One of the harder challenges I’m facing is this business of not caring what other people think of me. It’s been a long bitter struggle, lasting for as long as I can remember, and of course it will never end – but I can work on not letting it affect me to such an extent. Getting back to my roots; oh to be a baby again!
One of the most useful realisations I’ve had this year in this area is that people don’t actually care. Curse our egos, always assuming that people are thinking about us! (My ego does indeed have a lot to answer for – isn’t it the one that demands that I be separate from my nose-picking source-mates?). But seriously, I do have this assumption that people are easily affected by my actions when forming an image of the kind of person that I am. This in term results in them wanting or not wanting to be around me, right?
Not so, or at least not to the extent that my ego would like to believe is the case. How can I say this with any degree of certainty? Well, I look at me and my own friends, think about their past actions, examine what judgments I have made following those actions, and finally the feelings I have towards them as people.
The fact is, is that I don’t really care what they do. If they are genuinely decent, honest, kind people then no matter what they do, I will still love them.
This is a great comfort, and gives me an enormous sense of freedom, one that I have never felt so keenly until now. The only proviso is that I remain true to myself, honest with and loving towards all those around me. The details of my life don’t really matter at the end of the day.
And if I were to judge my friends negatively due to their daily activities, what kind of friend would I be?
I picked up my passport today, after it’s month-long journey spent circulating various embassies. It’s now full of full-page visas, just waiting to be stamped.
Took me a while to find the Mongolian Embassy, despite the fact that I was there just a week ago. It’s situated in the basement of a pretty normal apartment block – this matches its presence on the web, which takes the form of a message saying “This user has exceeded their bandwidth”.
Mind you, the area it lies in is not your average downtown suberb. It’s Shibuya – home to the rich and famous. During my search for the embassy, I lost my way and ended up down a rather high-class cul-de-sac. The houses round there are extraordinary, as if some mad architect on speed has been let loose with a hyperactive etch-a-sketch – the resulting pictures springing up in glorious psychedelic 3D reality, complete with castle-style walls and CCTV systems that Jeremy Beadle would die for.
They EVEN had their own private mini-police box. Poor police man, standing there in his phone-box size cubicle all day long, with nothing to do but count the number of atoms in a breath of humid air. He was so happy to help me out with his amazing map of the area – I think I made his day.
After the embassy trip, it was off to meet my friend Stu for a coffee: last weekend he attended a two-day NLP seminar run by one of the most respected teachers in the field, and I was keen to hear about his impressions. I’ve been interested in NLP for a little while now, having unknowingly been learning some of the more basic tecniques over the past few months through my reading, and finding them to be very effective (things such as taking positive action against negative habitual thinking, overcoming fear through associating intense positive feelings with desired outcomes, telling myself IT DOESN’T MATTER, as ultimately, not much really does).
We also chatted a bit about The Secret, a book which teaches The Law of Attraction, a book that I’ve mentioned before on TDM. At its peak last year, it was selling about 400,000 copies a week; pretty staggering stuff for a book that basically teaches the same thing as a thousand books before it. The DVD would have appeared to have done pretty well too, despite winning The Most Corny Beginning to a Video Ever Award 2007.
Anyhow, a few days back I was listening to a conversation between a couple of best-selling authors, who between them have written well over 30 self-development books. It was interesting hearing their thoughts on The Secret, which pretty much matched my own feelings after I’d listened to the 5 hour audio version.
Of course, one’s first reaction is to dismiss it due to its commercial clothing, and reject it due its Hollywood makeup. But, the fact is, it has achieved an amazing thing. It has taught millions of people something which should really be common sense, something that should be taught in schools (along with basic finance and such practical things). It has changed a lot of lives, helped a huge number of people better their lives – that is no small thing. If it makes money in the process for the author, well, so what? (although I think 3000 yen is a bit steep!)
There are two criticisms: The first is that it focuses upon material possessions. You know, Mercedes Benz in the driveway, a multi-million dollar home etc. There’s no reference to more worthy causes, such as using the technique to help others, or helping to bring about wider changes in society. Of course, one can see why they chose to focus upon material gain: no-one would buy it otherwise. What’s more appealing: a new BMW in the driveway or the end of conflict in some far-flung country that you’ve never heard of? Unfortunately, a great many people it would seem opt for the BMW.
The second is that it’s a bit simplistic. “Just imagine that BMW, and Hey Presto! It’ll appear in your driveway”. As the critics pointed out, one of the people who feature in the film, Jack wotsisname, author of the Chicken Soup series, speaks of how he went from rags to riches in a very short space of time. The producers of The Secret chose to focus upon his use of the law of attraction, but failed to mention the fact that even when Jack was absolutely broke, he was one of the most generous, kind and thoughtful people you could hope to meet. And as we all know, life is one big boomerang.
Despite these faults, one can’t deny that it’s a great book for its intended audience of beginners in this field of self-development (which of course includes me. As a beginner I am especially appreciative of all the feedback I’ve been getting from readers. Thank you).
Just carrying on in that vein for a second, it’s amazing how much I’ve experienced the red car syndrome lately. People who I’ve never really thought of as having particularly enlightened beliefs in this area (not because I’ve thought them to be lacking in anything, but purely because I have never given this sort of thing much thought) are revealing their amazing inner beauty, and generously imparting this precious knowledge. It’s a real joy, and serves to nurture my own core beliefs that until now have lain dormant below the surface.
Oh, I heard a good definition of Success and Happiness today. Which one do you think is more important?
– Success is Getting what you want
– Happiness is Wanting what you get
Accept Everything I was advised a couple of days back. You know what? It makes for a far easier life if you do! Just go with the flow… (that doesn’t mean handing over all control to some other force – do that and you’ll wonder why life is not going the way you would like it to!).
Sometimes I’m so shocked by people’s behaviour in Japan. Things like mopping the floor of the train and then sucking the ‘mop’ dry are just surprising, but other things can really hurt. On the Yamanote line train a couple of minutes ago, an old man who’d been a bit wobbly on his feet when he got on, fell out of his seat and onto the floor. I didn’t see this when it happened as he was a little way down the carriage, and I was looking the other way; when I did notice I assumed that the people all around him (literally all around him) were about to help – by the time I got there all would be OK, right?
Wrong. EVERYONE around the old man ignored him; in fact the woman whose feet he’d fallen at just backed off and looked the other way, leaving him to struggle up by himself, with nothing to hold onto. Once back in his seat, he bowed his head and apologised to all around him. In response, they looked the other way.
Lesson: if you’re going to feint or have a heart attack or come over all dizzy in public, make sure you’re not in Japan.
I’ve written about this kind of thing before, but today was the most blatant example yet of the insular nature of Japanese society. Some say it’s a survival technique for city dwellers: with so little personal space they are forced to cast a curtain around themselves, to ignore people outside of their group, even if those people clearly need help, in order to deal with the daily assault upon the senses. Personally, I think it’s a very sad thing; I also feel very bad that I didn’t make my way down the carriage to help the chap, although I am comforted by the fact that this was not due to a lack of compassion, but rather due to my head miscalculating his need for my help and the (lack of) cooperativeness of others. Lesson learnt. Never again assume that someone in trouble in Japan will be helped by someone else.
I thought afterwards that if I had gone over to help, having helped him out. I would have scolded those around him for not caring – but thinking over this again, I don’t believe that would have been a good thing, as my words would have been spoken out of anger, and simply dismissed. Anyway, what right have I to tell other people how to live their lives? I can’t change the world. Perhaps if I’d not felt angry, I would have been able to prompt at least a couple of people into thinking about their seeming lack of compassion. Perhaps by saying something along the lines of “I know you don’t want to get involved in other people’s business, but it had been your elderly father who had fallen from his seat, would you wish that everyone around him would not try to help?”
It’s true, you really do have to be careful what you think about, as I discovered on the train home tonight from Hanno. The chap who sat opposite me for about 15 minutes as doing exactly what was mentioned in Tito’s comment on this Mumble, for the duration of his ride. The worst bit was the way he subtly opened his mouth now and then and pretended to yawn…
Mind you, something far more memorable happened on the journey to Hanno this morning. I wrote the following moments after the character I describe got off the train.
I’m on a train on the Seibu Ikebukuro line, heading out into the countryside to see my friend David, who I’ve not seen for some time. It’s been quite an interesting journey, thanks to the salary man sitting next to me. I didn’t pay him any attention until he got his thermos flask out, and started to pour his tea. He held his cup as close to the ground as possible, and his flask as high as possible, as if he was some kind of cocktail expert. It was actually quite impressive as he didn’t spill a drop, despite the fact that the train was rocking about as only trains know how. I guessed he’d been practicing for years, and wondered whether I should throw a coin at his feet.
As he started to sip his chilled tea, so I went back to my email, until something happened that everyone managed to ignore superbly, as only the Japanese know how. He’d unscrewed the top of his thermos flask, and seemingly under the impression that it was virtually empty, tipped it right up to get the last few drops out.
It seems he’d completely misjudged the amount of tea remaining in his flask, as when he tipped, about three cupfuls of fluid gushed out, going all over his trousers and all over the floor. As the train braked so we watched a river of tea head downstream.
Well, accidents happen, …but it was what he did next that really surprised me.
With Japan being the land of nothing-to-dry-ones-hands-on when-using-a-public-toilet, most people (myself included) carry a little handkerchief-sized towel in their pockets, which doubles as a forehead mopper. This salary man was no different, and thus he was able to use this to mop up the big puddle at his feet. Hmm, that’s very good of him I thought…
…then my draw dropped as he put half of the towel that he’d just used to mop the floor with in his mouth, and started to suck! Satisfied that he’d got as much tea out of it as he could he repeated the process, mopping the floor and then sucking the towel dry!
Picking your nose is one thing, but mopping the floor and sucking the cloth dry….?!!!
I think the funniest thing though was the manner in which everyone else pretended not to notice what was going on, heads partially turned away in a bid to give the impression that they weren’t all staring at the spectacle!
I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself!
Had a great day in the countryside with David and his wife. What a nice couple. Thank you both. I really enjoyed being out in the open, with not a man-made sound within ear shot.
We went for a lovely walk through the woods, and met a few friends along the way, one of whom had had an accident with a snake…
I’m not entirely sure why, but when I saw this snake, I asked,
“Is it still alive?”
I think I was having one of those soap-dispenser days.
John-John’s peace flags flutter in the mountain breeze
Hello. I'm Joseph, Tokyo-based fouder and Creative Director at creative agency/video production house Wild Tame. I'm also known as a runner with an experimental tech streak, father of two, husband of one.
This site documents my personal journey through life.
To learn more about me and my adventures in tech please visit my main site at http://josephta.me