It’s quite a relief that the sweltering Taipei summer heat has final started to dissipate and I can resume my favorite lunchtime ritual of taking a ten-minute walk to Le Home coffee for lunch followed by another short stroll to the Jingmei Human Rights Memorial and Cultural Park just behind our office.
The Jingmei Human Rights Memorial and Cultural Park is on the site of a former detention center that was used to house political prisoners accused and convicted of opposing the KMT government when the island was under martial law.
Between 200 and 400 prisoners were incarcerated here either waiting for trial by military courts or serving their sentences after their convictions. The memorial features some poignant exhibits of how the prisoners spent their days carrying out hot and sweaty labor in the prison laundry that took in work from nearby hospitals, military organizations, and government departments.
The buildings and the grounds of the detention center have been well-preserved and feature a lot of interesting information about how the unfortunate inmates had to endure their unjust captivity. The exhibits dotted around its various buildings also do an excellent job of highlighting the huge contributions and sacrifices made by the people imprisoned there in pushing Taiwan towards the lively and open democratic society that it is today.
The center provides a welcome escape from the crowded streets of Xindian and the loud and noisy traffic. The main courtyard provides an ideal environment for reflecting on what has happened during the first half of my day and deciding what I will focus on when I go back to the office for the second half. The admittedly low-intensity exercise certainly doesn’t do me any harm either.
The older I get, the more I realize the importance of daily rituals in keeping me focused on critical tasks. In a busy office it can be all too easy to be distracted and lose sight of my top priorities. Now, if only I could establish a similar ritual for my writing. In theory my goal is to write one 300-word piece before I leave for the office, though sadly the reality is quite different.
Perhaps it’s time to return to the Analects. Confucius was a strong proponent of ritual or, as it is often translated the rites (禮/lǐ). Book 10 provides a (perhaps apocryphal) treasure trove of detail on how he imbued the practice in his daily life.