On Happiness

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” – John Lennon

 

“One time, one meeting.”

I was watching Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown this past weekend, specifically, the episode where Tony goes to visit Japan with the head chef and owner of Masa (from NYC), Masayoshi Takayama. (Not that it matters to this story but Masa is supposedly the most expensive restaurant in the USA where meals apparently cost $600 pp, not including drinks.) During a scene in the episode, Tony was sitting around a traditional Japanese indoor cooking fire (an “irori”), having delicious-looking food and drink with chef Takayama and some local friends, when Tony mentioned something about having a wonderful time. At this point, chef Takayama elaborated on a saying that I find beautiful.

Ichi-go ichi-e”. “One time, one meeting”.

From Wikipedia:

Ichi-go ichi-e (一期一会 “one time, one meeting”) is a Japanese four-character idiom (yojijukugo) that describes a cultural concept of treasuring meetings with people. The term is often translated as “for this time only,” “never again,” or “one chance in a lifetime.” The term reminds people to cherish any gathering that they may take part in, citing the fact that many meetings in life are not repeated. Even when the same group of people can get together again, a particular gathering will never be replicated, and thus, each moment is always once-in-a-lifetime.

I find that in this life, we must try to cherish every moment we have with others. I admit, I am not often seen as the most sociable person in the world. It takes me a while to warm up to others, and others to warm up to me, at which point the people who were destined to like me, will (I hope) like me, and those whose personalities, communication styles, and interests are on a different wavelength, will do everything they can do remove themselves from ever crossing paths with me again.

But the point is, no matter what the final outcome of our temporary meetings are, we were together, interacting, in a particular place and time. And we should take time to appreciate the uniqueness of that moment, which can never be replicated again.

I am going to try to embrace this concept of life whether I’m traveling and making (mostly) temporary connections with others, or whether I’m home with family and friends. Just be in the moment, paying attention to the details of an interaction, memorizing and appreciating the moment that will never happen again.

Ichi-go ichi-e”.

A page from a notebook of someone’s mother who passed away

“None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an after thought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There is no time for anything else.”

Where do I want to rest forever?

Early 2014, before I set off for my trip to South America, I had reached out to the family of a teenager who shot himself after an argument with his mother. I remember the grieving mother saying that she had her son’s body cremated and was asking people via a viral Facebook story if they could help take (some of) her son’s ashes to special places so he could “go see the world”. I was motivated to take her son to the Galapagos, believing her son’s spirit would like to be an eternal part of such a beautiful place on this earth. Sadly, it did not materialize.

But I began to ask myself, “Where would I like to rest forever?” And although the seas around Fernandina Island aren’t too shabby a spot, one place stood out even more; Sipadan.

For me, diving in the waters around Sipadan Island was a special experience. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth. It’s also part of Malaysia, my homeland.

Here’s how I envision my soul being put to rest; family members will make the journey to Sipadan. They’d put on diving gear, take my sealed can of ashes, and go dive in Barracuda Point. Once underwater, they will “release me”. And for eternity, I’m part of earth again. It sure beats being put in a coffin and being buried. How constricting and boring would that be? Even in death, I’d like to “travel” wherever the currents take me.

Is it morbid to think about this sort of thing? I don’t know.

Tashi and the Monk.

My first experience with an orphanage happened when I was very little, maybe 4-5 years in age. My family went to visit this orphanage because my cousin was there. Why was my cousin there? He was mentally challenged. At least that’s what my parents told me. He wasn’t born to my uncle and aunt. He was adopted. And when my uncle and aunt found out he was mentally challenged when he grew up, they gave him up for adoption. This visit was my only time seeing him. My only remaining memory of this visit was seeing my cousin (whose face I don’t recall now) come up to me and started touching my feet as I was carried by my dad. I am surprised that this memory still stayed with me until this day and I still wonder from time to time, what happened to my cousin?

Fast forward many years later. It is the end of 2010. I was unceremoniously dumped on the side of a street at 4 am in the freezing morning in McLeod Ganj. Despite the rough start to my stay there, my time spent in McLeod Ganj was one of my most memorable during my gap year. Among many reasons for this is because of my visit to The Children’s Village, an orphanage located about 30-40 minutes on foot from McLeod Ganj. I still remember vividly my hike there and what I saw during my brief visit. Little did I know, a seed was planted in me and has been germinating.

Last week, I read somewhere that a short documentary called “Tashi and the Monk” won an Emmy. It is about a former monk (himself an orphan) who runs an orphanage filled with “uninvited guests in this universe”. The documentary is (but may not be for much longer) free to watch on Vimeo. I finally got around to watching it today. It moved me in a big way. Recently, I had been bouncing the idea around in my head of how much I’d like to one day, possibly in my later years, volunteer at an orphanage, possibly as a teacher. I don’t want kids of my own, that I am certain of. However, there are so many unwanted children out there and with my belief that education is the key to escaping poverty, I hope to pass on what I know. Basic math, English, science? I think I can do that. Maybe throw in whatever life wisdom/thoughts/philosophies I may have learned along the way. I want to help them navigate this maze called “Life”. There’s a lot more to say about all this but that’s for another day.

Your time is limited.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

– Steve Jobs

“Human Family” by Maya Angelou

I note the obvious differences
in the human family.
Some of us are serious,
some thrive on comedy.

Some declare their lives are lived
as true profundity,
and others claim they really live
the real reality.

The variety of our skin tones
can confuse, bemuse, delight,
brown and pink and beige and purple,
tan and blue and white.

I’ve sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land,
I’ve seen the wonders of the world
not yet one common man.

I know ten thousand women
called Jane and Mary Jane,
but I’ve not seen any two
who really were the same.

Mirror twins are different
although their features jibe,
and lovers think quite different thoughts
while lying side by side.

We love and lose in China,
we weep on England’s moors,
and laugh and moan in Guinea,
and thrive on Spanish shores.

We seek success in Finland,
are born and die in Maine.
In minor ways we differ,
in major we’re the same.

I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.