  This is the one about whom it is written:
“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way before you.’
I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John.  But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)
Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like?  They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:
“‘We played the pipe for you,
    and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
    and you did not cry.’
For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’  The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’  But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”

  • Luke 7:24-35

“From the Yellow Emperor of antiquity to the splendor of the Tang Dynasty all the way to the exquisite elegance of the Qing, the lineage of Chinese civilization runs five millennia deep. It is a story brimming with heroes real and imagined, their legacy preserved in tales of courage and sacrifice, integrity and loyalty, compassion and virtue.
“China’s ancient name, “The Land of the Divine” tells of a world where deities and mortals together walked the Earth. Music, medicine, calligraphy, clothing, language, and much more were said to have been brought down from above. Buddhist, Taoist, and other disciplines were at the heart of society. Emperors sought to follow the Way of Heaven, and daily life was replete with rituals connecting the human and the divine.
“Unfortunately…
“Over the past decades, the Chinese Communist Party has treated traditional culture as a threat to its rule. Through campaigns like the Cultural Revolution, it has systematically uprooted traditional beliefs and destroyed ancient treasures, bringing 5,000 years of civilization to the brink of extinction.”

  • ShenYunPerformingArts.org website, 5000 Year of Civilization, Almost Gone

Notice that the two Scriptures from 1 Samuel are divided by eight chapters.  With David running from King Saul, he spent time with the “enemies” of Israel, pretending to be a madman when he first met the king of Achish, but eventually becoming friends – but far from best friends.  The Philistines could not trust David fully, in that the tens of thousands in the song being danced to had been Philistines.

For a few years now, Shen Yun has made one of the theaters in downtown Pittsburgh one of their stops.  The program looks beautiful from the trailer.  The Shen Yun trailer for 2021-2022.

But I had been to China, and I knew it could not be from mainland China.  It is not from China at all.  They are headquartered in New York according to their website.  Of course, the culture is from China.  Each tour tells a different story.  They are trying to tell as many stories in dance form as they can before the culture is lost forever.  You will not get these types of performances in China.

The Cultural Revolution was from 1966 to 1976 in China.  They tried to irradicate anyone who was creative.  If I can find it, I have one of the few CDs made of Chinese music still made in China.  People are discouraged from being creative or even thinking there, very few musicians.  Reports vary about the Cultural Revolution from hundreds of thousands of people being killed to millions and that just in those that are known.  I think there were so many that only God knows how many souls were lost – killed because they refused to quit thinking and were labeled too great a risk to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).  The CCP fears very little, but they fear anything that spreads creativity, alternate ideas and ideals like Christianity, and anything promoting thought, again like Christianity.  If someone calls in a complaint about you about how you were expressing new ideas, even if it was the design of a better mousetrap, you could be carted away to a reeducation camp, if you were lucky to survive the immediate beatings.  I have met and conversed with survivors of the Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen Square massacre.  I have read the books of several who escaped or were allowed to leave.  One of the books started with a nosey neighbor who reported that the author was keeping a personal diary, having accidentally slipped that information in an innocent conversation.  This was followed by the torture and slave labor of the reeducation camps.

For about a month, I was the teacher of a team from Shanghai.  They were fellow company employees, just living and working in Shanghai.  Recycling aluminum cans was not done in China at the time.  The parent company chose these engineering “experts” as the design team to design and build a Chinese aluminum can recycling furnace that could be reproduced by the thousands, a multimillion-dollar endeavor.  I taught them combustion, heat transfer, and intricacies of aluminum can melting.  In other words, if you toss an empty, dry can into a hot furnace, it will make nothing but dross, the unwanted byproduct.  There is just too much surface area and not enough mass – the walls of the can are too thin.  Corrosion, at those temperatures would overtake melting, but I knew the tricks around that, various methods.

I taught them that a wet can, a full can of soft drink, could irreparably damage the furnace.  I cannot remember how many hundreds of volume increases, well over a thousand times the original volume, the water instantly goes through, but when it explodes, it take the molten metal with it and destroys everything in its path.

Then we sketched out the various ideas of how the furnace might look.  I told them that the “exam” to see if they understood what I had taught for the past two weeks was to put that knowledge together to form some initial engineering drawings.  They had the drafting skills already.

They looked at me with abject terror in their eyes.  The leader of the team was a woman who had been my hostess when I first visited China for a couple of weeks a few years prior.  She pulled me aside and told me that her team was good at reverse engineering (stealing our technology and copying it), but they were afraid to think on their own.  Thinking got people beaten, imprisoned, or killed.

A couple of our engineers gave them something to copy and then reverse engineer, but there were still pieces missing.  We had not designed a furnace that exclusively melted aluminum cans before, only melted them as additional metal in small batches.  Of course, there was the bailing practice, mashing hundreds of dried cans into a single block and use traditional melting practices.  This “design team” was part of the company that was sold before they ever “designed” the furnace that I had laid out for them step by step on how to build it.

A recurring theme in the things that I write is that we have lost the ability to think, at least critical thinking.  We are content with others thinking for us.  We especially are willing to allow the government to make more and more decisions that we once made ourselves.

If Communism were to take over, we would be easy pickings, as the old man says.  We already have difficulty with critical thinking.  We may still have creative people, but those people would be arrested soon after a Communist takeover.  And many of our politicians are open about moving in that direction, setting up a system like the CCP.

But thinking of the Shen Yun quote above, they talk of the spiritual aspects of their dance.  From the dance telling a story, I am fine with that, but I am kind of like Mark Lowry on whether to dance or not myself, and I wasn’t even a Baptist; I was brought up Presbyterian.

From the pageantry of the Shen Yun productions, at least the little bit that I have seen in videos and commercials, it is worth preserving.  The photo above is from Thai traditional dancing, taken during a performance at the King of Siam’s summer palace, now a museum.  It was elegant and beautiful.  I did not supervise the work team in Thailand, but I reported progress to the bosses weekly – a straw boss of sorts.  We were treated to a day off, the queen’s birthday (making it: Thailand’s Mother’s Day), and our hostess in Thailand gave us the grand tour of Bangkok that day – just a couple of weeks before the Southeast Asian economy tanked, and our customer went bankrupt.  Their currency was suddenly worthless.

Are we allowed to dance?  Will there be dancing in Heaven?  Of course, King David danced, and he was a man after God’s own heart.  I am sure my New Body will have something the old body never had – the ability to stay in step.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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