Pragmatic above all things

I know a girl named Color who stopped me on the street one day and said,

I am different from every other Chinese girl out there. I think deep, she said, and I question everything. Everybody thinks I am weird and I have few friends. I say strange stuff like, Why would you do that? and That doesn’t seem to have much meaning does it? People think I am crazy. Not pragmatic. My mother is trying to marry me off, but I will resist. I don’t want marriage, I want to be me, to find the truth, I want to find meaning in life.

Last Saturday I sat with ten young film students who also run a small company. They make commercial films and PR for townships by day, dream of Hollywood films and groundbreaking documentaries by night. We talked and smoked, smoked and drank.

The word we hear the most, every day, is pragmatic, said Big Jia. That’s the theme of this new film we are talking about here. The lives of the new youth in China, who dream big but are eventually forced to be pragmatic. Get a job. Get married, buckle down, have kids, be responsible, forget the laughing passions of summer.

Just now I spoke with a 58 year old PhD from Europe. Been here in China for many years and has just now realized that he has no savings, a wife and two kids, and cannot retire. He desperately wants to leave China, but can’t yet. Because US schools don’t want him, European schools have no space, schools Down Under favor Down Under people.

A girl that just left is writing a story about a performance artist who vomits into cans, slams velour penises against stone walls and is now finishing up a project in Pakistan. She was off to interview another artist, this one a guy who sold it all to rent a concrete shell in south Chengdu and produce art like a madman, for a show where he might sell nothing, in pursuit of a dream he is busy fleshing out.

I watch them all go through my life, signs from my God, messages from the source of my soul, whispering whispering the truth in my ear every second of every day. I hear the songs on the radio, Madonna’s Material Girl, I look to the sofa nearby and see a little girl who happens to look at me and smile, she is reading a book to her mom. It’s hot out but the aircon is on. I have been staring at this computer, reading the news, doing my email runs, plotting things that I have forgotten before I end this sentence. I hope I remember them before it’s too late … before deadlines pass.

I am envious and arrogant. Because I turn away from the signs to peer at the black sludge.

Color is dating a man 2 1/2 times her age. She quit her job as an editor at a magazine to work in his cafe. She says he is controlling, bad in bed, old and ugly. But he whispers lollipop philosophies to her and sends her SMS quotes from the ancient annals. Is she a young girl playing around and searching for truth? Or is she a swirling strand of straw in the sands of pragmatic settlements? I hope she knows what she’s doing, but I can’t help thinking of her as the ship’s captain calling out directions as the stern sinks lower.

read this aloud, all you with a lisp.

Picture of Sascha Matuszak
Sascha Matuszak

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