Noble Think behind the Nobel Minds

The 2015 Nobel Laureate of literature Svetlana Alexievich captured my heart with her “Voices of Chernobyl”, I was drawn to BBC’s “Nobel Mind’ Roundtable because I wanted to hear what she had to say.Yet I was enlightened by the way of thinking honestly shared by other Nobel Laureates in economics or the various sciences on issues of life and the world.

There was a common thread in their research: it is curiosity or the passion to understand science, things or how the world works and to resolve paradox. Some mentioned the interest in scientific challenge. None set out to win the prize or even help anyone out of compassion. Three of them gave up their original career as doctor after a year or two. The economist Angus Deaton’s statement on the real reward that was most memorable, “it is the Aha moment when only God and I understand the process” . For Svetlana Alexievich, it is to understand human nature or history of the human soul.

When the issue of inequality was discussed, the Turkish Nobel Laureate in Chemistry. Aziz Sancar, was very direct in pointing out it was the free education in Turkey that made his career possible. He came from a family of eight children with illiterate parents. He could not understand why universal healthcare or even Obama Care would be such a big problem in his adopted country of US when everyone in Turkey has been taking it for granted for decades.

“Talk of benevolence and righteousness and the path of right and wrong are all entangled. How can I discern them? ” Chuang Tzu.

The economist Angus Deaton discounted foreign aid to developing countries, he thought the money should go to people like the Nobel Laureates in medicine to conduct research and find solutions to River Blindness or Malaria helping millions of people in the underdeveloped world. The outspoken Turkish Laureate turned to William Campbell the expert on tropical parasites and called him the hero he most envies.

William Campbell  is not only a scientist but also poet and painter on worms.

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The BBC moderator commented on the paradox of his love for worms and the success of his research in killing them. He advocated for the worm as simply “doing what they do” and not the villain out to make people blind. The program ended with his crying out loud in the worm’s shoe, “I don’t need your god damn eye, I just need a piece of skin big enough to drop a few larvae so there is a pickup and delivery.”

“All life is but simply what is and all appear to be doing what they rightfully should.”Chuang Tzu.

When asked about how Nobel Prize would change her life, Svetlana Alexievich said it would not even though the responsibility may seem greater. Imprinted in my mind are her simple lines of “you just do what you do, you do it as well as you can” and “freedom matures in ourselves” (referring to false expectation of freedom in Russia when asked about Ukraine her motherland).

The noble mind is simple and true to one’s nature or passion and not determined altruism to save the world.Good outcome are just window dressings.

Purpose as a Living Charm

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” Picasso.

clowns and children patients Clown Heart and elderly woman

Pretty clowns in Taiwan
A young Taiwanese girl traveled to Italy where she attended by chance a Clown Heart training workshop and joined their tours of hospitals, psychiatric institutions and orphanages. She brought it back to Taiwan and founded  Clown Heart Studio with three others in their twenties to bring happiness for good causes such as visiting patients.Social work can be fun!

Kohama-Island

Closest to heaven pop queens from paradise

Japan’s grandma pop band is made up of  singers and dancers with an average age of 84 from the remote, coral-fringed island in Okinawa  with a population of just 600 and lies a mere 240 km off Taiwan. Okinawan islanders have one of the highest life expectancies in the world, their diet contains more vegetables and purple-fleshed local sweet potato. Their lyrics are about the island and nature such as whales in the sea spouting or dolphins doing somersaults.

In the news clips, I was drawn by the girlish giggles sounding like silver bells from the shortest granny (wearing gray striped kimono in the middle) who had lost her husband and son.

Despite their girl power, backstage walking frames block entrances, blood pressure monitors and defibrillators are close at hand. Hunched over a walking stick, one granny tosses her cane aside like a true rock star when she’s on stage, dancing with joy on traditional Okinawan string music given a Tokyo-style pop makeover.

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 Record breaking Japanese Centenarian swimmer

She started to learn swimming at the age of eighty because of knee problem and has been swimming two hours at a time and four times a week. After the swim she would sleep for five hours.She breaks the record with a 1500 meter swim in one hour and sixteen minutes.

“Now I’ve got my life, this is of great use to me” Chuang Tzu. Eco-parable of Useless Tree

I strove very hard most of my life fulfilling obligations to expectations of parents or society,caring for families or doing good for different aspired causes with less than desirable outcome. Now that I have got my life to solely pursue my passion of reading and writing for personal development, it has been of great use to me in terms of learning, fulfillment and purpose despite of unbearable personal loss or missing the marks of success or the good life by conventional standards.

Though I have not achieved much success or of much use to others in giving away the bilingual reading and writing gifts that I thought I found, I still feel my life has meaning and purpose in sharing the teachings of Chuang Tzu on conflicts and loss regardless if it has helped anyone else.

 

What is Success?

A Swiss professor teaching religion in US but had spent a couple decades in Japan gave a talk yesterday and contrasted Japanese temples on the verge of extinction and the thriving Buddhist Mountains in Taiwan. Another American professor of Buddhism posed the question if economic flourish or visibility is the criteria for success?

After the talk I went up and asked the Swiss professor about Thich Nhat Hahn’s version of Chinese Buddhism drawing huge crowds of followers worldwide despite his modest financial support from his book sales while Taiwanese Buddhism has limited share of voice in the West compared to Tibetan, Japanese Zen or Theravadan Buddhism despite building opulent temples and massive investments in charity events around the world.See temple in South Africa.Taiwanese Temple in South Africa

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By Japanese or Chinese standard, Thich Nhat Hahn would be considered Chinese Buddhism rather than Zen. If we ask an average Westerner on the street, most would think Zen is Japanese rather than Chinese.And then many Taiwanese Buddhist groups condemn Theravadan or Small Vehicle Buddhism (that is closer to the Buddha’s original teachings than Chinese Buddhism that is a combination of Indian Buddhism, Confucian or Chinese adaptations and folkloric deities) for not doing good but focused on self cultivation. (It reminds me of Protestant, Catholic, Islam and Judaism are all of Abrahamic root.)

Reported by Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal and various international media, Kazuo Inamori, the Zen Buddhist Priest Billionnaire who turned around Japan Airline Paging Buddha said, “No need to be isolated from the world to find enlightenment, you should find in your own work…….the financial aspects of work are very few when compared to the actual capacity that it has to increase the value of your soul.”

Hideko Yamasita  blended concepts Buddhism and Yoga in  her whirlwind bestsellers of Danshari (minimal living for fulfilled life) in Japan and Asia. What is success? Gaudy temples or impressive charity functions around the world or actual incorporation of Buddhism in business and  daily living charm?

Yamasita’s books has not been translated in English yet Marie Kondo’s books on life changing magic of tidying up (a much watered down version of Danshari) is a whirlwind in the West.

Who is a bigger success ?