Diary Extract After Visiting the Forbidden City


There is a large amount of suffering on show constantly in all the Chinese cities we have visited. It is made more obvious when shockingly contrasted by the western interpretations that dominate the prevalent culture throughout the cities. They are societies orientated to serve the tiny majority of the population who can afford to live with affluence in the face of a supposedly communist one-party state. It is abandonment of their own people to serve an ideal that can never be achieved, particularly with censorship and education gradually being brought to those who will want to make serious change to such a glaring compromise on their own values and people to try and ‘fit in’.

Walking from the forbidden city and seeing men with amputated limbs and scarring burns on their entire bodies, singing pop songs to try and earn sympathy from the swathes of visitors, was truly horrifying. I had no money and was blocked from showing any signs of appreciation for their lives by the language barrier. I could only look on. What I know now is that suffering is measurable on the privilege of the people who walk past those in grating physical and emotional pain, and do nothing. If every visitor who walked from the forbidden city had burns as severe as the men on the street, their suffering would only be measurable via their social position. Just in a glance, the relatable nature of  those around them would give those men enough gratification to know that they still stood together with their fellow citizens. Instead, they are looked on like a rusty bike in the street. The inevitable result of a dysfunctional society. The waste left behind once its task was complete. Within my own mindset, the previous events and future events that I know have happened and that I hope will happen, are mapped on an emotionally subsiding timeline based on my own fluctuating levels of hope and anticipation. To sit on that street and sing for just acknowledgment and empathy into that mic is the action they commit to because the next moment is reliant upon it.

Years of privilege and potential for experimentation with the advantage I’ve been given has made the lapse of time a treadmill that I am constantly trying to speed up and reverse. To really suffer is to cling to the present moment, not because you can, but because you have no other choice. Here the fine line we walk is revealed. Euphoria is only possible in the present moment, when the lapse of time seems to subside and you feel almost invincible. To know true wisdom and the benefits of mindful reflection lies not only in living harmony and solace in the present moment, but suffering also. That way an acceptance of the short, fragile, turbulence of life can be met with a wholesome resilience. A will to embody your life experiences moment by moment and in doing so experience every shining light, and every dark chasm, in the windmills of your mind.



By Seb Lloyd

Writer, South London

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