Why are you using?

Our way could be the Way-of-Gods (神道) or something else entirely

Our way could be the Way-of-Gods (神道) or something else entirely

Dialogue with James on how we use our lives.
Here’s an idea for your kaizen to ponder…
The idea of value in life.
If you accept the reality of the age of the universe and the size of our population on Earth, and get beyond yourself, you realize that your life is quite short and insignificant.  So, within this short amount of time, what would be a valuable life?  It seems to be what you leave behind.  A contribution to mankind, small or large.  Most people spend their entire lives focusing on what they can take out of life, or Earth.  In other words, what they can get.  But a more enlightened perspective would see more value in what one can leave behind, and/or give to others.  Shouldn’t this then be an overarching goal of one’s life then?

In a world and culture which has shifted focus more and more to “Me first” and “What can I get?” many seem blind to this reality.  You literally cannot take it with you.  However, so many seem happy on their merry way down a path of self indulgence.  The excitement one feels when they skydive, or the enjoyment of taking that trip around the world, or spending a night partying and drinking with their friends.  Such enjoyable experiences have no longer become the reward after accomplishing something, but rather the focus of what one aims to accomplish in life itself.

It’s interesting if you think about the meaning of “partying”.  At a party, you celebrate something.  Sometimes we should ask ourselves…what are we celebrating exactly?  It seems like many are celebrating celebrating. Should one spend time on more valuable activities, such as reading?  Well, it depends.  Many people read fiction.  Is that in itself an accomplishment?  You have to ask yourself, did I just read these stories to entertain myself and pass the time?  Was the author’s goal to simply entertain me?  Even if not, did I take whatever message they conveyed through their story and actually change the way I live my life?

It’s like eating food.  You can take in food, and then do something with that energy, such as exercise or build something, or you can just sit on the couch and let that energy turn to fat. But what is the overarching describer of all of these actions?  Consumption.  What do these actions leave behind?  What improvements to the world did they accomplish?

Consumption alone in a place which has limited resources almost guarantees the place will become a barren wasteland.  You have to not only consume, but then do something positive with what you’ve consumed.  If not, the resource you consumed is just wasted, and these resources are limited on our planet. On one’s deathbed, one realizes the shortness of life, and suddenly, such trivial things become unimportant.  One begins to worry about one’s legacy, or what one will leave behind.  When we live in a way which focuses on making a contribution, we can avoid this folly.

Earth has limited resources, and we will eventually use these resources.  Our little lives pop-up and then disappear on it.  During that short time, we can simply consume and give nothing back, but this does not bode well for future generations.  The reality of that is actually more depressing than criticizing everyone having their “fun”.  And also, in reality, it is quite childish and simplistic…almost animal-like.  But aren’t we more than mere animals?

Don’t we not have the seemingly limitless brain power in comparison to make this world we live on an amazing place?  To cure diseases and possibly live for 150 or even 200 years?  To travel farther and discover more about our universe.  To invent.  To develop ways to maintain peace. Therefore, people should ask themselves the following questions in relation to how they spend the majority of their time:

Am I contributing something or just consuming?  Am I giving or only taking?  What will I leave behind?

And most importantly, does my life matter?  So, in fact, with this last question in mind, we have come full circle to view this issue in a self-centered way, which is in fact not a bad thing at all.  By not focusing on ourselves, we can in the end feel better about ourselves.

The Japanese word for mission is 使命 “Using-one’s-Life”.

I guess from this perspective it’s much easier to derive meaning:

My mission (life-goal) is to create something = I use my life to give/create something.

If you take the Western perspective you mentioned (“My mission (life-goal) is to enjoy myself”) and translate it using the above perspective you get something nearly tautological:

I use my life to enjoy myself = I use my life to enjoy using myself…?!?

Chapter 2 The value of our existence as human beings
我が人生の存在価値
Let us be thankful like children, who receive this gift of life from the Ki of Sky-Earth.
Let us honour our privilege of being given consciousness, of being an extension of the Spirit of animals, Grass and Trees.
我が生命は天地のより氣生じたのである。
草木動物としてではなく、万物の霊長としてこの世に生を享けた事を感謝しよう。
Let us join in the great wheel of life-generating development.
Let us participate in this project of generating and developing life, and let us pledge to live our lives to that end.
天地の生成発展の大経綸に参画し、我が使命を完遂することを誓おう。

Soul illusions shaping our reality

Gracias, little brother, I know it's not easy being friends with me

Gracias, little brother, I know it’s not easy being friends with me

Speaking of epiphanies (again in the Religion category), there are moments in our lives when

  • we perceive something wrongly, but
  • this helps us to perceive correctly something else.

Usually this happens when you think something is in a certain manner and the difference between your initial perception and the subsequent revelation seems to have a lot of consequences in terms of improving your understanding

  • beyond noticing the actual difference,
  • beyond the idea that presents itself as truthful and reveals your initial assumption to be mistaken.

Allow me to illustrate with an example taken from my personal experience:

I was at the seaside with my good friend, Julian, and we were enjoying life as young people do; at the same time we were blissfully ignorant of many-many other aspects of life because we’re young and ignorant (nowadays, I guess we’re just the latter).

At this point I experienced an optical illusion, a mis-perception caused by looking up for too long on a bright, beautiful day; it was a cold, cloudless spring-day, and I was watching this eagle floating above a cliff that was jutting towards the sea.

As I was watching the eagle, my eyes fell upon the cliff itself and I was not surprised to find its shadow moving across the cliff face, when I was startled by the realisation that

the eagle’s shadow, instead of being black against an illuminated green (grass) and grey (stone) background, was actually completely lit, the way you’d have if you’re shining or reflecting a light from a wrist-watch or a mirror.

I could see a bright beam of light moving across the same cliff face where the eagle’s shadow should have fallen. Naturally, this resulted into the sort of facile philosophising you can imagine:

The shadow is light and you can take it from here.

That was the initial experience which I thought very insightful at that time but I soon discovered that I was very superficial in my appraisal of

  • where we were in the world,
  • where I was in the world.

At this point, we heard these dogs (Dobermans) barking behind us; it dawned on us that we were in a place that was not meant to be used as a public beach, and now the question presented itself to us:

What do we do about these two Dobermans who look pretty menacingly as they’re barking and blocking our way back?

So we tried to find a different path to go back to where we came from, back to our safe world, when the dogs started running downhill towards us. During this chase, as we’re scrambling across stones and boulders covered in seaweed, I’m reflecting on the fact that this will probably be a very unequal fight with these dogs who seem so powerful and about whose ferocity I (thought I) knew a lot.

At this point I was engaged in a dialogue with myself where I recast myself as the hunted (fighting for his life)

so that when we reached this point where we couldn’t climb up any more and the dogs were upon us, I turned around to face them, just thinking “How are we going to fight?”

We didn’t have any weapons or sticks, so I could only envision a fight where we would just bite each other, basically devolving back to the animal fighting for survival. I was looking at these animals, at these dogs’ muscles and teeth, which appeared not so much as teeth as fangs, right? I looked at these creatures, which would soon be upon us, and I assumed this aggressive posture.

It is at this point that my good friend, Julian, saved us (“us” meaning “us = the humans and the dogs”) from a really bad experience by changing his perception, by remembering his true self:

He had a different dialogue running in his head, obviously, and he decided that these dogs would like to become friends with us.

You see, they just wanted to say hello to us.

So he starts talking (dialogue) with the dogs: “They just want to be friends”.

Of course, I had my doubts since we had just been running and we had been chased (it didn’t feel like a dialogue), but I remained passive as I just didn’t know what else we could do. I watched as my good friend Juli responded

  • with a positive feeling of openness,
  • with equal dialogue,
  • with love towards these two dogs,
  • who soon responded in kind.

I found myself staring in disbelief two minutes later, as Juli was sitting down next to one dog and patting it on the head with the dog looking very happy, and I was still trying to get rid of

the last simulation of fight-to-the-death, nature-red-in-tooth-and-claw dialogue that I had in my head.

Then it hit me: This was a very good instance of a self-fulfilling prophecy:

  • I projected death, violence, fight, bite, kill, and it came back to me;
  • Juli projected love, trust, positive feelings, let’s be friends, and it came back to him, and I saw the dog licking his hand.

I realised that the intellectual in me who was so excited to discover the play-on-words between shadow and light based on a simple optical illusion was very shallow.

I found myself stunned to discover that I suffer from a psychological illusion of control and that I’m making myself my own enemy without realising it.

You can call it a soul illusion, that my soul was blacker than I would have liked to think, and this almost got reflected back to me and could have caused a very messy episode.

So I say this to all of you out there who feel that fear is just the expression of a healthy survival instinct meant to give us early warning and ensure our safety:

  • Safety comes not from fearing and giving in to our negative feelings and projecting those onto Others;
  • Safety comes from trusting and engaging Others in dialogues, as equal partners, as partners to be trusted.

That should be our default stance when we are not sure about what is actually happening, when nothing bad has actually occurred yet.

Do not subscribe to the idiot’s [from Greek idios “one’s own] dogma of preemptive attack, who would push himself and others around him into this drama of fighting for one’s life, when this is not a fight or a competition.

It could (in fact) depend on your mindset at that time and your conscious decisions could turn it into a dialogue of love.

  • Thank god (meaning Sky-Earth) for South Americans and their spirit.
  • Contrast this with the Eastern European grimness.
  • And come out from all this with an epiphany, an (intuitive) understanding of how we can improve our world.

Straight talkers in Japan: Inappropriately truthful

Sometimes people deliberately deviate from the norms of speaking in a language. This is not due to their lack of communicative competence.

I would define the deliberate deviation from the norms of speaking as a communication strategy which aims to couch an additional message within the overt message by disregarding one of the four elements in communication described by Hymes (1972). In the example discussed below, the speaker disregards the rules for appropriateness in order to question an entire structure of social conventions he disapproves of.

On completing his work contract as a language teacher at a public school in Japan, a New Zealander friend of mine ended his farewell speech with

Osewa ni narimasen deshita (lit. ‘[I] was NOT taken good care of’ お世話になりませんでした)

I should add that the ‘appropriate’ phrase usually heard in this context is

Osewa ni narimashita (lit. ‘[I] was taken good care of’ お世話になりました)

commonly used to express gratitude after transacting business with somebody (especially when this involves receiving some services). In fact, Japanese communication typically relies on a large set of ‘fixed verbal formulas’ each of which is uniformly employed to achieve a communicative goal in a given context (Clancy 1986: 216-217).

My friend’s (grammatically correct) coinage probably stemmed from a general sense of dissatisfaction with the rigid structures prevailing in the Japanese public education system; by deliberately ignoring socio-cultural rules he tried to draw attention to the mismatch between form and reality (as he perceived it), even though he probably came across as ‘rude’ and even ‘aggressive’ (Cook 2003: 48).

Bibliography

Clancy, P. 1986, ‘The acquisition of communicative style in Japanese’, in Language Socialization Across Cultures, eds B. Shieffelin & E. Ochs, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 213-250.

Cook, G. 2003, ‘Applied Linguistics’ (in the series Oxford Introduction to Language Study), Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Hymes, D.H. 1972, ‘On Communicative Competence’, in Sociolinguistics: Selected Readings, eds J. B. Pride & J. Holmes, Penguin, Harmondsworth, pp. 269-293

Cadou virtual pentru nepotica mea, Ema

Scrisoarea I de Mihai Eminescu

(lectura a unui dialog zen intre Eminescu si Luna)

La multi ani Ema! Tine minte ca aceeasi luna ne inveleste cu lumina ei pe noi toti, oriunde am fi.

 

good ol’ Colombia

Remembering Colombia…

Lobo, donde esta tu cachucha?

My good friends looking on as I deliver (what else?) another long-winded joke:

Cami, Nanita

Cami, Flor (not sure; Cami, help?), Xime, Sebi, Nanita

 

Cosmin:

Time is kind of hard to understand. It has no beginning, no end, but it does exist. So this is what happens. Just yesterday it was the 4th of July [2006] and we were painting welcome signs and looking forward to seeing you more than everything, and tomorrow is the 4th of August, and you are leaving.

It isn’t possible to stop feeling this emptiness of thinking you are leaving. This month went by without us noticing, and now it’s time to say GOOD BYE TO YOU. It isn’t possible to hide the sadness; it isn’t worthy to say that we don’t care, that you were just a visitor who like many others came and left.

We would like to be able to stop time and live it all over again. But we can’t. We sit in the balcony to think about you; we put out a cigarette and lit up another one, and we just try to understand that the real value of time is not time itself, that time doesn’t really exist, but it’s essential in our lives. Time is only the bank of memories, memories we try to summarize in the photographs we stick on pages we then turn.

So, by the time we wake up to our reality, when you are in Japan, and we continue to be here, our time together will be gone. But don’t worry, because our best memories remain stored in this book.

We want you to know that we will never forget all we share with you, and we hope this is NOT the end of a friendship, but the beginning of a relationship that knows no distance; we will be waiting for you a year from now:

COLOMBIA NEEDS YOU!

Finally, you will always be in our hearts because the number of memories these pictures try to gather will permanently keep you in our lives. The best of luck with all you do; we hope all your dreams come true, and you can organize everything to come and live here as soon as possible. Don’t forget: COLOMBIA IS PASSION, It’s FAMILY, GUARO, GUAYABO, TEJO, GUARAPO, COFFEE, FRUIT, ANIMALS, BEACHES, GIRLS, FOOD, SALSA, VALLENATO, FRIENDS, PARTIES, PARTIES AND MORE PARTIES.

Enjoy your return home, but never forget that here there’s a part of you, and we’ll always be here, not only us, but the rest of the people, waiting for you.

Thanks for giving us the chance to share the best month of our lives with you. A very big kiss…

Nanita & Xime.

Thank you Nanita & Xime, Sebi and Cami, Tatu and Santi, Mona and Tito, and everybody else who met me with such warmth.