Thoughts for My People

À chacun son goût

When I first learned the French espression “à chacun son gout,” I had difficulty understanding what it meant. Even when I was told its English translation “to each his own,” I could not grasp the concept of everyone being entitled to his / her personal preferences. I had just moved abroad from my homeland for the second time, and though unconscious, I had gotten too accustomed to the way my people seemed to agree on everything (on the surface, anyway). Nowadays, I have difficulty understanding why my people cannot understand what it means.

 

On my outing yesterday,  I also went to an event called “New Year Theme Park” where traditional new year festivities of my homeland could be experienced.

 

Of course, my main purpose for being there was to experience this:

 

new_year_theme_park_tea

Tea service offered by a charming young lady dressed in a pretty traditional wear with lots of festive motifs drawn on it

 

My first bowl of tea for the new year, with a crane and a turtle – animals representing longevity – painted on it… I was so moved by her thoughtfulness, I forgot to take a photo of it, but it will remain in my memory vividly! There were no one there before I went in, but as others saw me (also dressed in traditional wear) savouring to the fullest her hospitality, many followed. They were at first overwhelmed by the formal appearance, but once they found there was nothing difficult about having a bowl of tea, they all drank their bowls the way they liked.

 

And I also enjoyed seeing this:

 

new_year_theme_park_automaton

A cat automaton from the front [left] and side [right] (it has its pants off but only so we could see the mechanics underneath!)

 

The man who created it, Mr. H. Moulinette, is a bit like me – he told me he also grew up abroad and was made aware of how ignorant we are of some of our best traditional arts, like his. Can you believe that there are only five persons, including him, who can make these traditional automaton in my homeland today?!

 

But while the others make them exactly as they have traditionally been made, he makes them in new forms and methods because he found it boring to do the same as others, present or past, and because he felt even traditions need to evolve to adjust to the needs and wants of today. (There only used to be human-like automaton that served tea, but he created the above cat automaton that would serve fish dishes… love his sense of humour!) He said there are many struggles in trying his own new ways in old conventions, but he believes the art would surely die out soon if it were not for someone like him.

 

Maybe I am finally seeing some “à chacun son gout” in my homeland?

Maybe. But I still see a long way to go before I will see a lot more of it.

 

 

My people in general still show a strong resistance to accepting a diversity of preferences. It is still quite difficult to create an atmosphere where we can voice our opinions freely. But I would like to believe we are simply inexperienced, not incapable, of evolving into a more tolerant society.

 

Maybe we are overwhelmed at first… but once we have more people try their own new ways in our old conventions, maybe we will all feel less uncomfortable disagreeing overtly on some things where our preferences matter.

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