By: Ruth Rehtse
Excuse me is this seat taken? No, said the 40 something year old woman to the bright and vibrant young man.
“Where are you heading?” Said the brunette to Tommy.
“Oh, I have no particular destination. I took a sabbatical year to figure things out.”
The woman was perplexed at what she just heard. “Oh, where are my manners. My name is Tommy by the way.”
“Oh, I’m Brenda. So, Tommy what brings you to Japan?” Tommy stared at her for a few seconds with a hesitant look, and after a few seconds he decided to tell her about his quest. Tommy said, “Well, I took a year off to travel around the world and take pictures of people.”
“Any particular theme?” She asked Tommy. “Well, yes and no” said Tommy. “To be very honest I’m searching for the happiest person alive.”
“The happiest person alive!?! Huh, interesting. Does such a person exist?” She said.
Tommy smiled at her and said, “Well, I surely hope so, but so far I have found people who are mostly happy, but there is always something missing in their lives. I’m starting to wonder if that person exist.”
Brenda once again looked bewilder at the young man, and said, “So, why do you want to find a person who is happy 24/7?”
Tommy replied, “Well, I figure if I can find the happiest person alive he, or she will be able to answer my question.”
“And what is your question?” Brenda asked. “You are going to think I’m crazy.”
“Try me.” She said.
“Well, I figured if I can find the happiest person alive they can tell me the meaning of life.”
Brenda was stunned and said, “Well, isn’t the whole point of life to just live it?”
“Perhaps.” Tommy said, “But I am still not convinced. There must be a bigger meaning to it. I refuse to believe, we are born, we grow up, we become successful, get married, have children and then you die. There must be more to the meaning of life.”
Brenda started to laugh, “Wow! Sorry I asked! Pretty deep conversation for an early morning train ride! but you know I have heard near Okinawa lives a man who is 130 years old and is considered one of the wisest men in Japan, if he is the wisest maybe he is also the happiest. OK. This is my stop. Good Luck!”
Tommy smiled at Brenda and said, “Thanks!”
So, Tommy decided to visit the small village near Okinawa. Throughout his bus ride he couldn’t stop thinking about all the things this old man would tell him. Tommy wondered if finally, he would get his question answered after almost a year and half of traveling around the world. He tried to not build his expectations too much, but he couldn’t help, but feel excited about meeting this old man.
When he arrived at the village he asked for the wise man who was 130 years old. The old lady smiled at Tommy and pointed toward the river. As Tommy walked toward the river he started to wonder what this man looked like, and what he would say.
Tommy looked around and saw a hunchback old man without shoes near a big rock resting. Tommy scanned the area once again to double-check they were the only two people by the river. He approached the old man and asked him his name. The old man clearly of Asian descent told him his name was John. This really puzzled Tommy. “John? That is a western name. How could this be?” He thought to himself.
The old man quickly answered his unspoken question, and explained his father was Japanese, but his mother was a westerner. Tommy timidly told the old man he was told he was considered one of the wisest men of Japan.
The old man laughed, and he said, “I am not sure if I am the wisest, but I have seen many sunrises and sunsets. What brings you here young man? What do you seek?”
Tommy looked at the old man with disbelief, and said, “I have been traveling for a year and a half now searching for the happiest person alive?”
The old man smiled and said, “And why do you seek the happiest person alive?”
“Well, I figured if I could find the happiest person alive he, or she could answer my question.”
“Ah! So, there is a question, so tell me young man. What is your question?”
Tommy started to wonder if coming to Okinawa had been a good idea, but nevertheless he answered the old man. “I want to know the meaning of life.”
“So, if you are searching for the meaning of life, why are you searching for the happiest person alive?” said the old man.
Tommy immediately felt inadequate to even answer the question, but he mustered up enough courage to form a sentence and said, “Well, I believe if I can find the happiest person alive, he or she would also know the meaning of life.”
The old man once again smiled and said, “If you are looking to be happy search within you to find what makes you happy, but if you are looking for the meaning of life you didn’t have to travel across the world to discover it, for this is something you can find in your own backyard.”
Tommy started to feel like a scolded child, but he traveled this far he was not going to stop now. So, Tommy asked, “My backyard? To find the meaning of life?”
“Yes,” said the old man. “Being happy and finding the meaning of life are two different things at times.”
“What?” Tommy asked.
“You see young man. You can find things that make you happy and live a long productive life. But the meaning of life is quite simple, and it can also cause great joy. Joy beyond what most people experience in their life time, but it can also cause you great sadness and sacrifice.”
Tommy started to feel anxious and said, “OK. Can you please explain?”
The old man seeing Tommy’s visible anxiousness replied, “Love. Love is the meaning to life. When we love the world, when we love nature in the purest form, we leave this world a better place for the next generation. When we love without selfishness we will take difficult decisions, but they will be the right decisions. When we act honorably and love thy neighbor as we love ourselves we leave a mark in this world. Love creates a ripple effect. When we love we leave an imprint in this world of kindness and generosity. The meaning of life is simply to love. It is the greatest force in this world. It promotes change in every corner of the Earth.” The old man said while staring at Tommy.
“Now the question you should be asking yourself is… Do you want to be happy? Or do you want love? Because although, love can bring you great joy it can also bring you great sorrow, but at the end of the day it is greatest and most important thing life. Love will flow forever just like this river long after we are gone.”
So, the question is “Do you want to love? or do you want to be happy? because throughout life sometimes they are not the same, but the answer to your question is simply to love…”
Mommy, I’m hungry…
Yes, dear I heard you.
Mommy, when are we going to eat?
We are almost there…
Can I have a cookie mommy?
Yeah! We are here!
I’m so hungry!! Me too sweetie.
Mommy, what is a soup kitchen?
It’s a place where we are blessed with food.
The echo of tomorrow cannot be derailed
It won’t shut up
Or give up
It grows stronger with each passing day.
It grows with our conviction to leave this world a better place.
Daddy why are there so many stars in the sky?
So, they can light our way at night.
Yes, but what are they?
They are our loved ones who were, but no longer are with us.
Oh, like grandma and our dog Dino?
Yes, like grandma and Dino.
Daddy will you become a star in the sky someday?
Yes, and I will light your path for the rest of your days.
A man more or less her mother’s age in his early 30’s slowly made his way out the door in a wheel chair. The little girl’s eyes and mouth was wide open. Her mother in a very stern voice said, “Violet! Come here! We are going to be late!” As she walked toward her daughter she caught a quick glimpse at the very attractive man sitting in his wheel chair in a three-piece pinstripe suit. The man had the most alluring green eyes she had ever seen. She wasn’t sure if she liked his eyes or his salt and pepper grey hair more. She clumsily tried to apologize to the man, but it was apparent he was accustomed to women gawking at him. He expressed very little interest in her apology or in her. “I’m sorry. My daughter tends to be imprudent at times. I’m your next-door neighbor Anne, and you already met my daughter Violet.” The man gave her a polite smile and said, “It’s fine.”
Violet immediately caught-on to the fact that the man had not introduce himself. She timidly asked him, “What is your name?” The man gave Violet a peering icy stern look and said, “Mark.” Violet quickly followed-up her initial question with, “Do you live alone?” Mark said “No”, but his body language clearly indicated Violet’s line of questions were making him feel uncomfortable; he quickly maneuvered his wheelchair around Violet to indicate pleasantries were over, and he wanted to move on with his day. Anne immediately caught on to Mark’s reaction and squeezed her daughter’s arm. Anne promptly said, “Sorry, Violet has the tendency of asking imprudent questions.” And right before she could utter another word Mark wheel chaired himself out of hearing range.
“Ouch!” “Stop squeezing my arm.” Violet protested. “Then stop asking so many questions. You are embarrassing me. Now, come on we are both going to be late!” she said as she gaped at Violet. “OK. But stop being mean to me!” Violet said as she scowled at her mom. “Mean to you? Oh, moon pie, you haven’t seen mean yet!” Anne said to Violet as she tried to tug away from her mom. Violet dropped her lunch box on the floor while moving away from her mom, and as she picked up her lunch box from the floor she noticed that the man in the wheelchair had dropped a pen. She picked up the pen and starred at it attentively. It was a shiny black fountain pen with the letters M.S.P. engraved on it. She thought the M is for Mark and she remembered seeing his last name Pratt on his mailbox downstairs in the mail-room, but what she did not know— what did the S stand for? “Hmmmm…” She said. Her mother looked at Violet and said “What’s that? “A pen.” Violet said. Her mother rolled her eyes at Violet, “Yes, smarty pants that I know. What I meant to say is where did you get it?”
“It was on the floor. I guess the man dropped it.” Violet said to her mother. “Give it to me Violet. It looks expensive we have to return it.” Violet shrugged her shoulders and said, “OK” and handed the pen to her mother as they walked toward the elevator.
Violet was completely bewildered. Nothing made sense to her. So far, she knew the door squeaked like clockwork every day at 4 a.m. since Mark moved in to the building. He was in a wheelchair. He said he didn’t live alone, and she saw a fishing hook and squid residue on his apartment doormat. This was completely bizarre. Most importantly who lived with him? Maybe it was this person who got up at 4 a.m. every morning, but who was it? Violet shook her head and thought, “This will have to wait until after school.” Her mother dropped off Violet at her school. She gave Violet a big fat kiss, and said, “I love you moon pie. From here to infinity.” Violet smiled and gave her mother a big hug. She got out of the car and waved good bye to her mom.
Violet felt bored at school. She couldn’t wait to get back home to continue investigating what was going on with her neighbor at four in the morning. Violet’s nanny picked her up from school, and as they walked into Skylark building elevator she saw Mark entering the lobby. Violet said in a very loud voice, “Mister Mark! I have your pen, as the elevator doors closed.” Mark did not seem pleased at all with Violet’s outburst. Once upstairs Dana asked Violet who was the man. Violet explained to Dana what had happened earlier that morning with her new neighbor. Violet’s mom arrived four hours later and asked Dana if Violet had done her homework. Dana said yes. “Violet has been awesome today, but a bit distracted. She appears to be in deep thought.” Anne knocked on Violet’s bedroom door and popped her head in and said, “Hey, moon pie. How was your day? Everything alright?” Violet nodded and said, “Yes, mom. Nothing out of the ordinary. You need to stop worrying about me I am seven years old now.” Anne rolled her eyes, “OK. OK. I’m just checking in.” Violet laughed at the fact that her mom was rolling her eyes at her, and said, “Mom, Mister Mark is home. Can we go to his apartment to give back his pen?” Anne looked at Violet puzzled and said, “Ah, Sure.”
Anne and Violet knocked on Mark’s door; they could hear two people talking, but couldn’t make out what they were saying. Someone walk toward the door and opened it. The door squeaked as it was being opened. A woman in her mid-50’s with a very athletic body build opened the door. She said, “Yes, how may I help you?” Anne quickly said, “Oh, yes, is Mark around? He dropped his pen earlier today, and we wanted to return it to him.” The woman stretched out her hand to grab the pen and brusquely said, “Oh, thank you I’ll make sure he gets it.” “OK. Thanks” Anne said as the woman closed the door in her face. Violet looked at her mother and said in a very loud voice. “How rude!” “Shhh… Violet.” She can hear you!”
Violet and her mother returned to their apartment and watched television for a little while before going to bed. Violet yawned and said, “I’m sleepy. I’m going to bed.”Her mom nodded as Violet walked to her room. She fell asleep quickly, but once again, at 4 a.m. she heard her neighbor’s door squeak, but this time she was ready. She jumped out of bed and headed to her front door. She slowly opened it and walked down the hallway. Mark’s door was slightly open. Violet slowly opened the door and saw Mark opening a book. The book immediately flew up into the air and instantly created a yellow golden light that looked like a portal of some kind. What was even more crazy she saw Mark get up from the wheelchair and step into the portal. Violet gasped. Mark quickly turned around when he heard the noise and saw Violet starring at him.She suddenly felt a chill go down her spine while starring at Mark as he walked into this big bright glowing yellow light. What was going on?
I say good bye,
But what I need to hear is— I’ll miss you.
I say I don’t care, but all I want is you.
I express indifference to hide my shyness,
But secretly I wish you could hear my heart.
Are we at the beginning?
Or at the end?
All that comes to mind is —Insidious.
The little red head girl tosses and turns in her bed as she hears her next-door neighbor’s door squeaking again. She sighs and takes a quick glance at her clock which reads 4a.m. She notices that once again like clockwork her next-door neighbor’s door squeaks at the same time. She suddenly becomes curious, but also scared as to the reason behind the noise.
Night after night like clockwork she hears her next-door neighbor’s door squeak. She wonders what he or she is doing at that hour. She wasn’t sure who lived next door to her and her mother. She was frightened of the eerie sound, but her curiosity was peaking. The little girl for a split second considered waking up her mother to tell her what she had heard, but her mother was resting so peacefully she decided to let her be, besides what would she tell her? The next-door neighbor’s door is squeaking?
No, no, she could not wake her mother up with such nonsense. After all what did she really hear? So, she decided to go back to sleep. The next morning, she woke-up bright and early to try to catch a glimpse of her next-door neighbor, but she had no luck. The little girl was frustrated, but intrigued even more with each passing minute. Maybe it was her mother’s childhood Nancy Drew books that she was reading that was making her curious; who knows, but what was certain is that she was on a mission to unveil the 4 a.m. mystery.
During breakfast the little girl asked her mother who lived next-door. Her mother told her she did not know who moved into the apartment next door. The sweet curios little red head girl pouted and looked disappointed. The mother noticed her daughter’s disappointment and asked her why the question. The little girl shrugged her shoulders and said, “No reason. We know so little about our neighbors.” Her mother kissed her forehead, and said “Sometimes it’s best.” The little girl did not look too satisfied with her mom’s response. She wanted answers, and she was not going to stop until she unveiled the 4 a.m. mystery.
After breakfast both the mother and daughter rushed out the door. The mother opened their apartment door and said, “Come on, you are going to be late for school.” and as they walked briskly down the hallway the little girl took a quick glance at her neighbor’s door. She immediately noticed a small fishing hook and what appeared to be squid residue on her neighbor’s doormat. She thought…“Fishing? No, way…” Somehow she did not think this was possible. Fishing every day at 4 a.m.? They lived nowhere near open waters. This intrigued her even more. She took another quick glance at the door, as her mother called out to her, “Come on, come on, we are running late moon pie.”
She squealed and said, “Alright, Alright,” and started hopping toward her mother. She rolled her eyes at her mother while putting on her Finding Dory backpack, and just as she finished putting it on— she heard her neighbor open the door. The little girl slowly turned around and stopped dead in her tracks…
Today as I was running, I started to have random thoughts that came in and out of my head. One of them being why are we so headstrong about trying to prove ourselves right? We don’t listen enough. We cut people off when they are talking to make sure we make our point. This is sad, because what we are saying is my point is more important than yours.
It’s sad, because this type of behavior suggest you are trying to prove your point rather than finding a common ground to solve an issue. At one point in time I heard someone say the more intelligent you are the more opinions you will have and want to express. See, I find a flaw with this reasoning. Who says you will not be as intelligent once someone finishes their thought? Quite the contrary in my opinion.
When we let other people talk and express themselves without interrupting we are actually forcing ourselves to listen. This can only be beneficial for us when speaking to other people. When we listen without interrupting we are truly trying to find a common ground, and only then can we start to look for solutions. I believe most leaders good or bad have one thing in common– they know how to listen. I wonder why can’t most people do this? What triggers people to interrupt? I really don’t believe that by interrupting people’s train of thought it will make you look smarter or help you accomplish anything. So, why do we do it? Some might say, we are emotional, but I think this is just an excuse. So, why are some people rude? This is the eternal question…
Children believe in Easter bunnies, Rainbows, and Stars that light their path toward a pot of Gold. Their creativity helps them imagine a beautiful world where anything is possible. This same child like behavior is what motivates and inspires writers, innovators, and dreamers to accomplish great things in this world.
I often wonder how much more we could accomplish if we maintained this same child like behavior in our lives. As adults we often fall victim to daily routines and busy schedules. We seldom stop to imagine what a better world would look like, or stop to smell a beautiful flower that can trigger a creative outcome.
Today’s blog post is short and sweet; its main objective is to inspire dreamers and innovators to chase that pot of Gold at the end of the rainbow, as well as, to motivate dreamers to follow their shining star.
Keep dreaming, Keep working, Keep searching for that shining star in the sky that will light your path in your life. After all, what is life without a little imagination?