Uncle Reggie Stories: writing from prison (part A, Seattle and my new persona)
与曾叔叔闲聊: 在狱中写作(其一,西雅图和我的新身份)
(Edison & Dixia翻译)

I like to joke that the best place to write well is actually from prison. In between beatings from the guards, there is often a lot of “free time,” unless you’re in labor camp, I would guess. Many of the greatest writings in history were scripted from prison: there is probably enforced time to think, and a good location to set your ideas on paper, or sheepskin, or even just in your brain….. Think about St. Paul, who was in prison numerous times, and probably wrote the most significant letters of all time, influencing concepts and conduct of likely one third of the world, for nearly two thousand years. I’m sure that he would not have been able to do that without the solitude of prison life! Another great writer, respected by many, is Mahatma Gandhi who was arrested numerous times by the British Raj, but was able to preach his theories of nonviolence, to resist the greatest colonial power of all time, and establish a new huge nation of India, basically from the pulpit of prison.

Photo one: Seattleites are always happy to see the sun peering through the blinds, or clouds, or rain. They call the rain here “liquid sunshine.”
照片一:西雅图当地人总是很高兴见到阳光自百叶窗间,云缝间,或雨中射出来。他们叫这种雨为“液态阳光”(“liquid sunshine”)

Suitably inspired, I hope to “replicate” prison life in comfortable and beautiful Seattle! I think I have finally reached a fairly ideal situation in life, where I can hide from my former rush, rush, rush life (see my Uncle Reggie story, rush rush rush). I really want to pretend to be like those who were really in prison, away from the civilization around them. By God’s grace, in my “third retirement,” I am now in a totally new city, and am trying to avoid jumping into a whirlwind of activities like I was involved in before.

In fact, I have to try hard to not get involved in any new ministry and service, because of my usual instinct to “do something, don’t just stand there!” attitude. For example, I have a “bad habit” of thinking out loud when I see something that I feel could be done in a different way, and likely I think better. When the thought has escaped into language, I then turn around and find out that, hmmm nobody seems to want to do anything about it, so then sooner or later, I “feel guilty” that maybe I should do something about it, and not just make empty comments. So, then I become “involved” in some ministry or service, and I’ve jumped in again.
事实上,因为我 “主動做事,而非袖手旁观!”的人生态度,我必须特别约束自己才能做到不参与任何新的事工或服务。例如当我看到身边一些事物可以做得不一样或做得更好的时候,我有一个边想边说的“坏习惯“。当想法脱口而出以后,如果我发现好像没有人响应来做,我很快的会“感到内疚”,觉得我不应该只说不做。然后我就又跳进了一个新的事工或服务里了。

Some people, especially Chinese Christians, who ask what I am doing during this phase of my life, are likely expecting, based on my “previous life,” some “practical” answer like, “I am now serving in this or that way, at this or that local Chinese church.” I have to explain, with a straight face, that I am not doing anything specific at any church, and my family and I are not even attending a Chinese church. And that I am not trying to avoid my responsibilities, but actually trying to develop my responsibilities and discipline, by hiding! Which is sometimes a bit difficult to explain, maybe of course more to myself than to others! But actually, I’m having some progress there, in that I don’t really feel guilty anymore, when I start explaining my situation. Although, deep down, I might still be reading some sense of disappointment by the enquirer, when I tell the truth.
有一些人,特别是华人基督徒,因为他们知道我,当他们问我现阶段在做什么时-,常常期待我会回答“有实际行动”的答案,例如“我现在在这个当地华人教会里做一些事工。”我必须面不改色地向他们解释我现在没有在教会里做什么特别的事, 并且我和家人现在没在一个华人教会礼拜。我解释说这样不是逃避责任,反之,我想借着‘走出来’来学习新的责任和技能!很多时候听的人不能理解这个逻辑。其实,这对我自己来说可能都很不容易解释。但是我现在有进步了,我对别人解释的时候我不再感到内疚,虽然我内心里还是觉得那些问我的人听到我直白的答案后好像有点失望。

Photo two: Away from the hustle and bustle of big cities, hospitals, and churches, my Seattle cute little “prison,” where creativity might appear at unsuspecting moments.

One pastor even remonstrated to me, “there is no retirement for servants of the Lord,” maybe unconsciously trying to give me a “guilt trip.” Which statement I actually agree, since this is my “third retirement,” so you can sense how I feel about “retirement.” And I don’t like to golf anyway, nor to relax on the beach, so prison is just right for me (smile). Strangely enough, as I was writing this article, it struck me that the best answer to stop funny questions is something like, “O, I‘m a writer now,” which sometimes seems to work, or at least the one asking just seems puzzled, like “is that really a job?” And I have been using the writer’s favorite pose, signing books, as my home photo on facebook and wechat. Let’s see if that works.
有一个牧师甚至告诫我说“上帝的工人是不退休的”。或许他在潜意识里想要让我感到内疚。事实上,我很同意他的说法。现在已经是我第三次退休了。你可以从这里看到我对“退休”这件事的态度。我不喜欢打高尔夫球也不想在海滩上放松,所以监狱对我好像适得其所(笑)。很奇怪的,当我在写这篇文章时,我忽然觉得对于那些好玩的问题最好的答案应该是像“哦,我现在在写作。”这个回答好像蛮有用的,至少那些问我的人只是有点困惑的心中嘀咕 “那真的是种工作吗?”在那之外,我也开始用作家最爱的姿势-为书签名-的照片来做我脸书和微信上的个人首页照片。让我们看看这有没有用。

Mainly I have been able to “hide,” by attending a big non-Asian church (5 services on weekends), which most of our Seattle family have been going to, where I can be more of a bystander, and thus avoid the “where are you serving” kind of question (smile) altogether. Which sounds awful, but hey, this is an important phase of my life, and I feel specially called for this phase also, as in other phases of my life. Since my first early retirement 2 decades ago, every “retirement decade” has involved initially a specific period of prayer to discern God’s will for each phase, including this one. I like to ask, maybe I might be given one more decade of life, Lord willing, before I meet my Maker?

Photo 3: My new persona and answer to “what are you doing now” kind of question.

I am fortunately in a city that is supposed to be overcast and dreary for 9-10 months. When I type the word Seattle on the Swype keyboard on my smartphone, the machine is so “smart aleck” that it just shows an “umbrella in the rain” icon, instead of spelling out the word “Seattle”; that seems rather insouciant. I have been told that every day, there is a kind of a minimal daily drizzling rain, and an occasional burst of sunshine that is quite refreshing. It has seemed to be that way as I am writing this story in January to April, but it is perfect for my prison concept.

To be continued in Part B…

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