Thursday, October 25, 2012

File It Away (Part 2)

Alright, so here was the second event that triggered thoughts in my mind:

Last weekend I was in Kyoto by myself, in a part of the prefecture I had never before traveled. I walked around ten minutes from the train station, took care of the business I had to accomplish, and then started to walk back to the train station. This was a Sunday afternoon, and there did not seem to be any reason for what happened next. I still do not know why, but there were literally hundreds of people walking towards the station along the sidewalk. I had never seen such a mass of people all walking (more or less) in unison in this way! It was like a crowd of people leaving a sporting event or music concert, heading towards the nearest public transportation stop, or perhaps a parking lot! LOTS of people!

Right in front of the station, there was an overpass for pedestrians. I thought, "Everyone else seems to be taking the overpass... and since it's right near the station, it MUST lead up to the platform or the wicket or something. I mean, this many people can't be wrong, can they?" I also figured they all HAD to be going to the station... there really was not any other reason to be walking from where they were, towards the station, like that!

And I remembered a conversation I had with my friend Steve up in Hokkaido. He once said that sometimes the Japanese people all will walk in the same direction (not literally) but they are all being misled. There was something in that conversation about "going to hell in a handbasket" or the "highway to hell" or something... like, the blind following the blind, in a sense. Masses of people all doing the same thing, and others will just follow suit because "everyone else is doing it" and "that many people can't be wrong!"

Back to my story... so I join this huge number of people and wonder, "Just how crowded is this train going to be?" But also thinking, I must be walking in the right direction, towards the train station, towards the platform, because "this many people can't be wrong!"

Well guess what? They were wrong! That overpass did not lead to the station, but rather, past it! The people kept walking, down the slope to the other side of the train station, and beyond... and there were people walking in masses as far as the eye could see! (They turned a corner and were no longer visible... it wasn't like a Manitoba landscape where the horizon is the only thing stopping you from seeing the ocean.) So by following the masses, I actually made a wrong move, and had to then wade against the current to get back to the station.

But it got me thinking, "How easy it is to follow the crowd! And how comforting it is to know that 'everyone else is doing it'!" There are times I get overwhelmed by being a Christian in Japan. SO many people do not know Jesus, and even if they have heard the name, their reaction (in their hearts) tends to be, "Well, no one else believes, why should I?" In other words, "That many people (non-believers) can't be wrong!" But they are at times, and they will lead you to where you do not want to go!

And I also got to thinking, "Those people were not wrong at all. They knew where they were going, and were simply walking together. The person in the wrong was ME, for blindly following a crowd of people that I assumed had the same destination as I did." If I had known how to get to where I needed to be, there would have been no reason for me to follow the masses.

So I ask you, dear reader, do you know where you are headed? Do you know how to get there? Are you on the right path? Are you blindly following the masses? Do you believe that just because everyone else is doing something, it must be right?

Your comments and thoughts are always appreciated, folks!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

File it away... (Part 1)

Lately I have had a few really interesting "light bulb" moments... where something really cool dawns on me and I think, "Wow, what an insight!" But as is often the case when epiphanies hit, we need to reflect on it a little before we can actually "own" the thought or idea. And in the past month, when I have had two kind of cool ones, I have not bothered to dig deeper and really make the thoughts/ideas even more powerful or impacting. But here they are, I share them with you, my friends and family (and anonymous lookers-in).

1) At the start of the month, friends of mine were heading out on their honeymoon. We were talking about their destination, and what their plans were, but then the conversation turned to omiyage. Now, that word gets underlined in red on this computer because it is not English, but for anyone living in Japan, whether they speak the language or not, they know its meaning. Omiyage is like a "souvenir" or something you buy for people back home. Some is bought with joy, some with obligation. It is usually a local delicacy or snack that can be shared with many people. We bring them to our workplaces if we have taken any amount of time off work to go anywhere, for any reason... including business trips!

Anyways, I was thinking, they are already thinking about what they can buy in a land they have never been, to give to people they have not yet "left behind"! Being a guy who was not born into "omiyage culture," I would tend to not even think about buying people snacks at all, and if I did it would be last minute. It's my vacation, my time and my money! And so I was asking myself the question... how preoccupied do we get with obligations, that we do not even enjoy looking ahead to vacations?

And I was also thinking... do we really hope to have our eyes opened on these vacations? Do we want to have our thinking challenged? Do we want to have our worlds changed? Or do we just want a collection of pictures of us with different backgrounds that we can talk about when company comes over for the next six months?

And I was also thinking... do I really look ahead to my future "vacation" in heaven? Am I planning for it? Do I realize that there will be no coming back to this "home" that I live in now? I will not be buying omiyage for anyone, I will not be snapping pictures to show off, I will not be thinking about what stories to tell others when I "get back home"?

And unfortunately, I have not really reached any conclusions about any of these matters. Just a bunch of thoughts filed away in my mind, hoping to find the light of day sometime.

And unfortunately, my bed is calling me, and deep thoughts, part 2, will have to wait until tomorrow or another day when I have my computer opened and a chance to sit and write for a substantial amount of time.