Thursday, November 25, 2010


This morning, I had to wake up extra early to make sure I got out on time to go meet the short-term team from my church in Singapore at the station, and then go with them and Steve to E-moms. Normally, I would have to wake up early whenever we have E-moms, but today I really had to make sure I woke up, because we had a tight schedule, and we really couldn't afford any delays. It doesn't help, of course, that last night, I was at Shinagawa Kai till pretty late.

But anyway, we all got to E-moms on time. Due to the presence of the team, there were enough English speakers to each pair off with one of the Japanese ladies, which allowed for a great deal more English conversation.

Steve decided not to do the usual studies, so instead, we were using these interesting Soularium cards to answer questions. Basically, he would ask a question, and then we would all pick a picture card that best represented our answers.

So along the way, I was talking to one of the ladies called Yoshiko, and the question was "how do you think your spiritual life has been changed?" or something like that. I think my brain hadn't fully woken up since it was really early in the morning.. about 10 am or so, so I can't recall the exact words of the question.

Anyway, the picture I picked out was of this guy standing still on a subway platform while everything around him was a blur of motion. And so I was telling her that the picture represented something that I had really learnt while in Japan.

See, I kinda enjoy photography. Maybe it runs in the family or something (my dad enjoys photography too, and my brother has been doing photography.. even my sister takes like a ton of photos wherever she goes). And so wherever I go, I try to make sure I carry my little Ixus around so that at a moment's notice, I can whip it out and snap a photo of whatever it was that caught my eye.

Images like this tend to catch my eye.

The problem is that when I take the shot, quite often, it can't quite capture the atmosphere of the shot. And then I'll start fiddling around with my camera's settings, hoping to find the right combination of aperture/shutter speed/lighting balance etc that would get me that 'perfect' picture. And I almost never was able to fully recreate the aura of that shot.

And then, I started to get a little obsessive. I would walk around, looking at the things I saw, and rating them on a 'picturability' scale. Simply speaking, I was analyzing the world in terms of how I could upload it to Facebook.

And so my mind would be going something like this: "Hmm, the view from this particular point looks pretty good.. if I could just catch the way the light hits the wall at a certain angle hmm still not too good.. maybe let's twiddle this button... nope nope, still not working out... maybe I should walk back a bit? The angles looked better from earlier on ehm.. feels the same.. actually this reminds me a lot of that other photo I took 5 minutes ago but it's always good to have another one in case.. hmm still not working out think maybe this one is the best so far ah! I'm gonna upload this to Facebook!"

It finally came to a point where I realized that all I was thinking of was pictures I could upload to facebook, and of the pictures that I missed the chance to take. My mind was always either on the future or on the past! So I finally decided, that I needed to put away my camera, and just enjoy whatever it was I could see. And in a way, knowing that I wasn't taking any photos, and knowing that I would not be able to re-live the moment, made the moment that much more wonderful.

So Yoshiko said that's quite a Japanese thing, where something fragile/that disappears quickly is even more beautiful precisely because it was so impermanent. Which is probably why watching sakura and fireworks are two such big events in Japan.

And it's true. If I was always thinking of how to take a picture of a cherry blossom, before I know it, it would have fallen, and I wouldn't have been able to really appreciate it.

And I think it's kinda like in our life as well. So often, we're always thinking of what we're gonna be doing next. We look forward to the next activity. We have packed schedules. We map out our steps to advance in life. It's a great thing if you're able to plan ahead. We are almost always gripped in a fever of the future.

At the same time though, we are often trapped within the prison of our past. We look back at our lives, and think, oh how we could have done better at a disappointing time. Or remember the good old days and long for a return to that golden era, when everything was going well for us. And for a Christian in particular, I always look back, and see the sins that I've done, and think, "Oh what a horrible person I am".

But then, God didn't make us to exist in the future. Jesus said in Matthew 6, "Seek first His kingdom (the kingdom of God) and His righteousness," and in the next verse, tells us, " not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own."

Neither did He make us to live in the past, among our memories. No matter how much we may want to go back and do things differently, or go back and re-live our best moments, it won't happen. It's in the past. And if we are being bogged down by our past sins, we simply need to remember 1 John 1:9, confess our sins and we will be made clean.

We were made to live in the present, to spend our lives in the 'now', making choices that will honour God, and to enjoy the ride as we go along.

And I rather like presents too. hur hur.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Quote of the day, from the meeting we had earlier today:
"When they have a baptism service among the tribes in *** country, they have one picture showing 40 people getting baptized. Here in Japan, we have 40 pictures of one person getting baptized." -K. Weemes


Anonymous said...

Can really resonate with you on this, also learning to treasure the present. :) And I like presents too!! :D Haha... btw glad that Soularium is helping your team. How did the Japanese respond?

ArkAngel said...

It went really well actually. Perhaps it's due to the fact that we are a bunch of gaijins and they're a bit more willing to open up? But yeah, they do share quite a bit.

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