Friday, January 4, 2008

From negotiating to dancing is a long way, JP!

One of the few friends I got to spend time with during my sudden trip to the US last month was JP. A 53-year old American, who quit his many years of practice as a lawyer and joined the Sustainable International Development programme at Brandeis University way back in 2000 for the same reason as mine; to get a university degree to 'save the world'.

JP’s life path has been an interesting one. Thoroughly bored from his law practice of many years, JP joined the SID programme. In his second year, he worked in Egypt on refugee law. Dissatisfied with the politics of the UNHCR, JP’s journey led him to experiment many other fields – volunteering in an organisation in Bombay working in the slums, teaching law part-time at a university, working in schools, etc. One after another, his emails to me talked about his new-found love, his frustrations and disappointments, joblessness and another new-found love! Finally, here’s what he was doing when I visited him last month.

JP learnt singing, and sings in the Church choir. He learnt dancing, and dances regularly. He buys lovely flowers and enjoys gifting them to his dear ones. He calls his friend over to experiment simple, healthful vegetarian cooking. He is working on a book about his great-aunt Eleanor Britton (an exuberant cruise director) who has been a great inspiration to him, reading through years of diligent journaling she has left behind. He searched all over and bought his friend, to gift her friend who was on her death bed from cancer, her favourite stuffed tiger.

JP says “I value beauty. And it often involves colors, like flowers have. I spend part of every day looking at the sky, the ocean, the colors of the marsh nearby, the sunlight on the eaves of the houses. I even do jigsaw puzzles because matching the pieces by their hues makes me experience shades -- orange, for example -- more vibrantly. I don't consider even a whole day spent doing these things to have been a waste of time, any more than I would think that about spending a day wandering around temple precincts and gardens in Japan.” JP is simply loving life and looks forward to each day!

It is not so much what he is doing. I never cease to be amazed at and inspired by people who just follow their hearts, and connect with their deep inner selves, constantly finding new meaning in their lives.

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