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?