As a teacher in Hong Kong, I recently attended my school’s annual picnic, held in a bushland area. Later in the day, I saw a line of boys sitting on a short concrete wall, heads down and brows furrowed, as they worked their Game Boys in furious style. They seemed oblivious to their presence in nature. Humankind’s relationship with nature has always been intricately entwined with inner realms of the mind – the romantic, the spiritual and the mystical.
The eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Romantics mused about the relationship between humanity and nature, the human and divine. They also reflected on the mystical east and its deep meditative and spiritual traditions, which they believed transcended the shallowness of western society.
The quest of the Romantic seems to be all but dead in the modern world. Yet the greatest irony is that this is most notable in East Asia. I have taught in Taiwan, mainland China and Hong Kong. My conclusion is that modern Chinese education has destroyed all links with the deeper human psyche.