Wise Strangers

So I was finishing my shopping at the Darwin CBD woolies and just as I stepped outside the skies opened and Darwin’s synonymous wet came thundering down. I was then relegated to wait it out, sitting inside on one of the benches on offer. After a few minutes of twiddling my thumb, I glanced around and see this fairly old but jolly Asian man next to me. At that moment for some reason or another I felt this compulsion to chat with him. Now normally I don’t do this, but considering this is Darwin after all, (everybody likes a yarn – old Asian men included) I decided against flinching and initiated a conversation.

5 minutes into our chat, I realized that thunderous rain was a blessing in disguise.

His name is Arif, but he is of Korean/Chinese decent. I didn’t ask his age, but I would guess 65. Our conversation started off mildly and then before you knew it he was sending out nuggets of wisdom. I carefully put each nugget into my pocket. He told me his life was full of hardships, and before he settled in Sydney for 30 years he was constantly moving around the world, basically where ever his job took him as an Architect. His Korean name is Jin, but he took on the name Arif because back in the day he was not allowed to work in Indonesia without an Arabic name. It’s stuck since.

Our conversation reminded me of the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” in the sense that just like the book our conversation was punctuated with philosophical insights. I can’t recall how each of the nuggets of wisdom came about, but I’ll enumerated them here simply –

  1. “If you don’t plant the seed, it will not grow” – His metaphor was to recognize that we must “do” in order to achieve but that doing must start somewhere.
  2. “People bury the seed rather than planting it” – I think this was an allegory to making sure that whatever we set out to do we must try to do it right the first time.
  3. “Growing old is compulsory, growing up is voluntary” – Know that you must always make a conscious decision to better yourself, otherwise it will not happen.
  4. “Look after your mind first” – He told me he tries never to sleep with a heavy mind because purposeful action stems from a state of mind first.
  5. “Bees are the ultimate project managers, yet they possess no PHDs or MBAs” – We can learn from nature by observing.
  6. “No matter how much you think you are yourself, you will always end up being like those around you, why not use this insight and surround yourself with the people you what to become” – Self-explanatory.
  7. “The word crisis in Chinese is literally the combination of two characters, “Danger” & “Opportunity”” – There is a lot to be learned about the evolution of Chinese characters.
  8. “Never be afraid to fail, the moment you do, you have lost” – The ability to fail and learn is what makes us stronger
  9. “Life is full of risks, only learn to take the ones that will allow you to take more” – Risk Management 101 right there.

I wish he gave me one more to make the list an even 10, but I shouldn’t complain. For many the above seems rather clichéd, and it does to a certain extent, what isn’t, is the serendipity of it all. Sometimes we need the conviction, sincerity and coincidence of another to validate what we know already to full effect. For that I would like to give thanks to Arif for such a wonderful chance meeting.

Of those nuggets he gave me, I immediately put 3 and 6 to good use. I had originally gone to buy a six pack for what I knew would be quite a debauched party later on in the night. After talking to Arif, I decided against going. I wasn’t even resisting, I simply understood.

Our conversation ended when the rain stopped, we thanked each other and headed our separate ways.

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About 1D

I've been fermenting in Canberra OZ for awhile now... Like all public servants I'm battling the cubicle nation... This blog will share my personal journey in which I am preparing to get out of cubicle jail... Time to be your own architect...
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