To Relish the Remarkable Ride
I’ve been fortunate enough to have had, or more appropriately have enjoyed so far, an absolutely wonderful Sunday. In the panorama of seconds that fold outwards each and every day, it is always a blessing to stumble across works of beauty quietly weaved into our concept of time.
So far today, I’m lucky to have already found two, both of which have led me to realize something so fundamental about how we live our lives.
Whenever I come across something by Pico Iyer, it never falls short of being anything but a godsend. The first brilliant moment was when I found myself reading his article Why We Travel, a beautiful collection of words that brought me to consider travel in a new light. The spark of interest it seeded within me led to other ruminations on travel, culminating in my reading of Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel, which, undoubtedly, has literally changed the way I perceive new environments: through the art of sketching, the visually synchronized scrawl of pen on paper. The second brilliant moment was a few days ago, when I came across his article in the International New York Times whilst eating breakfast. For a few days I had felt stuck in a mental rut of sorts; when I tried to articulate to my mother why I was feeling so dull, and so grim, what struck me most was the fact that I didn’t know what it was. There was nothing in my life that particularly stood out as an instigator of ill will, yet I found myself unable to concentrate and constantly exhausted… until Pico Iyer jumped out of those paper pages. In an opinion piece, he – of course – somehow made an ordinary phenomenon not only so clear, but so beautiful; by weaving his personal experiences with an experience more universal, he explained to me why I was feeling the way I was: I was having one too many days of being ‘externalist’, or someone who doesn’t give themselves the time to sit down and think about the quieter, more important, internal side to life and instead obsesses over the material to-dos. Now the third and most recent Pico Iyer brainwave occurred earlier this morning, when I watched his TED Talk on the idea of ‘home’. In it, he discussed what it means to have roots in so many places you don’t have any roots at all. He concludes by stating that in this day and age, the one metric we should triumph as the criterion for ‘home’ would be the place where ‘I’ is no longer a physical entity but an internal one: a place in which our deepest thoughts can roam in complete peace and freedom of mind.
Now the second source of emotional comfort food was Richard Curtis’s movie About Time. I’m a bit late to jump on the bandwagon, yes, but after realizing my DVD player was of the ‘incorrect region’ for my Spanish DVDs (to my incredible dismay), I somehow found About Time lying around somewhere close. And so I gave it a go. For those of you who may be more intimate with the movie, you may have felt a pang of recognition for the title of this post: to relish the remarkable ride. This phrase constitute the final words of the protagonist, Tim, as he realizes that he doesn’t need to travel through time to obtain joy or closure; in fact, what makes life sweet is to live it believing it is your second time living it, and you know it’ll be the only chance to get things right. To smile and notice the small things, however insignificant, because after all we only get this existence once.
What I’ve realized today is the significance of this concept of ‘me’. We constantly have to identify ourselves not only for others, but for our own sake. We are constantly changing, growing, morphing, developing as time goes on, and more often than not it is not always in a positive way. All of us have bad days, and many of us undeniably would like to turn back the clock and fix whatever we might have done wrong, or, on the other hand, not as well as we would have liked to. But the thing is, there’s no sense in turning back the clock. Why? Because as Pico Iyer taught me, we often make these slip-ups due to the myriad of distractions that plummet our way in day-to-day life. The buzz of daily interaction, the distraction of technology all make us obsessed with every single little thing we do, every little single thing we tick off some checklist hanging off a corkboard. This is why we have regrets: because we are not being the people we’d like to see ourselves as being. But the thing is, we’ll never be the person we’d like to be – we’ll only be us. And if you think about it, that’s not such a big problem. Because only one of us is enough. Take a second or two every once in a while, remove your distractions and tap in to where ‘you’ are. Write something, create something you love. Ruminate over thoughts that deal with the smallest of things. Watch the clouds. Count the seconds fly by. Enjoy your company, love being you. And soon enough you’ll come to realize that you’re doing everything right, that even the ‘slip-ups’ you decide to call ‘mistakes’ are just an inexplicable, but completely ordinary, part of life.
As I wrap up this post at 6PM on a Sunday afternoon in the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, I know that I have six more hours of the day to go. I know not how I will spend those six hours, and frankly, I do fret over how I will spend my time, but I am telling myself that that isn’t what matters. What matters is that I’ll always be able to come back here and share with the world – and to myself – what it means to be alive, and to love the state of living.
And as long as I know that, I’ll be fine. 🙂