The more you know who you are and what you want, the less you let things upset you.
Bob Harris’ raspy voice echoed around the walls of the quiet hotel room. Charlotte turned her face to the ceiling and for a while, only the sound of their calm breath and the vague night light of Tokyo peeking through the curtains, as they drown themselves in the pool of thoughts.
Lost in Translation was released in 2003. Directed by my favorite director, Sofia Coppola, it received critical acclaim, nominated for four Oscars, easily a commercial success, and to this day is still celebrated as one of the best films of the 2000s as well as the all-time greatest (kind-of?) coming of age film. The scene above was my personal highlight. Maybe it is the platonic —almost feels like nurturing— sort of relationship Bob and Charlotte shared in the hotel room. Maybe it’s how they find solitude amongst the hysterical Tokyo at night, with its everlasting charm and non-stop flickering neon lights. Maybe it’s the cinematic aesthetic. But maybe, and this is my top-pick guess, maybe because I see myself and everyone around me in Bob and Charlotte. The fragile confidence they kept holding on for so long only to find out things are not as they thought it were. That at some point, they realized they had been holding a twisted translation of the world around them, of things that mattered, of life.This whole realization crashed into them when they stepped into a whole different circumstance and were forced to adapt in a new environment. Sounds familiar? It is for me at least.
Responding to Bob’s line, I started to wonder “is the reason why we easily upset about life is because we don’t actually know who we are and what we actually want?”.It reminds me of my anxiety, phases of extreme panic when things didn’t meet my standard, when life happened outside my expectations, or when I found myself in anunfamiliar situation I did not anticipate. Everything starts with a distorted view of how things should be which ultimately leads to the failure of living life as it is.
Spoiler: this is not a review of the film. I recommend you to go see it though, it is really good (unless you are not into slow-pace aesthetic indie-feels films and trust IMDB religiously, aaand cannot bear seeing Scarlett Johansson as anything other than the Avenger member ;p).
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The question, “what’s the purpose of your life?” used to freak me out badly. Because I have been living and breathing for 21 years and I still have zero idea where I am going, what I REEEEALLY want to do in the future, or WHY I exist at the first place. I know I am not the only one clueless when I tried to ask the same question to people around me. I figured the concept of “purpose” often intimidates us. It’s a big word, full of wishes, dreams, and fear. So, I tried a different approach. I changed my question to, “What do you desire the most in life? Tell me one thing that you think is the most essential to make life feels —at least— okay” as I believe we live our life trying to fulfill our desires, whatever it is. I think it counts as purpose? Anyways, not surprisingly, most of the answers were happiness. “I just want to be happy,” “I want a happy life”, “I want to live feeling content”, and many forms of happy. Listening to the answers, my mind screams only two words: ME TOO?!I mean, come on, nobody wants to live feeling sad, desperate, stuck, and miserable. Our next step is breaking down what happiness is built of. We’re not just..happy. There are tons of areas in our life, events, people, things that make us happy. From my amateur observation, at least these three things often mold our happiness: identity, love, and success.
In Communication Theory 101, my classmates and I learnt the most fundamental elementin the process of communicationis meaning-making. Besides determining the way we communicate and how we interpret things, it plays a significant role in shaping our self-awareness. In addition, itis controlled by two elements: our field of experience and frame of reference. The rainbow flag is not queer, we make it queer. The heart shape is not a heart. No heart is shaped like that in real life! We create the meaning so when we look at the shape, we interpret it as a heart. For a nonbeliever, a cross is just a cross. When I see a cross, I think about salvation and sacrifice, I think of Jesus. See?Our interpretation can be different from one and another. Admitting that our experience puts a heavy influence on our world view is important, and hopefully liberating. Now, how do we translate happiness?
“I Am especially fond of you” – Papa (The Shack, 2017)
I have tattooed those words in my mind. God is fond of me. Whatever I have or currently going through, circumstances that make me feel like I’m a failure and worthless, labels and stigmas that other people might put on me, when I feel like the universe never in my favors, and the never-ending why’s (Why me? Why now? Why it happens? Why?) God is never against me. It often becomes a life long journey to figure out our identity. It gets harder when society, with a help of media and pop culture, offers us many translations of who we are. We take personality tests, hoping to be able to explain ourselves and justify our actions. But hear me out, just like that parents-children relationship, as the beloved child of God, we inherit His identity. And we have the whole Bible to seek our answers.
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We are created in His own image, fearfully and wonderfully handcrafted by God. He blessed us with glory and honor. We are sinful, but in His almightiness, there is only ONE thing God unable to do: to stop loving us. We are perfect in His sight. We are secure in His grace. Most importantly, we represent Him. We are the ambassadorsof the heavens. And as the beloved children of God, when our vision of who we are gets blurry, we are not meant to search it in things around us. Instead, we fix our eyes in God and find peace in who our Father is.
I found these lines while scrolling through DesiringGod.com and thought I could share it with you:
“Christian selfhood is not defined in terms of who we are in and of ourselves. It’s defined in terms of what God does to us and the relationship he creates with us and the destiny he appoints for us. God made us who we are so we could make known who He is. Our identity is for the sake of making known His identity.”
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"But the heart's not like a box that gets filled up. It expands in size the more you love." – Samantha (Her, 2013)
I thought about having a conversation on love and relationship in general. But the more I think about it, it seems like we stress a lot about romance. Maybe the fact that family stays does not make us worry much about them. And it is the popular belief that friends come and go which makes us eventually get used to the ups and downs in friendship (make sure to read Nydia’s article Lost in Toxic Friendship). But romance? Ah. Never gets old.
Twenty One Pilots has a song called We Don’t Believe What’s On TV. I think they need to extend it to ..and Internet Especially Instagram Where Life Looks Shiny and Picture Perfect and Makes Us Drool Over Unrealistic Standard of Relationship. But our translation of love expands further than the infamous #relationshipgoals. It is the genuine belief that our significant other is in the relationship to complete us. A broken vessel like you and I, wishing to be completed by another human being, who in fact as broken as we are? Who are we kidding? It will be an endless loop of searching in the wrong place where we can find fulfillment in God’s overflowing love.
Not only that, we treat it as a transactional deal. “Okay I will validate your imperfections, what can you give me in return? Maybe a few romantic gestures? Extra efforts to make me happy?”. It does not work like that, friends. We think it is fair to demand our rights. We like to keep scores, thinking relationships should be mutually beneficial, not realizing that we are trapped in a prison that disables us to love freely. Free of judgement, false expectations, fear, and anxiety. Love is two independent souls choosing the gift of walking through a journey together, the ups and downs. Kris Gage said firmly, great love is supposed to be ‘boring’. It's not supposed to be exciting and 'loud' all the time. It is stable, consistent, quiet, calm, and steady. Itis built in the everyday by the repeating action of choosing the same person every single day. And when we receive the eternal love of Christ, giving it out to other people will come easy for we know we will never lack of it.
We think love is complicated. Lots of timesweask ourselves “does this count as love?” I myself find it very simple as God is extremely gracious to provide us with a manual book.I find the most ideal, assuring, definition of love in 1 Corinthians 4-8.
“Money’s only something you need in case you don’t die tomorrow” - Carl Fox (Wall Street, 1987)
Ooooh.. it cannot get any truer, can it? Now, I am not saying that money is not important. It got me an education, a roof above my head, and three meals a day which I am extremely grateful for. I am saying it doesnot have to dictate our self-worth. And it makes me uneasy how we tend to translate success as shallow as having loads of money in our bank account.
I like this story of Paul the Apostle’s letters to Corinthian churches. First of all, Corinthians. Are. Rich. Or as we now say it, they made it. They arethe kind of people who make us thinking I want to be like them. How old are they? I’m older and nowhere close as their fortune? Geez what am I doing with life. I’m a failure! I’ll never make it..Aaand we are going down in the spiral of self pity.
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On the other hand, Macedonian churches have the poorest people. But it is interesting how Paul compared both in 2 Corinthians 8. Paul did not think financial richness equals to success.Instead, he encouraged the Corinthians to learn from Macedonians’ act in taking care of each other. “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (2 Cor. 8:2). Not only that,Macedonianseven urgently pleaded to be involved in the ministry. In the book, Paul talked a lot about serve other people. And THAT’S WHAT MATTERS. It is never about how much money we have, where we are in the career ladder, it is never about the prestige, not the title. Even the otherwise, it is not about what we are lack in, or how long we have been jobless, not about the number in our bank account. It is always, always, about what we can do with what God has trusted in our hands.
Quoting Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, two former young businessmen with six figures salary who turned to minimalists when they realized they had twisted translation of happiness,
“Happiness, as far as we’re concerned, is achieved through living a meaningful life: a life filled with passion and freedom in which we grow as individuals and contribute beyond ourselves. Growth and contribution: those are the bedrocks of happiness. Not stuff. This may not sound sexy or “marketable,” but it’s the cold truth. Without growth, and without a deliberate effort to help others, we are simply slaves to cultural expectations ensnared by the trappings of money, power, status, and perceived success.”
TRANSLATING 101: Always. Only. Jesus.
So, let’s clean up our glasses. Make sure we get the right translation. Is it aligned with what God thinks of us and wants for us? Let’s be more careful in creating and giving meaning to what we have. You and I are in the right hands.
Our identity is in who He is.
We are already perfectly loved.No need to search it in other places or in other human beings. We love, because He first loved us.
Success is determined by what we can do for others, with anything God has given us.
Life is much bigger than ourselves and this life is not ours to own. He can take over everything with a single snap of a finger. Andwith God, it is not about paying back. We can never pay God back for His abundant blessings anyways. What we can do is to pay it forward, for we shall find the face of Christ in every people around us.
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