Western Illinois University: Macomb Campus
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English and Journalism
Dinner & Conversation with Dr. Marjorie Allison, Oct. 5, 2012
Kelsey McGuire, STD Secretary
On Friday, September 26, 2012, more than 25 members of Sigma Tau Delta and English faculty attended a “Dinner & Conversations” event hosted by Dr. Marjorie Allison at Macomb’s historical Old Bailey House. Sheltered by one of Macomb’s oldest and most historical homes, Dr. Allison led an excellent discussion about tradition and values through the words of Confucius and Lao Tzu. As students and faculty learned about traditional Chinese culture, they also reflected on cultural structures within the United States today.
Through a discussion in the round, students and faculty explored some of the simple sayings by Confucius and his contemporary, Lao Tzu, which inspired the fortunes in Chinese Fortune Cookies. Every day, people read the quips that come with Chinese Fortune Cookies, nod or shake their heads, then throw them away with their empty rice cartons, but why, then, do we still read them? What do these little phrases actually mean? In what context did Confucius or Lao Tzu say the line that inspired the overly translated, commercialized “fortune”? What do they say about the human experience, responsibility of leadership or how to lead a “good” life?
Dr. Allison taught faculty and students the proper way to eat a Chinese Fortune Cookie, an invention by Chinese Americans in San Francisco: a person is supposed to select the cookie on top or nearest to them, and then eat the entire cookie before reading the fortune. After our discussion, everyone enjoyed a delicious dinner of Chinese and Autumn-inspired cuisine provided and prepared by the faculty.
The Dinner and Conversations was a great success and enjoyed by all, and when it was time to depart, everyone left with the wise words of Confucius, “The Master said, A horn-gourd that is neither horn nor gourd! A pretty horn-gourd indeed, a pretty horn-gourd indeed.”