As I arrived early at naked Hub Beijing Lu to set up food for tonight’s kick out event, thirty minutes later a book was handed to me by Andy. “Do you read Chinese?” he asked. As I answered “yes”, I looked down to the readings he showed me—pages and pages of ancient Chinese poems written in traditional Chinese characters. “I need someone to read the Chinese version of the poem with me later during the talk. ” I do read Chinese, but the fact is, with more than 7000 characters listed in the modern Chinese dictionaries, most literate people only read 3000-4000 characters, not mentioning the traditional Chinese characters that mainland Chinese don’t usually use. I accepted the challenge.
Peaceful flute melody soon slowly flowed out from the stage. Plant-based snacks were put out on the counter. More new and familiar faces started to gather here at naked Hub. June.5, World Environment Day, and here we were, all together celebrating it, also pre-celebrating for our yet-to-come future when we do figure out the answer to ‘city or countryside?’
“How many of you miss the time being in nature?” Andy threw out the question. I saw many hands rising up. Of course, at the moment we were all here in the city, and that’s where the nostalgia came from. But why do we always end up choosing the city even though we feel the mountains calling? What kind of trap has the city set up for us? What is meaning of being a city dweller? How can we find the solution to a balancing life?
I tried to find the answer in the book as I read it, but every time the answer-seeking journey turned out to be a meditation. While here having Andy sharing some passages from the book with the audience, it seems like he brought us all to a Japanese tatami room. Soon we learnt the story about the flute recording being played at the beginning of the event. Twenty years, seven songs, one Chinese flute. Kogan Marata is the flute artist who has been practicing the same seven songs over and over again in the past two decades, seeking for the perfect tone.
Gentle. Small. Simple. Slow. Humble. These are the five words Andy shared with us. They reveal the essence of the lessons that Andy learnt living the simple rich life in Japan. “When we have time, doing anything is enjoyable”. “Sometimes just touching the earth is enough”. “What I am available to eat, that’s my dinner.” He read out some quotes in the book from time to time.
The messages behind are indeed the answers we are always looking for. When we produce in a small and local scale, we naturally consume less. In addition, we create more time for ourselves to contemplate, to create more purposeful things to do, to have more meaningful conversations, and to build more life-long relationships.
With many Green Initiatives long-term supporters joining the event, the two-hour talk was causal, delightful, and filled with interesting questions from the audience. One audience was a mom of two kids. She longed for a life in the countryside, whereas had doubt for the future of her kids. Nevertheless, the doubt that many parents shared, in Andy and Cynthia’s mind, has an optimistic future. It simply means more time kids can spend with their parents, building up survival skills, such as farming, that the future world would require, learning about biosphere and the moon cycle… Understanding some of the challenges kids might face, they said, a richer life is waiting and kids will be equally amazing people not going to compulsory schools.
“Guts. Have guts.” Andy said.