Now the trendy kids speak Chinese

It’s interesting to me how easy it is to paddle through life surrounded by one’s little boat of self-affirmation and yet, when challenged by someone else and threatened with a breach, it becomes disconcertingly obvious that one’s principles and assumptions about the world are only worth as much as the energy and skill with which one defends them personally. Because the sight of someone else conducting their lives according to very different ideas confronts one with the specter of an equal and opposite reality. It seems that any set of values, no matter how ludicrous they might seem, acquire a certain validity simply through their centrality to someone’s life; each life itself possesses that quality of undauntable validity, because no one’s existence can simply be refuted intellectually.

And of course the larger the numbers, the more true this is, which is why most people conform themselves internally to some extent to their society’s morays, no matter how little they may correspond to an individual person’s temperament. And why so many in the intelligentsia are suddenly coming alive to the interest of religion, as if they had stumbled on some half-witted intellectual terra incognita, when 20 or 30 years ago many of them would have concluded religion to be positively refuted by the various materialist philosophies or at least sunk from the view of the well-educated, and would have considered any open consideration of religious claims, as opposed to merely the supposed sociological facts about religion, much less important than addressing rising inequality in allowances in the 10-14 age group, or deciding whether a more pressing need exists for a hermeneutical theory of transgenderedness or a transgendered theory or hermeneutics. Since then, nothing has increased or decreased the inherent interest and attractions of the Bible or the Qu’ran, but even the most die-hard Marxists and queer theorists have to see that there are a lot more committed Muslims in the world than there are of them–and no one wants to be on the wrong side of a gathering storm. Similar to how increasing hordes of Western students are going to China, even though for most of them there’s probably very little to attract them about the daily life of the average Chinese student. Some will acknowledge the role of prevalence and popularity in shaping their thinking, others will insist that their new-found interest in religion or Chinese culture or Arcade Fire arises purely from its own merits.

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