“To have friends come from afar …”

Outside of East Asia, not many people realize that the first line of the Confucian Analects is a statement about the joys of life:

The Master said, “To study and at times put it into practice, is it not a pleasure? To have friends come from afar, is it not a joy? To take no offense when other do not recognize [your virtue], is [such a person] not a gentleman?
子曰:「學而時習之,不亦悅乎?有朋自遠方來,不亦樂乎?人不知而不愠乎?

“The Master” was not, as he is often depicted by modern Americans, a pedantic moralizer, but a man who understood where true and lasting pleasure could be found in this life.

12764434_10208542603061421_4310429070019932659_oI had the good fortune this week to have two friends “come from afar”–one new and one very old. I spent Thursday and Friday of last week with Reginaldo Filho, a fellow teacher and clinician of Chinese medicine, and his colleague Zhao Juan 赵娟, who is finishing her masters degree in acupuncture at Chengdu University of Chinese Medicine 成都中医药大学. We talked about clinical issues, historical questions, the usefulness of old medical texts, the challenges facing Chinese medicine in the contemporary world, and other similar topics–the sorts of things you can only talk about with people who dove headfirst into this medicine with no intention of ever coming up for a breath! Reginaldo hails from Brazil, and you can’t get much more “afar” from Chengdu than that! We’ve connected with one another through our teaching activities on the internet two years ago, but this is the first time we’ve met one another in person. It was indeed a joy!

IMG_1663Tonight another friend came for a visit. Dalton Garis is one of my oldest friends. When I first began exploring the Baha’i Faith twenty-two years ago, the first meeting I attended was held in his house. He is a man of great scholarship, humor, and kindness, and was among the many wonderful Baha’is in Gainesville, Florida, who showed me what a truly united community could be–and feel like. I have carried the warmth of that community in my heart on many travels and been rewarded by wandering into other equally loving communities. Dalton and I, however, seem to have a strangely entangled fate. Twenty years after our first meeting, and more than fifteen since last seeing one another, we ended up living in the same neighborhood, Flushing, in NYC. After seven happy years there, I made my move to Chengdu, only to find out that Dalton’s wife is from Chengdu, ensuring that we will continue to see one another regularly even now. He and his wife, Qian, are here to visit her family for Chinese New Year, and they came to our house to celebrate the Lantern Festival, traditionally the conclusion of the New Year’s festivities, with us. Definitely joyous!

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