I am a proud new mom of a little girl, born in Beijing on January 2, 2012. We named her Ruyi in Chinese from the expression “biaoli ruyi,” which means to be a person whose actions echo their thoughts. In English, we named her Echo.
And, she is an echo of a love between two musicians from different countries who found each other in Beijing and then built a love that resonates beyond all cultural differences.
That brings me to the name of this column: The Echo Chamber. An echo chamber is a hollow enclosure used to produce echoing sounds, usually found in a recording studio. Its basic purpose is to add color and depth to the original sound by stimulating reverberation.
I’m filling this hollow, literary enclosure by writing for her. Our little Echo will go on adding color and depth to the world long after we have ceased to make sound. While she grows up, her daddy and I are committed to making her world as reverberant as possible with health, wonder, learning, light, openness and, above all else, love.
That said, she may be surprised that we’re currently choosing to raise her in Beijing, especially at a time when environmental issues are so prevalent. Air pollution, questionable “organic” produce, hard-to-find BPA-free plastics, smoking in public places, looming water shortages, etc. And, coming from Canada, one of the cleanest countries in the world, even I’ve often wondered why! I worry about her future health every day. These many environmental issues may previously have been important to me, an individual, but that concern was nothing compared to that which I feel for her now. Motherhood changes everything.
But, on the flip side, I admit Beijing also provides life in a culture whose depth and history is so much richer and broader than anything Canada has to offer. Within that, she gets the full extent of Mandarin early literacy training. She’ll also be learning English at home, of course. She’ll have access to Chinese medicine here, an ancient wisdom still hanging on as Western pharmaceutical companies scramble for more of a foothold in Asia. Taoist and Buddhist training are here; she can even study under a tai chi master. China also advocates a healthier diet, unlike the heavy gluten and processed foods in standard North American fare. And let’s not forget the dumplings!
Yet, all I hear is the ricochet effect of rationales ping-ponging back and forth in this chamber, without any confirmations in sight. And that’s the thing: if there’s anything being a parent has taught me so far, it’s that there is no guarantee that we’re on the right path. All we can do is infuse everything with good intentions and leave the rest up to faith.
I have faith in Beijing. In the West, party politics often eclipse real issues. Here, new environmental policies are implemented overnight – and enforced. No red tape or bureaucratic process slows improvements down. There are some advantages to this being the seat of the central communist government, at least. What’s more, China is now the world’s leader in the development of green technology. So, the water and air will get cleaner with every passing year. It must! Our lives depend on it. Again, I’m extending faith.
But most of all, we have made Beijing our home. Our love was born here; our love’s “echo” was born here too.
Welcome to the world, little one! As you grow a voice, may it echo into the heart chambers of all those you meet … as it has already echoed into ours.