Thursday, November 27, 2003
Happy Thanksgiving and the Meaning of Life
OK, so maybe I still don't have the definitive formula to the meaning of life, but I'm working on a rough draft.
This past Thursday of work wasn't so bad... I truly anticipated a rough day, but got the opposite... something definitely to be thankful for. In truth, it turned out to be quite the enjoyable day.
Highlight of the day was a one-on-one lesson with a student named Yuko. Yuko is a mid-level student, definitely past the painfully basic parts of English such as What is this? This is a pen. Of course, being that Yuko is a medical student at a prestiguous Japanese University, I wouldn't expect anything less than intelligence. Her intelligence is not just limited to book knowledge either; she has an awareness of things that sadly, most people lack.
I went into the lesson with the intention of teaching her about using hypothetical English speech like If I were you... and I'd imagine..., but during the practice of using the grammar, our conversation drifted into the realm of future plans, and what we were passionate about. The word passion took some explaining, however given the fact I'd been in AACF for several years with Christine Nakano as our leader (the very architect I think of spreading the concept of passion in NW), it wasn't difficult.
When I asked Yuko what her true passions were, she answered that it was meeting people from other countries and studying medicine. As I asked more questions to probe deeper, she told me that the purpose behind studying medicine (besides a surface reason of wanting a steady job) is that she wants to someday travel to foreign countries to do humanitarian and charity work. When I asked her why even further, she struggled explaining... but from the words and phrases she used - I want to understand... learn more... make my mind bigger... grow my heart... - I could understand completely what she was talking about.
Being no dummy herself, Yuko looked at me and said perhaps one of the best English sentences I've heard a non-native speaker say here in Japan, complete with stress on the important word:
"What's the real reason why you came to Japan?"
Broadening one's perspective. Growing spiritually. Here we were, two people, separated by language and culture, and yet both seeking the same thing. I immediately thought of this little entry I wrote before coming to Japan.
Any other student never probes further when I answer their question of "Why did you come to Japan?" with the answer of "I've always want to travel." Saying that I've always wanted to travel isn't a lie, but it's only the answer that's on the surface. My respect for Yuko's desire to travel someday to do medical humanitarian work compelled me give her the full-on, honest answer AKA the truth. Props to you, Yuko, for the 3rd eye of vision.
I think a lot of Westerners have the stereotype that Japanese people are more spiritually satisfied with their lives than they are. In a way, Japanese culture has spiritual element to it that is lacking in the West - a recognition of the sacredness of family, the importance of human relationships - a long and colorful history of Shintoism and refinement of Buddhist thought. Yet thousands of shrines, temples, and yearly rituals still attest to the same thing - people in Japan are still looking for something, they're seeking the answers just the same as human beings everywhere else.
A spirit of faith is not a book merely read once and finished; it's a continuous saga, written by God's purpose on our lives. My saga is still being written. So is Yuko's and everyone else's.
Yeah, I'm thankful for a lot of things. I'm not able to attend church, but God seems to find a way to bring the lessons to me...
Borrowed and transcribed from the sagacious faye.
He asked me why I had such sad eyes. I didn't have an answer; that was part of the problem. I felt like an idiot for having sad eyes. I'd not been in jail, I'd not been tortured by the military.
He said, "It is a very hard thing to find happiness. Hundreds and thousands of examples exist of how to be miserable, and they are everywhere you look for you to copy. It is easy to be miserable, he said, millions can you the way. It requires no thought or creativity of your own, just following. To be happy is hard, because no one can show you, it is something you have to work out, create for yourself. No one can give you a model to copy, though many will volunteer, because happiness is not off the rack, one size fits all, it is something each of us has to tailor - make for himself or herself."
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