The Creation of Flowers?

My dear Kacvey,

Your students and you have certainly read about mythological tales how God created animals, but all of you have never heard or read about how God created flowers. Yes, FLOWERS, that beautiful and colorful thing that adorn planet earth!

Well, in Chapter: “Weimar in Early Spring” from his literary masterpiece: “An Empty Room”, Mu Xin let his imagination go way beyond the beyond.

Mu Xin wrote: “I imagine a mythology of flowers, flowers created during a grand competition among the gods. One god invented the lily, another god the tulip. Here appeared peonies and there water lilies …”

Kacvey, your students and you will not be disappointed with Mu Xin’s imagination when you reach the end of “Weimar in Early Spring” chapter!

“On the Uniformity of All Things”

My dear Kacvey,

Let us retreat for a moment to a quiet corner and reflect on what Zhuangzi 庄子 had said in his “On the Uniformity of All Things 齐物论

This is how the story goes:

Long, long ago, King Yao asked his minister Shun , “I’d like to attack the three tribes of Zong , Kuai and Xu’ao 胥敖. But whenever I come to court, I feel ill at ease about them. What do you think about it?”
Shun answered: Three states lie in the remote regions over grown with weeds and bushes. Why should you feel ill at ease about them? Once upon a time, when ten suns shone in the sky, everything under Heaven was bathed in the sunshine. And how your virtue out-shined those suns!

Nie Que 啮缺 asked Wang Ni 王倪, “Do you know, Sir, whether all things make judgments in the same way?”
Wang answered, “How can I know?”
Nie asked again, “Do you know, Sir, what you do not know?”
Wang answered, “How can I know?”
Nie said, “Then, is it that nothing can be known about anything?”
Wang said, “How can I know? Still, let me try to explain. How do you know that what I say I know is not what I do not know? How do you know that what I say I do not know is not what I know? Now I’d like to ask you a few questions. If a man sleeping in the damp is liable to get a back ache or half-paralysis, will the same thing happen to an eel? If a man sitting in a tree is liable to tremble with fear, will the same thing happen to an ape? Of the man, the eel and the ape who knows their proper place to live in? Men eat meat; deer feed on grass; centipedes are fond of snake; owls like rats. Of the man, the deer, the centipede and the owl, who knows the right taste? An ape mates with a gibbon; a buck seeks after a doe; an eel plays with a fish. At the sight of Maoqiang 毛嬙 and Xishi 西施, beauties admired by men, the fish will dive into the deep water, the birds will soar high in the sky, and the deer will take to their heels. Of the man, the fish, the bird and the deer, who knows the real beauty? As I see it, the principles of righteousness and humaneness, the standards of right and wrong, all these things are so complicated that I can hardly tell which is which.
Nie Que said, “If you cannot tell benefit from harm, can’t the perfect man tell benefit from harm?”
Wang Ni said, “The perfect man is divine. Even though the great swamp were set on fire, he would not feel the heat; even though the rivers were frozen, he would not feel the cold; even though the thunder hit the mountain and the whirlwind shook the sea, he would not feel the shock. Such a man can ride the clouds and mists, mount the sun and the moon, and travel beyond the four seas. How can a man unaffected by life bother about benefit and harm?

Ququezi 瞿鹊子 asked Changwuzi, “I have heard from Confucius that the sage is not involved in worldly affairs. He does not try to seek after benefits or avoid harms; he does not take delight in seeking after or blindly clinging to Dao . He says something by saying nothing; he does not say anything by saying something. By so doing he can travel beyond the dust of the world. Confucius 孔子 thought that these words were ambiguous, but I think this is how the wondrous Dao works. What do you about it?”
Changwuzi 长梧子 said, “Even the Yellow Emperor 皇帝 would have been puzzled by those words; how could Confucius understand them? And you, too, are jumping to conclusions – you see an egg and expect the cock to crow before it is hatched; you see a crossbow pellet and expect to roast the owl before it is shot down. I’ll give you some random remarks for you to listen at random.
“Why don’t you lean against the sun and the moon and embrace the universe? In this way, you will merge yourself in everything in the world so that you can ignore the confusion of distinction and treat the inferiors as supporters. The rank and file hustle and bustle while the sage seems to be stupid and ignorant , blending ten thousand years into one uniformity. He looks upon everything in the same way and accept them all.
“How do I know that love of life is not a delusion? How do I know that one who fears death is not like a waif who does not want to go back home? Lady Li 丽姬 was the daughter of a border guard of Ai . When she was first taken captive and brought to the state of Jin , she wept till her robe was drenched with tears. But when she was brought to the palace, slept with the prince on his comfortable bed, and ate delicious meal on his table, she began to regret her tears. How do I know that the dead do not regret that they ever long for life?
“A man may dream of a great feast but weep at daybreak; a man may dream of weeping but go hunting at daybreak. When he dreams he does not know that he is dreaming. In his dream, he may even try to interpret the dream; but when he awakes, he knows that he has been dreaming. Only after he is totally awakened does he realize that all was a grand dream. All the while, the fool thinks that he himself is awake, seemingly aware of everything; who is the lord, who is the shepherd, how stupid! Confucius and you are both dreaming, and I too am dreaming when I say that you are dreaming. These words to be a paradox, but after ten thousand generations there might appear a sage who knows how to explain them – it will seem as if we met within the day.
“Suppose that you and I argue over something . If you win and I lose, are you indeed right, and am I indeed wrong? If I win and you lose, am I indeed right and are you indeed wrong? Is one of us right and the other wrong? Are both of us right or both of us wrong? If neither you nor I can know, other people will be even more in the dark. Whom shall I ask to decide for us? Shall I ask someone who agrees with you to decide? If he already agrees with you, how can he decide it? Shall I ask some one who agrees with me to decide? If he already agrees with, how can he decide it? Shall I ask someone who disagrees with both of us to decide? If he already disagrees with both of us, how can he decide it? Shall I ask some who agrees with both of us to decide? If he already agrees with both of us , how can he decide it? If neither you nor I can know, who else shall we wait for?
“The different voices in an argument are in opposition to each other. To smooth out the opposition is to conform to the natural division of things as it is till the very end. What if meant by conforming to the natural division of things? My answer would be that “right” may be not “right” and “so” may be not “so”. If “right’ is really right, then “right ” is so different from “not right” that there is no need for argument; if “so” is really so, then “so” is so different from “not so” that there is again no need for argument. Forget about the time, forget about the distinctions, and you will be able to travel in the realm of the infinite. Therefore the sage lives in the realm of the infinite.”

The penumbra asked the shadow, “A little while ago you were moving when the man walked, and now you are standing still when the man stops; a little while ago you were sitting when the man sat, and now you are standing up when the man rises. How is it that you lack independent actions?”
The shadow answered, “Don’t I have to depend on the man to be what I am? Doesn’t the man have to depend on something else in turn to be what he is? Do I have to depend on the snake’s scale, or the cicada’s wings? How can I know why I do this? How can I know why I don’t do that?

I, by the name of Zhuang Zhou 庄周, once dreamed that I was a butterfly, a butterfly fluttering happily here and there. I was so pleased that I forgot that I was Zhuang Zhou. When I suddenly woke up, I was astonished to find that I was as a matter of fact Zhuang Zhou. Did Zhuang Zhou dream of the butterfly or did the butterfly dream of Zhuang Zhou? Between Zhou and the butterfly there must be some distinctions. This is called “the transformation of things.

Kacvey, do have a nice dream of colorful and beautiful butterflies!

According to “History Today”: The Angkor Empire’s National Health Service

My dear Kacvey,

On 14 May 2020, History Today published an article titled “The Angkor Empire’s National Health Service” under the signature of Joanna Wolfarth, a cultural historian, lecturer and writer.

The article mentioned two major quotes, both attributed to King Jayavarman VII, and translated from the historical inscriptions sculpted in various temples in the Bayon complex; they are so powerful in meaning that your students should reflect upon for their intellectual development and perspective:

1. “He suffered the illnesses of his subjects more than his own; because it is the pain of the public that is the pain of kings rather than their own pain.

2. “Filled with a deep sympathy for the good of the world, the king swore this oath: ‘All beings who are plunged in the ocean of existence, may I draw out by virtue of this good work. And may the kings of Cambodia who come after me, attached to goodness … attain with their wives, dignitaries and friends the place of deliverance where there is no more illness.

The power of history is so heavy that it breaks the bones and skull of the present.

The Year of the Rat

My dear Kacvey,

As we are saying good bye to the Year of the Pig, the Year of the Rat is knocking at the door. What would the Pig have had written in the handover parchment: achievements and still outstanding matters?

You can argue upfront why burdening the mythological and symbolic Pig with the troubles that MEN created? Well, if this is your thinking, why did people refer to angels and goddesses Pig on Chaul Chnam Kor, and now angels and goddesses Rat on Chaul Chnam Jhoot?

Well, whatever we argue, the truth is, after these 3 days, NOBODY will talk or think about angels and goddesses Rat anymore … until next April 2021 when the subject of angels and goddesses Cow will come up again.

Be it as it may, how in good human conscience can we formulate or mutually wish each other a “Happy Chaul Chnam” when all of us are living in a state of stay-in-place, confinement, lock-down, WFH, ghost towns, closed frontiers, airports and harbors, closed schools, universities and libraries, closed shops and stores, empty stadiums and sports arena, closed museums, movie houses, theaters and TV studios etc…, as consequences of the pandemic of a virus that originated in Wuhan?

How can we even think about a “Joyful Chaul Chnam” when millions women and men are infected with that virus, epicenters sprouted in every continent, death overflow hospitals and morgues, relatives and friends can’t even attend funerals of their loved ones?

How can we possibly do the “Roam Vong” when millions are out of jobs, factories are closed, sellers sitting behind their merchandises without buyers, parents have to social-distance with their children, grand-parents with their grand-children etc …?

How can we gaily beat the traditional drum (tèass skôr) when pagodas, churches, temples and mosques are no longer places of worship where worshipers can pray without being afraid of contamination?

How can you and your students enjoy the game of “ang kougn” or “bôss chhoung,” when the weak strongman imposed the state of emergency with pretense to fight against the invisible Wuhan virus whereas its ex-KR autocratic regime is at the end of the rope? It has no plan not only on how to fight the virus but also on how to address the current social-economic crisis and the post-lockdown period. Its coffer is empty although it continues to promise financial relief to garment workers.

When the whole world fights the Wuhan virus with more doctors, nurses and medical equipment, strengthening of health and hygiene methods and facilities, doubling or even quadrupling budgets for medicine and pharmaceutical researches, formulating stimulus and relief economic plan to help the population, the weak strongman of Cambodia, fearing its own imminent collapse, doubles down on oppression and dictatorship to hide its inability to steer the ship out of the Wuhan virus storm aftermath. Bankruptcy is written on the wall, and history has repeated again and again that autocracy, no matter how long and strong it is  and given that no domestic force can topple it, will always end up in implosion or suicide.

On the day known as the 1st day of the Khmer New Year, we wish you and your students the happy coziness within the respective stay-in-place quarters, the continuing patience and courage to challenge the boredom, and the determination to stay safe and healthy and to look forward to the deconfinement when life will resume its normalcy. On va s’en sortir sans sortir!

“Body beyond the Body”

My dear Kacvey,

Here is a teeny piece of food for thought and online (ZOOM or otherwise!) discussions with your students in this period of lockdown, confinement, stay-at-home and social distancing due to the consequences of the Wuhan virus pandemic.

This is the tidbit: The way the Wuhan virus has spread pandemicly reminds of anecdotes buried in the “Journey to the West” (西游记), one of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature. One of the character in that novel, is Sun Wukong (孙悟空), also known as the Monkey King (Please do not confuse with Hanuman of the Ramayana!)

The novel told of how Monkey King wrecked havoc heaven palace or temple by using a supernatural method of self-reproduction called “Body beyond the Body” (身外身法) by plucking a hair or handful of hairs from its own body and throwing them into its mouth; it chewed them to tiny pieces then spat them into the air by shouting “Change!”. Suddenly those pieces of hair changed at once into either imitation monkey or multiple little monkeys encircling the enemy combatants on all sides or do whatever Monkey King ordered them to do.

You can argue that this is a weird, eerie or creepy way of seeing thing, but please bear in mind that this Wuhan virus or corona virus or Covid-19, or whatever you like to call it, is so new to our humanity and its knowledge, scientific or otherwise.

But the way the virus has been spreading pandemicly seems to look like [Repeat: seems to look like] the way Monkey King used its divine power to reproduce its imitation(s) … supernaturally, and as the tales go!

When “rats leave a sinking ship”

My dear Kacvey,

Here is a short extract from William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” (Act 1, Scene II) where Prospero spoke to his daughter, Miranda, who asked why Alonso did not destroy her father. Prospero responded:
Well demanded, wench:
My tale provokes that question. Dear, they durst not,
So dear the love my people bore me, nor set
A mark so bloody on the business, but
With colours fairer painted their foul ends.
In few, they hurried us aboard a bark,
Bore us some leagues to sea; where they prepared
A rotten carcass of a boat, not rigg’d,
Nor tackle, sail, nor mast; the very rats
Instinctively had quit it: there they hoist us,
To cry to the sea that roar’d to us, to sigh
To the winds whose pity, sighing back again,
Did us but loving wrong.

You are absolutely right if you sighed “What the heck is this and what does Prosepro have anything to do with us?”

Well, pull out The Tempest from the shelf, and read it! Meantime, have you noticed this phrase: “the very rats instinctively had quit it“? This phrase seems to be source of the commonly used expression: “Rats leave a sinking ship.”

In the Chinese language, an idiom goes: “树倒猢狲散” (shu dao hu sun san) which literally means: “When the tree topples the monkeys scatter.”

With the above exposed ingredients, here is the plat de resistance to be prepared and served. In the very current political situation in the City of Tonlé Buon Mouk that is living under the sunless and extremely dark cloud of the virus from Wuhan with daily increasing number of people tested positive, the confinement of citizens to heir home, the every-now-and-then electricity black out and shortage of water, the closing of many garment plants and the subsequent massive workers layoff, the closing of borders with neighboring countries, import-export and tourism at standstill either in Kg Som, Pochentong or Siem Reap, future trade with the European Union consequencing the autocratic politics of the weak strongman, the bogus and senseless trial of the opposition No. 1, the intestinal feud within the corrupt people party, the lack of transparency in governance, the hardening of the police apparatus… The entire leadership of the country has disappeared from the public scene with the exception of officials from the ministry of health that updates on the numbers of people infected without telling what they are actually doing in the face the pandemic. The apparent vacuum or nothingness in leadership looks like a headless chicken running around before collapsing.

The question of the moment is: What would be Cambodia if it happened that the weak strongman is no longer able to steer his ship out of this never-known-before hurricane, and the ship sinks? After 35 years of post-KR rule by an ex-KR, the sugarcane (ampeuv) that the weak strongman used to suck to get the juice to oppress the Khmer people and to corrupt the system to enrich himself and members and sycophants of his tribe has no more juice to rely on. Sugarcane dregs (kaag ampeuv) are now dry and good only for their return to nature. On top of all that, the weak strongman dual allegiance to both the Inner River and the Northern Capital is falling victim of his own game: the weak strongman first vassalized itself in 1977 to the Inner River for the return to power on 7 January 1979, and re-vassalized itself anew to the Northern Capital around 2010, to become like Carlo Goldoni’s “The Servant of Two Masters”. And now, both masters have their own problem of Covid 19, and when masters have problems, the valet is neither in their agenda nor their concern. Period.

The weak strongman has been ruling with all the sugarcane juice from the two masters. When the juice stops flowing to his cup, how could he sustain himself and his corrupt autocracy? And what if the corona virus is located in the neighborhood of Takhmao?

Whether it’s “Rats leave a sinking ship” or “When the tree topples the monkeys scatter”, it figuratively means that an opportunist always abandons an unfavorable cause, or when a person falls from power, his hangers-on disperse, or when a leader loses power, his/her followers become disorganized.

Kacvey, it’s now your turn to find out: if the ship sinks, who are the rats that will leave ship? Or if the tree falls, where will the monkeys scatter to?

Please report soonest. Thanks.

“No People, Invisible, Silent”

My dear Kacvey,

Just wish you and your students a lot of mental courage and clarity during the fight against the current trying time caused by the corona virus that originated in Wuhan (武汉病毒) in December 2019. The virus is now scientifically labeled as Corona Virus Disease-19 (Covid-19) (冠状病毒疾病2019) and the pandemic has spread almost throughout the world, with numerous countries and cities being either on lock down or confinement or shelter-in-place. Furthermore, Covid-19 cannot be written with Chinese characters, as the language is pictographic; there are no Chinese characters to write the equivalent of the 5 letters of the alphabet “C-O-V-I-D”. The Chinese can pronounce “Covid-19” but use “冠状病毒疾病2019” (guān zhuàng bìng dú jí bìng) in writing.

While politicians, scientists, and historians are working to find cause of the disease and solutions to cure the affected or contaminated people and society, we all feel that this looks like humanity is fighting a “no people, invisible, silent” war (无人无形无声的战). We must also ponder on one fundamental question that will certainly be raised generations after generations and throughout future history: Why the Wuhan virus succeeds to break the back of the entire world without a war “with soldiers, visible and noisy?”

Wash your hands.
Avoid crowds.
Social distancing, and
Pull out the books from the shelves while the music is on!
Double or triple contacts with family and friends,
And be ready for the CHANGE that will ineluctably occur in Cambodia, a CHANGE that will be revolutionized by the unexpected and unintended convergence of many international and national consequences from Covid-19.

The weak strongman is getting weaker by the day, his 2 foreign backers to whom he alienated the entire Cambodia run out of safety floats to be thrown to him. He should know, being a chess player.

Be well and take good care of yourself.

Intestinal Color Revolution?

My dear Kacvey,

The article published by could not be hidden from your students’ mind and intellect, nor ignored. As a saying goes: “Where there is smoke, there is fire”, and if the statement is made in plain public eyes and ears without fear of retribution, the author of the statement must be privy to “something”, he who is nothing less than the first deputy prime minister and the minister of interior affairs.

Thank you, for your reporting.

For our library, this is the article in Khmer: សម្តេច ស ខេង៖ ពេល​ខ្លះ បដិវត្តន៍​ពណ៌​កើត​ចេញ​ពី​ផ្ទៃក្នុង​យើង

“សម្តេច​ឧបនាយករដ្ឋមន្ត្រី ស ខេង បាន​មាន​ប្រសាសន៍​នៅ​ថ្ងៃ​ពុធ ទី១១ ខែមីនា នេះ​ថា បដិវត្តន៍​ពណ៌ វា​អាច​កើត​ចេញ​ពី​ផ្ទៃក្នុង​របស់​គណបក្ស​កាន់​អំណាច​ដោយ​មិន​ដឹង​ខ្លួន ឬ​ដោយ​អចេតនា តាមរយៈ​ការ​មិន​យក​ចិត្ត​ទុក​ដាក់​នូវ​សំណូមពរ​និង​កង្វល់​របស់​ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋ ហើយ​បង្កើត​ឡើង​នូវ​ភាព​អសកម្ម​នានា​នៅ​តាម​មូលដ្ឋាន​ ហើយ​ប៉ះពាល់​ដល់​សិទ្ធិ​និង​ផល​ប្រយោជន៍​របស់​ប្រជា​ពលរដ្ឋ។

ថ្លែង​ក្នុង​ពិធី​អបអរសាទរ​ទិវា​អន្តរជាតិ​នារី សម្តេច ស ខេង បាន​ថ្លែង​ដូច្នេះ​ថា ”ចំណុច​នេះ ខ្ញុំ​ធ្លាប់​បាន​បញ្ជាក់​ច្រើន​ហើយ ថា​ បដិវត្តន៍​ពណ៌ វា​មាន​អ្នក​ដែល​ប៉ុនប៉ង​ដើម្បី​នឹង​ធ្វើ​ការងារ​នេះ ហើយ​ក៏​បាន​ជួប​ប្រទះ​​រួច​មក​ហើយ ក្រោយ​​បោះឆ្នោត​ឆ្នាំ​២០១៣ ប៉ុន្តែ ជួន​ពេល​ខ្លះ បដិវត្តន៍​ពណ៌​នេះ​ វា​កើត​ចេញ​ពី​ផ្ទៃ​ក្នុង​យើង ជួរ​យើង ដោយ​មិន​ដឹង​ខ្លួន ឬ​ដោយ​អចេតនា​តាមរយៈ​ការ​មិន​យក​ចិត្តទុកដាក់ អើ​ពើ នូវ​សំណូម​ពរ សំណើ និង​កង្វល់​របស់​ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋ ហើយ​បង្កើត​ឡើង​នូវ​ភាព​អសកម្ម​នានា នៅតាម​មូលដ្ឋាន ហើយ​ប៉ះពាល់​ដល់​សិទ្ធិ​និង​ផល​ប្រយោជន៍​របស់​ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋ។”

សម្ដេច​ឧបនាយករដ្ឋមន្ត្រី បាន​បន្ត​ដូច្នេះ​ថា “នោះ​ក៏​ជា​មូលហេតុ​នៃ​ការ​កកើត​នៃ​ចលនា​បដិវត្តន៍​ពណ៌​នោះ​ដែរ ដូច្នេះ​ការ​ដែល​យើង​យក​ចិត្ត​ទុកដាក់​ដើម្បី​ដោះស្រាយ​បញ្ហា​នានា​ទាក់ទងនឹង​សិទ្ធិ​ផល​ប្រយោជន៍​របស់​ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋ គឺ​ជា​កត្តា​គន្លឹះ​ដ៏​សំខាន់​មួយ​ក្នុង​ការ​រារាំង​ បង្ការ ទប់ស្កាត់ នូវ​ចលនា​បដិវត្តន៍​ពណ៌​នោះ​ឯង។”

នៅក្នុង​ពិធី​នោះ​ដែរ សម្តេច ស ខេង ក៏​បាន​អំពាវនាវ​ដល់​អាជ្ញាធរ​ត្រូវ​គ្រប់គ្រង​ដោះស្រាយ​ជម្លោះ និង​ការទាមទារ​តវ៉ា​នានា ដោយ​សន្តិ​វិធី ឈរ​លើ​គោលការណ៍​ច្បាប់ និង​ត្រូវ​ជៀសវាង​ដាច់​ខាត​នូវ​អំពើ​ហិង្សា​គ្រប់​រូបភាព៕

As the Russian revolutionary, Vladimir Lenin, once, said: “It is impossible to predict the time and progress of revolution. It is governed by its own more or less mysterious laws.”

Meanwhile, an article signed by Luke Hunt and published by UCA News under the title: “Coronavirus an excuse for Cambodia’s poverty plight” should not be disregarded either; it looks like an inventory of disastrous failures that the weak strongman has recently encountered, and if such failings and missteps occurred in another country, be it socialist, communist or liberal democracy, that type of weak strongman must have already been ushered out of the door of power, by vote or by force.

He who thinks that he owns the country is he who has blind ambition and greed and is is ignorant of the natural fact that he doesn’t own the heart and mind of the people who are not his sycophants or kangaroos. Everything on earth has a time limit.

“Another Wuhan could emerge as the coronavirus travels the world. Are politicians, including Trump, prepared?”

My dear Kacvey,

Here is an opinion piece penned by Professor Tom Plate and published by the South China Morning Post dated 10 March 2020. We keep the article in our library for your students especially those who are keen in learning and thinking the impossible because “it requires to think outside the box” The tile of the article is: “Another Wuhan could emerge as the coronavirus travels the world. Are politicians, including Trump, prepared?

For easy reference the full text is re-produced herewith:

“How bad will the global coronavirus epidemic get? The clichéd answer is: only the future will tell. But the problem is that the future is not only with us now but – to scramble the possibilities – it actually influences the past.

“Astrophysicist and author John Gribbin, whose challenging new book Six Impossible Things helps mere mortals like me accept the crazed conceptualising of God-like physicists, makes just this point. The implications may be profound.

“Deep in the subatomic underworld of spectacularly tiny particles and waves is a measurable physical behaviour – especially wave behaviour – that, to me at least, is weird. It turns out that some waves carry their negative energy back into the past while some push it forward into the future.

“In effect, this happens with no intermediary blocking the way (such as what we call the “present”). Gribbin explains: “The idea is that part of the quantum wave really can travel backwards through time … in stark disagreement with our intuition that causes always precede the events that they cause.”

“But where does the wave “travelling in reverse” come from? There is only one answer: the future. If so, then the future continually influences the past in the minutest degree of reality.

“Think of time as a bustling two-way street. If the future influences the past, then we have been looking at the world upside down – or, rather, past to future. But reality is not this simple, which is why it is often nearly impossible to accept.

“So we note, as does Gribbin, this exchange from Alice’s immortal adventures in Wonderland: “Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’ ‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast’.

“The great advantage of diving into neurotic but utterly science-based quantum physics is that it requires you to think outside the box. Physicists, notably in quantum theory, conceptualise aspects of the physical world, often with the help of thought experiments, that are hard to see or measure but are essential to understanding physical existence. The hitch is they often wind up taking us so far away from a comfortable “common sense” (or dogmatic) world view.

“In “real” life, for example, we think of time as moving in military formation, from past to present to future. But let us now assume there is no substantial now, because the very moment we observe or do something, it becomes the past; and, what’s more, that somehow or other the future affects the past in unexpected ways. Now let’s apply this idea to the coronavirus epidemic.

“You may have noticed that US President Donald Trump and our scientists sometimes seem not to agree on rather basic aspects of the coronavirus epidemic. As you know, Covid-19 simmers globally without the slightest humanitarian instinct and in a fiercely non-partisan way (there is no Republican, Democratic or Communist immunity from infection). And, for all anyone knows, the epidemic might not resolve itself quickly enough or, possibly, ever go away entirely. The future-soaked past is still revealing itself day by future day.

“For the relatively brief time that the US has existed as a nation, its pragmatic penchant for problem-solving has helped it survive and prosper. But as the philosophical pragmatist John Dewey once famously noted, “Acceptance of dogmatic rules as bases of conduct in education, morals and social matters, lessens the impetus to find out about the conditions which are involved in forming intelligent plans.”

“Basic science cannot be beaten for that purpose. In the case of the coronavirus, we should add impossible thinking, if in fact the future does “influence the past. Wuhan is an ongoing part of the past, but out there in the unseen future, feeding into new pasts, are very possibly other kinds of Wuhans.

“We don’t know where they are, but we had better find them quickly. If you believe that globalisation will remain a big factor, as it has been up to now, a measure of “Wuhanisation” in many other places has to be assumed.

“We cannot close down the world the way the Chinese creditably closed down the metropolis of Wuhan. We still have no idea how much more trouble is out there. You might suspect, as I do, that the epidemic is historic and the belief that everything will be OK and work itself out is beyond optimism – maybe really nuts.

“So this is the huge next new thing – but it is for the scientists, not the political leaders, to take over. The latter just don’t get it. It’s too hard for them. They will build their aircraft carriers and nuclear missiles, mindlessly, when it would be far smarter to pursue enhanced international security and peace.

“The future has just now told us what is in the future: specks of little things that are coming in from the future to change the past that we thought we had more or less tamed. Our best bet is to keep thinking impossible things and figure that the future may be trying to change very many things.”

Tom Plate is Loyola Marymount University’s Distinguished Scholar of Asian and Pacific Affairs and the Pacific Century Institute’s vice-president

“The Whole Earth Is Our Hospital”

My dear Kacvey,

Hope your students and you take all the “common sense” precautionary measures against the spreading of the Wuhan virus (武汉病毒) wherever and whenever all of you are, be it in the classroom, library, meetings, home, markets, social events etc … albeit the fact that the weak strongman has a different view on it. He may believe that Wuhan virus carries a passport when arriving in Cambodia, at any port of entry like Kg Som with regards to Westerdam, it has to be stamped by him personally. Let leave him alone to his crazy, irresponsible and half blind fantasy, but your students and you must go on and live your life outside the sphere of corruption and craziness of a quack doctor.

The propagation of Wuhan virus worldwide reminds us of a passage (Part IV) in “East Coker”, a poem by T.S. Elliot as follows:

“The wounded surgeon plies the peel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art
Resolving the enigma of the forever chart.

“Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam’s curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

“The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

“The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires,
If to be warned, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is rose, and the smoke is briars.

“The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood –
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.”