(Actually I love Guangzhou and its people, but these are aspects of many fast growing cities)
What lies within these concrete walls imprisoned in its tiny boxes? Souls that once worked beneath brilliant skies, cut homes from stone or wood and, surrounded by nature, slept vivid dreams of peace. Now all is polluted. The air, the walls, the couch, the bed, send toxic fumes into their heads … repose of soul is hard to find.
Trailing vines dotted with flowers adorn overwhelming tangles of concrete climbing every pillar and hanging in verdant curtains in attempts to incorporate the inborn Chinese love of nature and beauty as spiraling roads obstruct the skyline and towering pollution dims their lines.
Men crawl like teaming ants. I observe them as they scurry to and fro engaged forever in a frantic rush to pile up goods for a winter that may destroy them all. Fighting over crumbs most don’t perceive the masters of this game. They tumble and burst forth as office and factory doors open joining the ever growing crowd rushing toward home, surging through the concrete jungle where righteous souls spin out lives of toil and baser sorts drift downwards in degradation. Their bellies, stuffed with trifles, they hunger to slake their thirst with things that do not satisfy.
Seeds drift upon the wind. Blown from their rural habitat they seek to take hold upon the city streets. Falling they find no haven in which to root and, trampled by pounding feet, they and their dreams die. A few chancing on some neglected crack, grasp hold and, defying obstacles, live a sordid life between granite rocks, reminders of another life where free and sturdy their ancestors toiled beneath sunlit skies and felt the fresh wind blow, where children unbeset by TV screens and computer games ran laughing through bamboo glades and waded in marbled forest pools.
There were hardships then too, crops failed, rivers flooded, winters were hard and war entered often into budding fields. China has long carried her sorrows. Now concrete walls, unfeeling, unforgiving, enclose lesser beings in daily slavery and enthrone the greater in their emptiness were earth does not suffice for burial .
In death, their substance turned to ashes, they are imprisoned still in stone jars their shells never returning to that from which they were born.
Yet, if one would cease his toil for a moment and look upward he might see a messenger pass by, its tiny white fluttering as a flower on the wind and remember what this tiny teacher taught, that one who once crawled day after day, toiling to fill his ferocious appetite was transformed by an impulse not his own into this free winged fluttering upon the breeze. Even in the stench and dirt of man’s greatest cities the secret of the butterfly can be found.