I've taken a job teaching English to seventh- and tenth-graders in South-Central China. The seventh graders are most talkative and unruly; do you have any advice on how to tame them?
The World's Greatest Living Dominican
Zhuzhou, Hunan, PRC
My Very Dearest WGLD:
I have come to understand that there are thirty-three of the degrees (or as you say, "grades") of the Chinese. The first three are of the public and acknowledged sort, the remaining of the thirty progress arcanely, each more baroquely strange and secret than the last. As I have, through study most rigorous and the nefarious investigation espionage, developed a catalogue of these the stages of degree for The Illuminated Membership of the Ancient Sino-Ordum, I feel it would first be important to define somewhat the whole scope and progress of the society, especially for the edification of the laity.
First, to the initial three:
In the principes, there is the Initiate Singular. Called from the Heaven-Vault by his mother to this special path, the Initiate Singular is asked to debase himself for two calendar years. He must appear smaller than all other of the Chinese, with no hair to warm him, and little in the way of clothing. He must first to sleeping on his stomach and the gurgling, then to the crawling, and if he is to walk, it is to be the stumbling and stomping kind of walk most unpleasant and graceless, usually ending in a crashing and humorous fall to the buttock, which is padded with heavy cloth (and often, with his own excrement). Also, he is asked to walk the circle of the elders once, to wear the Noose of Tangiers, and to learn several intricate gestures which might indicate to others his Grade.
In the secondary, there is the Member of Fellowship. Here, the garnered member lingers for but two years, and is allowed several privileges. After much public ridicule, he is allowed to grow of the hair, to walk upon the legs (but then only haltingly at first) and to sit of the toilette excrétoire of his own accord. Also, for the first time, he may indicate his desire through lexical items and grammar understood, instead of through the Initiate Grunt Language left to him at the outset. He may eat of the solid foods here. Also, he is asked to circumnavigate the Holy Circle twice, to take a blood oath before Astarte while Blindfolded, and to stand at the center of the circle for one hour only upon one foot, the other drawn up into his groin, as the Fellow brothers pounce upon him, and hurl to his ears much in the way of verbal abuse. Also, he is taught Sacred Histories regarding the Transubstantiation of the Widow's Son from Man to Hawk to Dragon.
Finally, of the Grades Publique, I have come to understand there is the Master of the Sacred Order of the Illuminated Membership of the Chinese. And it is said far and wide by all brothers, there is no higher grade than Three, and that no other Chinese, be he seven, or ten, or thirty-three, who is any more of a Chinese than a Master Chinese. Here, the brother is given all the freedoms of membership. He may speak as he pleases, he may expel waste at a whim, and he may run in the grass with all the power of his own legs. A Chinese may be a Master after his fourth year, and remain such for the rest of his time with the Order. He is asked to travel the circle three times, to re-enact the abuses and murder of the Widow's Son (he playing the entitled roll), and he is given the sacred Symbols of the Chinese: his protractor, his hammer, and his graphing calculator. Also, the Hat is his, and the knowledge of the meaning of the earliest days. He is trained in the ways of a Master, conferring on him the ability to control through meditation his own likeness cast in Terracotta. He is also finally allowed to be educated.
Of the subsequent Grades, less is known by any save the most ardent of researchers (or, of course, those of the Degrees themselves). And so we can only hazard but small guesses about the ways of the Sacred Order. The Degree Seventh, as I understand, is sometimes called the Playground of the Order, where the individual secrets of joy and pain are revealed. It is also sometimes called the Knighthood of the Fugu, for it is often seen as over-emphasized, or puffed up, and that it is actually a degree which while seeming to be menacing, is actually but a trifle along the greater path. But still, like the Fugu, it has a doubling, for while it seems big, but actually is small, one must still respect the Degree, for to fall into a false sense of knowledge is to risk ingesting it's deadly and paralyzing toxins, and thus awakening (or rather half-wakening) to the ambulatory hell of zombification and servitude. This lattermost threat is a great deal less metaphorical than you might hazard to guess, Dear Readers.
My advice to you, WGLD, is to take hold of the Fugu Brothers and remind them what all Chinese should know: there is no more a Chinese than a Chinese of the Third Degree. To be of the Seventh is a fine thing, but despite its numerical identifier, it is not a superior thing. This lesson should always be remembered.
If this reminder is insufficient, I advise the cupping, which should draw forth and then sap their vital energies, and thus draw them into a state of greater receptivity towards good and wholesome advice such as yours. But always, in dealings with these Knights of the Fugu, be wary of the venom of their minds, WGLD.
Yours in Illumination,
The Giant Squid
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