If beauty makes you sad, what makes you happy?

A Japanese coworker once told me that he wasn’t happy.  He didn’t want more money or a better position.  He just couldn’t put his finger on what it was.

“You need a vacation,” I told him.  It was an objective fact–I’d never actually witnessed the man leave the office.

Knowing that he liked camping, I added, “Why don’t you go camping and think about the meaning of life or something?”

“No, then I would get depressed,” he said.

That broke my heart.  I’d always thought of spending time relaxing in nature as an uplifting and spiritual pursuit.

Then I remembered a T.V. show I’d caught a snippet of once in a Japanese dentist’s office.  On this show, a group visited different tourist attractions and restaurants in Japan, and gave a witty running commentary.  One joke, in particular, made an impression on me.

After a particular experience that everyone was raving about, one man quipped mournfully, “But this will fade into oblivion too someday!”  I felt it was a particularly revealing joke, as the sincere emotion that he was making fun of was that Japanese wistfulness at the transience of things.

And I wondered if sometimes Japanese people look at beautiful things and feel sad.

Fast-forward to today, when I visited a particularly beautiful garden.  It was one of those gardens that somehow feels like a map of the heart.  It felt like a place I’d longed for–remembered or dreamed about long ago–and I couldn’t believe it was real.  It occurred to me that maybe such a place is a spiritual symbol for Heaven.

Then my mind wandered back to that coworker, and I wondered if it would do him good to spend some time in such a garden.

Or would it make him sad?


4 comments on “If beauty makes you sad, what makes you happy?

  1. We always feel like nature instantly de-stresses us and clears our minds. It’s so sad your former co-worker doesnt feel that way!

    XX, Britta & Carli from http://twinspiration.co/


  2. I have a memory of a place like that particularly beautiful garden you describe. I was a little girl, walking home from school, and found myself looking up into trees flowering with cherry blossoms. The feeling I got was such indescribable joy, like the True Meaning of Easter, or the True Meaning of Christmas. Sometimes during the consecration at Mass (especially on a feast day particularly meaningful to me) I still get that feeling. I remember knowing as a child that God had granted me a foretaste of Heaven, but questioned, as an adult going through hard times, if my Spring Day memory was just a dream. I believe God allows us these special moments to remember so we will not succumb to despair when times get particularly dark. Even the tiniest foretaste of Heaven is something like a promise from God that lasts a lifetime.


  3. […] same thing as the rather casual and blithe assertions we hear today.  Other cultures-such as the Japanese-find sorrow upon reflecting on the transience of the world.  Clearly, an awareness of transience […]


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