learning to swim from Deng Xiao Ping
cover art for a non-existent book, layout is by J.
I saw some footage of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping swimming in the sea on tv some nights ago.
It seemed that swimming in the sea was among Deng's many interests, which included watching the sports channel and playing billiards. The footage I saw was of Deng's last dip in 1992. At the age of 88, his doctors had disallowed Deng from swimming in the cold waters of Beihaide. But perhaps knowing that it would be his last, he kept up his questions such that in the end the doctors relented. They made him a special safety vest for this last swim.
In a country (Singapore, that is) on an endless push for progress and "relevance", so obsessed with "Change is the Only Constant" that it becomes a self-fulfiling prophecy, growing old can be pretty depressing.
Filial piety. "Mommy mommy, I want milk!" " You silly boy, everyone's starving, let grandma drink first!" Photo by J, tiled pic on the wall of a house at the backstreet of Little India
Going by the folk tales on aging that this guy has collated on his website, all cultures throughout history have their stories to warn against mistreating or disregarding the old. I remember this Japanese folk tale I read when I was very young, about some chap who had to piggyback his grandma up the mountain and to leave her there, because it was the practice in his village to abandon their old folks. But he couldn't bear it in the end and hid his grandma at home. I can't quite remember what happened, but grandma saved the village in the end and this practice was abolished.
All I know is that if I get to live till 88, like Deng, I would like to still be able to take a swim.
p/s Jing is planning a photography project on old folks in Singapore, and is calling for ideas and collaboration. If you are a writer, artist or have superb planning/organisation skills, get in touch with him.