speech - Zhengzhou, China - December 2010 - Thor May
Forty years ago I was working
in a large government office in Sydney. There were many desks in the
room, and my desk was the least important. At the desk in front of me
sat a girl called Barbara Smith, who had very pretty legs and a very
short skirt. I liked that. Then each desk towards the front of the room
had a slightly older person. At the last desk was an old gentleman,
ready to drop dead. He was the boss. In that room I could see my future
for the next forty years, being promoted from desk to desk. I hated the
idea and promised myself never to let it happen. From that time I knew
exactly what I DIDN'T want to do. I didn't want to know the future.
you see, my presence here today is accidental by design. My career has
been a happy accident. Until I came, I had no idea I would be teaching
English language to Chinese students in Zhengzhou. If I were still in
that Sydney government office, today I would be the old man at the
front of the room, the boss. There would be a little ceremony to give
me a retirement present, traditionally a gold watch. The next day
everyone would forget me, and I would go away to a quiet place to die.
As it happens, that's what the old men in government offices in Beijing
think I am going to do. Well, I have news for them.
is the end of one chapter in the book of life. My life book is the
story of a wandering scholar. The wandering scholar was here at China's
beginning. It is an ancient tradition. Confucius himself was one of
them. The old men in government offices have always been nervous of
living wandering scholars. The office men like predictable people who
can be controlled. But we are free spirits. My journey is not over yet.
There are new paths to follow at every corner. I do not know where they
will lead, and that is the way it should be.
you friends for giving me comfort and shelter these past three years. I
hope my teaching has been a small gift in return. I do not know when we
will meet again, but our memories will be with us.