Sunday, 10 April 2016

Relish each day: the miracle of existence.

Gary Hayden has written a beautiful piece about the "miracle of existence". He is a philosophy and science writer and recently went to Shukkei-en Gardens in Hiroshima to experience the cascading wonders of cherry blossoms.

He saw a little girl blowing bubbles and enjoying herself in the pink blossom garden. Caught in that bubble of wonder, he was reminded of what a 14th-century monk Yoshida Kenko wrote: "If our life did not fade and vanish...but lingered on for ever, how little the world would move us. It is the ephemeral nature of things that makes them wonderful."

Kenko also observed that "if cherry blossom lasted forever, they would lose much of their power to move us."

Lesson? Just one. I guess too much of a good thing is just too much. I always go on a vacation and dread the first part. I call it the inchoate anxiety. It is the part about the start of the vacation. The packing up to go, the waiting for the flight, and the checking into a hotel on the first day.

Why? Because every start has an end. It's like picking up one end of the stick, and you begrudgingly pick up its end. So going on a long break is like that. You start it off on the first day and every minute thereafter brings you closer to the end. And when the end comes, you wish you could start all over. The nostalgia can be chokingly sentimental. And the recalling can be cripplingly poignant.

It is the same with the kids. At times, when they are at their most irresistible, you wish the moment would last forever. You wish time would freeze and you could replay it all at will. You wish they would never grow up. But they do. Good times come and go. That is what makes them good times, isn't it?

The holiday will end. The kids will grow up. And I will grow old. Life will come full circle to be reconciled endearingly with death. That's the miracle of existence. It is not a long drawn out bad dream. Neither is it an everlasting fantasy. It is on the contrary the experiences of change that makes it an enduring miracle.

Gary quoted Kenko with this insight: "What a glorious luxury it is to taste life to the full for even a single year. If you constantly regret life's passing, even a thousand long years will seem but the dream of a night."

If the holiday never ends and the kids don't grow up, the miracle becomes an uneventful lull. We therefore shortchange ourselves with the rich diversity of experiences - whether good or challenging - for a mundane lifetime of cherry blossoming.

You see, every period of our life we live through, that is, the youth, the career, the marriage, the family, the kids' graduation, the old age, and the mortal beckoning, all bring about enriching growth and maturity. The highs and lows of life thus do not exist in isolation. They are in fact intimately connected, inseparable even.

Weekends do not come without weekdays. Or Saturdays do not come without Mondays. We therefore should not only thank God it's Friday but also be grateful for Mondays for the simplest reason that if every day is Friday, we will be forced to live in the rut of a miracle stillborn and not the full spectrum of a miracle deeply savored. Every day therefore comes with its own flowing purpose.

I guess Kenko was right with this, "if people hate death, they should love life." And in the same vein, if we hate monotony, we should love diversity. If we hate stagnation, we should love growth. And if we hate aimlessness, shouldn't we love Mondays?

Let me end with Kenko here: "Should we not relish each day the joy of survival? Fools forget this - they go striving after other enjoyments, cease to appreciate the fortune they have and risk all to lay their hands on fresh wealth." Cheerz

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