Thursday, December 16, 2010

Compact Contradictions--China and WFU

Mandarin Chinese is so nimble and so deep. The language forms new words by combination of several existing words. For example, when the steam engine train was introduced to China, the name in Chinese was simply, "fire car--hwo che". Or take the English word "computer", for example. The computer is not a Chinese invention but yet is not given a foreign word like "computer." Rather the language wrapped an even more interesting set of meanings around this new concept and called the machine that I am using right now this minute, "an electric brain--dyan nyau." The language is nimble.

Mandarin Chinese is also deep. The language can take two opposite forces, antonyms or compact contradictions, and form a new meaning while holding the opposition. The basic assumption is the Chinese understanding of yin and yang, which is the basic assumption of Chinese philosophy--that life is lived within the balance of feminine and masculine, moon and sun, passive and active, etc.

While traveling recently in China, I kept a log of those words that hold these opposing forces in tandem, like dung (east) and syi (west) form dungsyi (which means thing or matter); or hao (good) and hwai (bad) form haohwai (which means quality); or dzou (left) with you (right) form dzouyou (which means approximately, nearly or about). In other words, two opposing words come together to make meaning.

Wake Forest University also describes itself using words that are nimble and deep--compact contradictions. Wake Forest University is a collegiate-university ( a college and a university, small in size but large in resources. Wake Forest University believes in the teacher-scholar model ( a faculty member who has the ability to communicate knowledge in the classroom as well as produce new knowledge). Wake Forest affirms the liberal arts tradition while embracing professional education.

And so we go---learning about life, language, and strong universities with the power of opposites.
May we be as nimble and deep in our own personal understanding of our world.

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