As my trip to China comes to a close, I have started reflecting on the culture, my experiences, how I felt at different stages during the trip, and the impact of my being in a foreign country for three weeks. Have I changed like they said I would? Have I become a leader and grown as a person? I will let my parents decide that 🙂 but I do remember a certain pivotal point in my trip – when we climbed a mountain outside of Lijiang. We started with a greeting from old stone steps crawling up its side. As we slowly made our way up, the people and houses below became smaller, the green of nature became thicker, and our voices became quieter as we retreated into calm thoughts in our heads. I focused on my breathing (for I have a very convenient case of asthma) and watched my feet steadily conquer each step. A quick glance to the view below became an awestruck stare at the sight of the city. A divide of the old farmhouses and the new, cement fortress was clearly visible. Humanity is quickly stretching its industrial- hungry hand over the city of Lijiang. I then remembered something the taxi driver had said while we were entering the serene landscape of the old town, after driving through the city. He looked back at me through the rear view mirror; a quiet glow covered his face. “Brace yourself. Beauty.” His statement now danced it’s way through the trees but crashed against the concrete city walls. Hard. Another observation grew in the back of my head. People are so puny. The houses could be crushed by my thumb. On the ground we feel so powerful- so important. But we are dolls in our dollhouses. Being able to look down surrounded by the power and height of nature reduced people back to people. All these thoughts overwhelmed and even bothered me. But why? What is wrong with this? And then it dawned on me. The problem with humanity is vanity. That was it. But what does that mean, self, what does that mean? We try to tame and claim the world with our cement souls. We feel the need to grow and grow and with that we destroy the most pure form of beauty- nature. We all had desperately wanted out of the bright rush of Beijing and were visibly happier climbing through the woods. And the man driving the taxi even felt compelled to warn me of the beauty. We destroy something so pure. Something that was able to tame my group’s homesick hearts. Nature doesn’t need a snapchat nor Instagram filter when one is standing in it’s palm. We can find joy in the chirping and buzzing sounds of its pulse. Nature is like God’s canvas. I imagined him choosing each color and detail so meticulously, and, with a thoughtful smile on His face, making a masterpiece. Society promotes narcism. All these selfies and tweets. Why can’t we just live our lives. Really live them. Feel emotions – not for social media’s masked show – but for our hearts. We all fight to make it big. To the hustle of the cities with Wall Street and fortune. But as we walked, I noticed the many graves planted under the powerful, protective shadow of nature. So we fight. Fight to be powerful and claim our thrones behind a desk of high stature but in death we want to be guarded by natures wings. So I just want to give a reminder, as the world goes to iPhones and selfie sticks – go to nature and match your pulse with hers. Remember that people are so small and that maybe what society promotes is wrong. That vanity- thinking our bricks and buildings are more important than nature, or even hiding a frown behind the right Instagram filter – is a way to live life without soul. Find peace in being present without a picture to prove a point. Joy will come through contentment in self. You don’t need to live to prove yourself to society. Live for life. For smiles and tears undocumented to the world. Bring the soul back to society. People need it. Soon Lijiang’s divide of city and old town will be gone – for it will all be claimed by our sledge hammer battle cries. But I can always hike to the top of the mountain, look down, and see – the undeniable and utter smallness of humanity.