My Problem With America

I have been doubting my worth a lot lately. It could be a prolem with my own self-esteem. Or, as I’ve began to think, a nasty bi-product of my surroundings. There is this ancient Japanese expression which goes: “an apprentice near a temple will recite the scriptures without tuition.” Which, as I’m sure you gathered, basically means, we are greatly affected by our environments.

America is so darn materialistic to me.

This attitude, this strong emphasis on “success”, achieved solely through 1. an esteemed tertiary education, 2. the “right” career, and 3. moneymoneymoney is so upsetting. It makes me miss Japan greatly. For even though the Japanese are perhaps the number one work-oriented society, when it comes to “success” there is room for everybody.

I once watched this great documentary called “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” on one of the world’s greatest sushi chefs. This is what Jiro says in the movie:

“Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably.”

As far as I’m aware, Jiro didn’t study at Harvard. Nor was he a lawyer or an accountant – not that there’s anything wrong with studying at Harvard, or being a lawyer or an accountant. Just that Jiro reached his success through different routes than the restricted three mentioned.

Because of this idea, ALL jobs in Japan, from government officials to persons whose only role is to shred unwanted paper are respected. All work is given great value and all work is praised. Where you studied in order to land your current position, what connotations your job title possesses in this day and age, and how much moolah you make, are not the only measurements of your success.

Which is why I’m suggesting we re-think these conservative pathways I keep encountering in the West. Instead of a renowned University name or a “prestigious” (according to whom?) job title and the amount of cash in ones bank, what about pondering how our careers and/or actions affect others, in what spirit do we conduct ourselves and for what purpose? What are our true intentions?

Which is better? A Harvard graduate with the sole motive of shallow wealth and hungry power? Or a “poor” painter, potter, cleaner, or waitress (the list goes on…) working in the spirit of service? In the spirit of love. In the spirit of creativity. In the spirit of justice.

‘Abdu’l-Baha, beautifully describes this concept when he says: “[A]ll effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity.”

So. I am successful because I love my work. Because it often positively affects others. And because I put my entire heart and soul in it. And that’s it. That’s all it should ever be. Because that’s all that has ever mattered.


How Rich Is Too Rich?

In addition to epic views, mouth-watering food and sweet romance, the coast is well-known for $$$

Each to their own, but I personally couldn’t be happy having anything to do with such wealth. For example, the cruise ships. Wether it be owning one, riding one or working for one, to me it seems immoral. I know, I know, I’m making big calls. The way I see it, in a world where literally multitudes are going without, how can one enjoy such excessive (and that’s the key word here) fortune? Even if every penny is earned cash. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying I am perfect nor anywhere remotely close it, I just think, it’d be nice if everyone had just enough and that’s all. Processed with VSCO with c3 preset
Processed with VSCO with c3 preset
Manifest plainness,
Embrace simplicity,
Reduce selfishness,
Have few desires.
(Lao Tzu)Processed with VSCO with c3 preset
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That same night, I wrote my first short story. It took me thirty minutes. It was a dark little tale about a man who found a magic cup and learned that if he wept into the cup, his tears turned into pearls. But even though he had always been poor, he was a happy man and rarely shed a tear. So he found ways to make himself sad so that his tears could make him rich. As the pearls piled up, so did his greed grow. The story ended with the man sitting on a mountain of pearls, knife in hand, weeping helplessly into the cup with his beloved wife’s slain body in his arms. (Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner)
Processed with VSCO with c3 preset(Room rates for 5 star Hotel Negresco in Nice.)

If the world were a village of 100 people

I’m probably going to get in trouble for this. I’m breaching copy-right laws but I read this wee book on my self-given coffee break this morning (because I just can’t work as hard as my Japanese counterparts) and it affected me big time. The fact that it was written 14 years ago but still applies most specifically today, for me, holds significance. I hope you too, can enjoy it’s eye-opening message.


If a the world were a village of 100 people 
by Douglas Lummis 

My daughter’s junior high school teacher is
a wonderful woman who sends out an e-mail
every day to her students,
in the form of a class paper.
Among those messages there was one
that so moved me that I want to send it to you.
Sorry if it’s a bit long.

When you woke this morning,
did you look forward joyously to the day?
When you go to bed tonight,
do you think you will be filled
with satisfaction?
Do you think the place you are
is precious?

It is to you who cannot say
“Yes, of course”
that I send this message.
If you read this,
the things around you might start to
look a little different.

In the world today, 6 billion 300 million people live.
If this were shrunk to the size of a village,
what would it look like?
If 100 people lived in this village,

52 would be women,
48 would be men.

30 would be children,
70 would be adults,
among those,
7 would be aged.

90 would be heterosexual,
10 would be gay or lesbian.

70 would be non-white,
30 would be white.

61 would be Asians,
13 Africans,
13 from North and South America,
12 Europeans,
and the remaining one
from the South Pacific.

33 would be Christians,
19 believers in Islam,
13 would be Hindus, and
6 would follow Buddhist teaching.
5 would believe that
there are spirits in the trees and rocks
and in all of nature.
24 would believe in other religions,
or would believe in no religion.

17 would speak Chinese,
9 English,
8 Hindi and Urdu,
6 Spanish,
6 Russian, and
4 would speak Arabic.
That would account for half the village.
The other half would speak Bengal, Portuguse,
Indonesian, Japanese, German, French
or some other languages.

In such a village, with so many sorts of folks,
it would be very important to
learn to understand people different from yourself,
and to accept others as they are.

But consider this of the 100 people in this village, 

20 are undernourished,
1 is dying of starvation, while
15 are overweight.

Of the wealth of this village,
6 people own 59%
-all of them from the United States-
74 people own 39%, and
20 people share the remaining 2%.

Of the energy of this village,
20 people consume 80%, and
80 people share the remaining 20%.

75 people have some supply of food and a place to
shelter them from the wind and the rain, but
25 do not. 17 have no clean, safe water to drink.

If you have money in the bank,
money in your wallet and 
spare change somewhere 
around the house, 
you are among the richest 8. 

If you have  a car,
you are among the richest 7. 

Among the villagers
1 has a college education.
2 have computers.
14 cannot read.

If you can speak and act
according to your faith and your conscience
without harassment, imprisonment,
torture or death, 
then you are more fortunate than
48, who can not. 

If you do not live in fear of death
by bombardment, armed attack,
or of rape or kidnapping by
armed groups,
then you are more fortunate than
20, who do.

In one year,
1 person in the village will die,
but, in the same year,
2 babies will be born,
so that at the year’s end,
the number of villagers
will be 101.

If you can read this e-mail,
that means you are thrice-blessed.
First, because someone thought of you,
and sent you this message.
Second, because you are able to read.

Third, and most important,
because you are alive.

Someone once said:
what you send out
comes back again.

So sing
from the bottom of your heart,
with your body waving free,
and live,
putting your soul into it.
And when you love,
love as though you have never been wounded,
even if you have.

And love the fact that
you, and
others, live
here, in this

if enough of us learn to love our village
it may yet be possible to save it from the
violence that is
tearing it