Johannes Kretz's autoethnography with regard to creative (mis)understandings

I have been asked a couple of times, why I keep returning to Lanyu, what is so interesting for me there? This question came from different people, Tao, Taiwanese, Europeans. And actually – no matter, who is asking the questions – I am always struggling to give a clear answer to that question.

Simple answers would be:

  • I keep returning to Lanyu, because of having friends there.
  • I keep returning to Lanyu, because the place, the landscape, etc. is fascinating me so much.
  • I keep returning to Lanyu, because I love to listen to the singing of the Tao.
  • I keep returning to Lanyu, because the way of living of the Tao people impresses me a lot, because I think, that I can learn something from their way of living and I have a deep respect for them and their traditional way of living.
  • I keep returning to Lanyu, because I am fascinated by the close connection and holistic continuity between Tao people, surrounding nature, rituals, singing, daily life practices etc..
  • I keep returning to Lanyu, because I always have a great time there.
  • I keep returning to Lanyu, because I love riding the motor scooter on and around the island.
  • I keep returning to Lanyu, because I have the feeling that when I am there, I am more "myself".
  • I keep returning to Lanyu, because I wish, I could help the Tao to avoid some of those mistakes, that have already been done in Europe long time ago.

There is a certain truth in each of the answers. (Maybe I will also extend the list later). But somehow I always struggle to bring my answer to an exact point. And somehow the answer might be more than the sum of the above list.

There is a lot more to say, and I will probably extend this article after a while.

I just list some subtopics here, which need more thinking:

  • The perspectives on "division of labour" in Tao society and in my own view.
  • The problem of "meeting on same eye level".
  • The topics of Names. What does it mean, to know one's name? Or giving someone a name? Or inventing a name for someone? I got a Tao name in summer 2019: Syaman Mazonos.

Anyway...for now I just end this article with the text of a song. It has to be sung in Anood style. For me the German version works better than the English translation. I texted this song while going from Lanyu to Taitung on the boat after field research in February 2020, and actually it was a very helpful tool against sea sickness ;-) The song is not addressed to a particular person in Lanyu. It could be addressed to anybody, who I met on Lanyu.

Maybe the song says more about my relation to the Tao people and their Island of Human Beings?


Farewell Song 

Wide the sea the waves go deep,

tell me, where we travel to?

Gloomy heart from farewell scene,

oh, when will we meet again?

What I learned from you so far,

travels in my heart everywhere.

Lanyu gets a part from me,

and a part of me stays there.

Think of me, like I'd be there,

words and deeds shall be our bridge.

Take good care of all your beloveds,

keep your power, keep your grit.

Huge our happiness will be,

when we finally meet again.

Farewell Song (German)

Weites Meer die Wellen tief,

sag wo geht die Reise hin?


Schweres Herz vom Lebewohl,

wann werden wir uns wieder sehn?


Was ich hab von dir gelernt,

trägt mein Herz an jeden Ort


Lanyu wird ein Teil von mir,

und ein Teil von mir bleibt dort.


Denk an mich als wär ich dort,

verbinden soll uns Tat und Wort.


Acht' auf deine Lieben gut,

hab viel Kraft und hab viel Mut.


Groß wird unsre Freude sein,

wenn wir uns dann wieder sehn.