Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A Tale of Two Characters: 是 and 美

Rain gently patters the asphalt, the foreground of a busy intersection framed by green, mist ensconced mountains. I'm looking out the second story window of a starbucks. Four large chinese characters, a pharmacy's vertically oriented signpost, occlude about ten percent of the light which would otherwise strike my retina. I can read two of them. One is the verb 'to be' and the other means 'beautiful'.

The building housing the pharmacy is to my left and is constructed from brown brick. It looks solid. On one side are white framed windows, three per story. On the side directly facing me the windows are black and so close together they might as well be one big window. Two little ledges of white tile, stained grey by pollution, trisect the building into three floors. Nestled close to the ledges, electrical conduit wraps the around it like an anaconda but somehow doesn't detract from its beauty; if a plain brown building holding a pharmacy can be said to be beautiful. And why couldn't it be beautiful? The pharmacy it shelters serves a useful purpose for a lot of people, and I expect its upper two stories are home to a family or two. If a tidy green lawn with a white picket fence can possess a sort of beauty, born of peacefulness and simplicity, then so can a plain brown building on a busy corner in Taiwan.

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