My song-based office hours have been a hit again this semester! I have been providing a variety of English songs for my students, switching off every week between pop songs they can find at popular karaoke joints (KTV) and children’s songs that make for great English lessons.
Last week I decided to lead Part 1 of a Beatles themed workshop, thinking I can do multiple rounds throughout the rest of the year. “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and “Let it Be” were on my agenda, and the students loved them! Not only did they pick up the songs quickly thanks to the catchy lyrics, but they also did very well with the notes (which is not always the case). Hearing them sing “Let it Be” particularly hit me in an emotion-filled way.
Right now I feel like our world is a mess. Well, I mean our world almost always feels a bit like a mess, but the combination of terrorist attacks in France, Beirut, Baghdad, and Mali and the ongoing refugee crisis has heightened the sense that our world’s on edge. It has sent people ranting on social media, criticizing governmental decisions, and making blanket judgments about fellow Christians, Muslims, etc. It makes me want to scream out myself!
In class this week I decided to expand our unit on culture to encompass a more in-depth study of religions in our world. We discussed the five major religions of the world, focusing on Hui people (a Muslim ethnic group in China that’s particularly prominent here in Guyuan). We addressed vocabulary and discussed religion’s importance in relation to the broader culture. I could write a book on what I learned about my students this week, but there was one big realization that has started to form from these discussions. Most of my students started the week thinking about religion as merely a rulebook for living—a list of the things you can and can’t do in life. But by the end of the week, many of them were realizing that if you strip away the ‘details’ of religion–what you can and can’t do, where you worship, what book you read, etc—there are deep commonalities among all religions: everyone wants to discover purpose in life, find hope, and experience love.
I don’t mean that we should ignore the pain in our world, but maybe we are letting the world’s hurt divide and cause us to despair. I’m not saying that we should sit back and simply watch the action, but maybe we are spending too much time criticizing our leaders rather than actively listening. I don’t mean to say that all religions are the same, but maybe we are focusing too much on the religious differences in our world. Maybe we need to find a positive balance between tolerance and advocacy. Maybe when we set aside differences and recognize our common humanity, we will be able to unite to face the world’s problems.
Though Paul McCartney wrote the “Let it Be” lyrics based off a dream he had of his mother in the midst of the band falling apart, rather than a world crisis, the overall sentiment put me at peace this week amidst these musings.
I think it’s a great thing to have faith of any sort, particularly in the world we live in. –Paul McCartney