A Chinese man gets up and goes

Learning the language via the internet

I have just seen a delightful eleven minute film, YU MING IS AINM DOM,[1] about a young Chinese man who, bored by his routine job, searches the internet for appealing prospects overseas. He decides on Ireland and, with Chinese determination, sets about learning the language via the internet. There is a clip of him talking to himself in the mirror in Irish while he shaves. He duly takes a plane and lands in Dublin and is immediately puzzled why people cannot understand him.

At the end of his tether he goes into a bar where they look at him quizzically as he perseveres in asking where he can get work, where he can stay. The barman, who happens to be Australian, tries to be helpful though he thinks the man is speaking Chinese.  But salvation is at hand. Leaning on the bar with his glass of Guinness is one of the 1% of Irish people who do speak Irish and he engages the Chinese man in conversation – in Irish. The short film ends with the Chinese visitor employed in the Irish speaking part of the country in a bar himself where he becomes a local celebrity.

It is a simple moving story but it does show up the saying we often hear: Have the courage to be different! You do not have to settle for ‘what everyone does’. A person can strike out on her or his own. If you don’t manage all the research – you’d be excused for thinking they speak Irish in Ireland – it may add to the adventure.

Our pre-Covid 19 world was peer driven. There was a dominant culture which seduced people into its ways.  I am thinking of the rise of fashions, like being wired to gadgets, to which many felt drawn to conform. And, paradoxically, I am thinking of the assertion of individualism, meaning a focus on one’s own life to the exclusion of compassion for others.

Along comes Covid 19 with its ability to penetrate ‘locked doors’ and reach every corner of the planet.  Suddenly our lives are utterly changed.  All predictions of economic growth wither and the opposite of growth is the norm even for the richest societies on earth. Suddenly each of us is faced with questions about our life style, the spontaneous choices we make and the values of which our choices are the expression.

And it all happens at Easter: a time when a seed was sown in the human family that would take centuries, millennia, to mature. No longer was humankind to be swept along by forces beyond its control. Individuals could make decisions that reversed the headlong flow of evil forces which enticed people to slavery and despair. In the first century an Ethiopian (Acts 8:32) ‘urged Philip to get in and sit by his side’ and explain what this new way was all about and, in the last, a young girl, Sophie Scholl, and her friends stood up to Hitler’s tyranny even if it meant losing her life.

Easter is the celebration of the gift of courage to ‘get up and go’. This has to be done by free men and women. The young man from China, who ended up in the West of Ireland, is a parable.  That he comes from China, the place where the virus originated, is coincidental but fitting.  He blundered into a new life where found his true self – perhaps for the first time.

26 April 2020     Easter Sunday 3 A     Acts 2:14, 22-28       1 Pet 1:17-21      Luke 24:13-35

[1] https://ifiplayer.ie/yu-ming-is-ainm-dom/

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