Friday, September 17, 2010


Perhaps it is because we are colonials that we do not make public display of affection; perhaps it is because we are orientals, disoriented; perhaps occidentals, accidentally. Whatever it is, our displays of affection tend to be somewhat chaste, furtive, subdued. The exceptions prove the rule — that is, they test the rule and show that it is indeed a rule.

When we see public displays of affection, it stirs feelings ranging from a subtle disquiet to a deeper unease to a sense of outrage or despair. When we are the object of such displays, we have to make excuses (some might say reasons) for it, ourselves, or those affectionate to us.

The word 'affect' used to mean 'aiming towards [something]'. It is of course related to words like 'effect' ('the outcome of [something]'), 'defect' ('negation, or lack of, [something]') and 'perfect' ('having arrived at, or having completed, [something]'). To show affection is to show that you have an affinity towards the object of affection, a fondness or a good disposition toward that person.

When I was at the Citadel, I treated almost every single one of my students with affection, which to me meant a judicious amount of positive good-feeling and the hope that they would be well, go well, turn out well. There were a few for whom I had a larger supply of fondness — I got to know them better, and they were likable, and there was more affinity. This, unfortunately, clashed with 'judicious' — a teacher should strive to be fair, and yet all humans are not.

Looking back, I must say that there are no former students to whom I wish ill. I still am fond of all of them to various degrees, even the ones who posted nasty things about me on their blogs, or who hated my lessons, or who decided I was a bad teacher. I know these people, and I am sure they had good reasons for what they thought. To those I am grateful, for having pointed out my defects.

It is of course easier to like the people who posted nice things, or who liked my lessons, or who decided I was a good teacher. To these I am grateful, for seeing the good things and encouraging me.

But there are, here and there, a few to whom I showed little affection and perhaps a bit more wrath or disaffection than I should have. If you, reading this, recall such things, I am really sorry. I think I meant well. Probably wasn't very good at showing it.

To all of you, you know that these words, this post, is one of those things you can put in a blog but not say face to face. It would be most un-English, or even un-Chinese, or un-natural (haha) to actually do such a thing. It is customary at this point to say, "You know who you are." Except that I'm not sure you do. I can only hope that apologies go to those who deserve them, and good wishes go to all.

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Blogger xylph said...

I am sorry I slept through one (or possibly more) of your lessons before.

Friday, September 17, 2010 5:50:00 pm  

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