Zhouxiang – we had been sitting together for breakfast in 芜湖 – looked at me, somewhat sincere – we had been taking out some professional issues and editorial work – saying:
People of your age …
and in the following he appreciated my experience, positioning them in a positive way against the way things are done today… I admit, my first (inner reaction) had been .., I felt a bit upset, not feeling old though this is what he openly meant by “pope of my age”. Learning Chinese means also learning to feel and appreciate the deep respect behind his words – and again and again, when we meet I feel this as such an asset of our friendship.
Our chauffeur brought us – there had been two of us – from the airport for this three to four hours drive to the congress venue. Not knowing each other we presented ourselves, just in an informal way, talking about the work and a bit about the failure of striking a balance with life. In my case it meant taking out being in different places, giving presentations, teaching at different universities, and even in different countries and continents. May I ask how old you are … “No problem” and I revealed the middle 60s. She smiled
Isn’t it great then, being still able to do all these things.
Funnily enough, during our talk I also talked about China, the respect older people experience: an appreciation of experience. And I said, I would not know about something like it in the West”. If old age is respected, it is the respect towards somebody “who did his job, deserving to retreat. It feels different than being respected – and perhaps even challenged – with the experience one gained. It is a bit the difference between a shipwreck and a windjammer.