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The photo on top is my spouse Muriel on the left and my sister Taeko on the right taken in South Africa. Picture on the right is me, Tad Mitsui and my cat, George.
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ART OF GROWING OLD
In Asian culture, old people are honoured and respected. So when I was ordained to be a minister, I tried to look older. The tenet still dictates my consciousness. I don’t want to be young again with all that struggle with self-confidence and frustration. Nevertheless, getting old is never easy.
The ultimate insult for a Japanese man’s ego is having to ask for a fork at a Japanese restaurant. The muscles of my hands atrophied and can not handle chopsticks any more. I drop things. Body parts are replaced by artificial ones one by one. At the bottom of the staircase, I don’t remember why I came to the basement. “Aging isn’t for a SISSY.” said late Stuart McLean. The most difficult is to be honest with one’s conditions without self-pity and whingeing. Someone who is trying to help you is not insulting you. You must recognize reality with dignity and accept help gracefully.
Once, at a board meeting of a not-for-profit organization, the discussion focussed on the status of one person’s membership on the board, who had become a liability. He seemed to have joined the organization only for power and social standing. The question was: “Why should he stay with us when nobody can work with him?” No one could think of a good reason to keep him. But one person pointed out, “But he’s got money.” The board kept him on.
When libido recedes and stomach shrinks, you find yourself more desperate to hang on to the only thing left, pride. Some men become more greedy: yes, mostly men. There is no more pathetic person than a shrivelling old man obsessed with wealth and power. I notice that the rich and powerful die about the same age as average people. What they crave don’t seem to add even a year to their lifespan. Death lets us know that pleasure, money and power are only for what Japanese call “ukiyo” – the fleeting world. You can not take them with you once you leave this world. Then I have to ask myself, “What for?”
It’s good that I do not make unwise decisions as often as before. It seems accumulated pieces of knowledge have been sifted through a mesh. Trivial and unimportant junk seems to have been deleted with a click. It’s time to sit and wait for the spirit to catch up with me.
HAZARD OF SIMPLE ANALYSIS
When the bloody civil war broke out in Syria, I, like many Canadians, was against the brutal regime and cheered those brave Syrian rebels. Then we received a strong message from the Syrian Orthodox Church, a member of the World Council of Churches. They wanted us to tone down the rhetoric in support of the rebels. I realized then how hazardous it was to make a hasty judgement about the situation you really have no in-depth knowledge of.
I learned since that majority of Syrians are Sunni Muslims. There are many minority groups like Kurds, Orthodox Christians, and Shia Muslims, etc. The current regime is a coalition of those minority ethnic and religious groups the father of the current dictator brought together to keep him in power. Meanwhile, among the rebels were ISIS, Jihadist Sunni. Even though it became clear that ISIS terrorists were a party in the rebel groups, the “West” was quick to reach a conclusion and threw their support to the rebels. The Syrian government called the conflict “fight against terrorism” because of the ISIS among the rebels. It resulted in consolidating Bashar al Assad’s hold on power with stronger Iranian and Russian presence. Many innocent people were caught in the middle and became refugees.
Hong Kong is a quagmire. The Western media try to tell us that it is a struggle between democracy and the Communist government, and men in black fighting demonstrators are agents of Beijing government. I don’t think it is that simple. Hong Kong was a British colony and has never been a democracy. I visited Hong Kong often during the late 1970’s while working for the World University Service at the International Office in Geneva Switzerland. My regular itinerary included two universities; the University of Hong Kong on the island and the Chinese University in Kowloon. The former was an English University with “Tea at the Senior Common Room.” Meanwhile the Chinese University was very much Chinese. I often needed an interpreter. Students were keen to learn Mandarin Chinese. They were preparing themselves for the return to the Chinese rule. Tension between two universities was high.
I firmly believe democracy is the best system existing today. But also I believe that it is foolhardy to assume that everybody agrees with me. Action based on simplistic analysis is dangerous in a complex situation.
I am worried about the situation in Hong Kong.