“The view of the sparkling clear water was breath taking. And it was that time of the day when all the promises of the day are upon you in the faint radiant glow of dawn. The beauty and grace of a place like this can never be truly described in words. Regardless of your beliefs, you can only feel His presence.”
BY FAISAL HOQUE | Jul 23, 2009
My Dear Little Angel,
A couple of months ago, while watching Star Wars together for the very first time, you asked me – “Baba, how do you know who is good and who is evil?”.
Since then, I have been pondering your simple question…
While gazing upon Camelback Mountain in Arizona, while traveling through the French countryside, while watching the sun rise over the Swiss Alps, while taking a walk along Lake Geneva, while observing a sea of people in NYC, Chicago, London, and Washington DC, and in between many ordinary daily routines.
The weekend before last, I ended up in the countryside of Japan. And there I thought about your question again…
After my conference in Yokohama, Ito-san was very kind to take me for a little detour at the footsteps of the Japan Alps. In between Mt. Yarigatalke, Mt. Hotaka, and Mt. Kasagatake, there is an old Ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn) called Yarimi-kan in the Shin Hotaka hot spa (Onsen) area in Gifu prefecture. Our journey began with an overnight trip to Yarimi-kan.
The next morning at 4am, I got up to bathe in the Onsen that flows into a roaring river snaking through the Japan Alps. The sound of the bubbling river was not more than 20 meters away…
The view of the sparkling clear water was breath taking. And it was that time of the day when all the promises of the day are upon you in the faint radiant glow of dawn. The beauty and grace of a place like this can never be truly described in words. Regardless of your beliefs, you can only feel His presence.
Sitting by myself inside that Onsen, looking at the mountains, listening to the sound of the water, feeling the early morning glow of the sun, I close my eyes. I close my eyes to take me far away from the daily grind of living. As I meditate for a few minutes, I imagine Buddha sitting in lotus position staring right at me….
I am reminded and reaffirmed that ‘Goodness’, my son, lies in life’s honest journey. That unique journey, if guided by uncompromising dignity, grace, and fairness, will flourish in everything around you–like this roaring river–regardless of it’s final destination. It will influence, inspire, motivate, and enrich every rock, every tree, every living being around it. Goodness, my angel, will come from the current of your soul…that current will not stop flowing when big boulders fall in its way.
And you, too, my little one (as I prayed sitting in the Shin Hotaka Onsen, basking in the unexplainable Zen moment) will one day find your honest journey…a journey that’s yours and yours only…
That morning after breakfast Ito-san and I left the Ryokan and ascended two thirds the way up Mt. West Hotaka by gondola. A man’s perspective certainly gets challenged looking upon a range of mountains like the Japan Alps.
For lunch we ended up in the old city of Takayama. Takayama has retained a traditional touch like few other Japanese cities, especially in its beautifully preserved old town, dating from the Edo Period (1600-1868).
We then drove to Hakuba village, at the foot of the Hukuba/Goryu mountains. We spent the night at Ito-san’s classmate Sato-san and his lovely wife Mieko-san’s 140-year-old farmhouse, nestled in the valley of Mt. Shiroumadake. Sato-san and Mieko-san are enjoying their retirement in this rustic tranquility.
Located in the north-west region of Nagano prefecture, Hakuba became better known internationally after hosting some of the events of the 1998 Winter Olympics. Hakuba, literally meaning ‘white horse’, derived its name from Mt. Shiroumadake, the main peak of the Hakuba Range with a height of 2,932 meters. When the snow begins to melt in Spring, the outline of Mt. Shiroumadake resembles a white horse.
That evening, as we sit outside eating our dutch-oven chicken cooked in the open fire, the sheer beauty of Mt. Shiroumadake awes me. I see the ‘white horse’ peeking through the clouds and fog. In between sake and red wine, we jamm with Dylan and Miles…
Goodness, my son can be found in total strangers who take you in as long lost family…they host you like they have known you all your lives…despite cultural differences, age gaps, and life experiences…they treat you like long lost best friends. Within a couple of hours you discover the vast commonalities, similar belief systems, love for food, music, and travel. It is through experiences like this, my little angel, that you will cherish all the Goodness in life!
My night at Hakuba was extraordinarily memorable and can only be described as Goodness, joyful, and the reassurance of mankind’s grace to each other. Dōmo arigatō Ito-san, Sato-san, and Meiko-san, Indeed a rare treat!
As we head back to Tokyo the next day, we drive through Azumino. Azumino is situated in the mid and upstream areas of the Azusa-gawa River to the south of Hakuba. The Daio Wasabi Farm, the largest farm in Azumino, takes full advantage of this natural gift and produces high quality Japanese horseradishes, which grow only in clean, pure water.
Places and farms like these remind me of my grandmother in her Bangladeshi village. These are nature’s Goodness to mankind, my little angel, which so often we take for granted…
Not too long ago, my dear, I finished reading Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, a book I picked up at NY LaGuardia airport during one of my many trips. The underlying theme of the book deals with the very issues of the meaning of life and good vs. evil. The author at one point writes:
“The truth is that there are no good men, or bad men,’ he said. ‘It is the deeds that have goodness or badness in them. There are good deeds, and bad deeds. Men are just men –it is what they do, or refuse to do, that links them to good and evil. The truth is that an instant of real love, in the heart of anyone — the noblest man alive or the most wicked — has the whole purpose and process and meaning of life within the lotus-folds of its passion.”
I don’t know, my sweet, if any of these will help you to understand and detect the difference between good and evil in others…but as I take yet another flight to yet another city, I had to save these (random) thoughts for you…
Someday I hope you will understand the essence of what I mean by all this…
Until then, get your ‘light saber’ ready, train with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and ready yourself to be a Jedi — if not a Samurai.
Never give up…or give in…when it comes to good vs. evil. And when the time comes to have to recognize it in others and to make those choices in your own words and deeds, my sweet, you will know the difference — I pray.
Good night my angel. May the force be with you!
“For this is what we do. Put one foot forward and then the other. Lift our eyes to the snarl and smile of the world once more. Think. Act. Feel. Add our little consequence to the tides of good and evil that flood and drain the world. Drag our shadowed crosses into the hope of another night. Push our brave hearts into the promise of a new day. With love: the passionate search for a truth other than our own. With longing: the pure, ineffable yearning to be saved. For so long as fate keeps waiting, we live on. God forgive us. We live on.”
– Gregory David Roberts