IKIGAI WA NAN DESU KA (What Is Your Ikigai?)

That which makes life most worth living

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Mark Twain's beautiful letter to Walt Whitman on his 70th birthday, May 1889

kateoplis:

Transcript

Hartford, May 24/89

To Walt Whitman:

You have lived just the seventy years which are greatest in the world’s history & richest in benefit & advancement to its peoples. These seventy years have done much more to widen the interval between man & the other animals than was accomplished by any five centuries which preceded them.

What great births you have witnessed! The steam press, the steamship, the steel ship, the railroad, the perfected cotton-gin, the telegraph, the phonograph, the photograph, photo-gravure, the electrotype, the gaslight, the electric light, the sewing machine, & the amazing, infinitely varied & innumerable products of coal tar, those latest & strangest marvels of a marvelous age. And you have seen even greater births than these; for you have seen the application of anesthesia to surgery-practice, whereby the ancient dominion of pain, which began with the first created life, came to an end in this earth forever; you have seen the slave set free, you have seen the monarchy banished from France, & reduced in England to a machine which makes an imposing show of diligence & attention to business, but isn’t connected with the works. Yes, you have indeed seen much — but tarry yet a while, for the greatest is yet to come. Wait thirty years, & then look out over the earth! You shall see marvels upon marvels added to these whose nativity you have witnessed; & conspicuous above them you shall see their formidable Result — Man at almost his full stature at last! — & still growing, visibly growing while you look. In that day, who that hath a throne, or a gilded privilege not attainable by his neighbor, let him procure his slippers & get ready to dance, for there is going to be music. Abide, & see these things! Thirty of us who honor & love you, offer the opportunity. We have among us 600 years, good & sound, left in the bank of life. Take 30 of them — the richest birth-day gift ever offered to poet in this world — & sit down & wait. Wait till you see that great figure appear, & catch the far glint of the sun upon his banner; then you may depart satisfied, as knowing you have seen him for whom the earth was made, & that he will proclaim that human wheat is more than human tares, & proceed to organize human values on that basis.

Mark Twain
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From the novelist Richard Ford:

"And I thought that one natural effect of life is to cover you in a thin layer of … what? A film? A residue or skin of all the things you’ve done and been and said and erred at? I’m not sure. But you are under it, and for a long time, and only rarely do you know it, except that for some unexpected reason or opportunity you come out—for an hour or even a moment—and you suddenly feel pretty good. And in that magical instant you realize how long it’s been since you felt just that way. Have you been ill, you ask. Is life itself an illness or a syndrome? Who knows? We’ve all felt that way, I’m confident, since there’s no way that I could feel what hundreds of millions of other citizens haven’t. 


Only suddenly, then, you are out of it—that film, that skin of life—as when you were a kid. And you think: this must’ve been the way it was once in my life, though you didn’t know it then, and don’t really even remember it—a feeling of wind on your cheeks and your arms, of being released, let loose, of being the light-floater. And since that is not how it has been for a long time, you want, this time, to make it last, this glistening one moment, this cool air, this new living, so that you can preserve a feeling of it, inasmuch as when it comes again it may just be too late. You may just be too old. And in truth, of course, this may be the last time that you will ever feel this way again.”

submitted by Matthew Smith

Hearing the invisible, seeing the unheard.

I think that I have always known, from an early age, that my ikigai is helping the invisible to be seen, helping the voiceless to be heard, and helping the forgotten to be remembered. I understand that, in this day and age, we can easily get caught up in our own journey. But by doing so, we fail to see the truths that surround us, we fail to hear what is being said around us, and we fail to remember the sacrifices that others made for us so that we can enjoy the privilege of indulging in our own journey. I wake up every day with the hopes of finding others who are willing to share their ikigai with me in order to help those who have yet to find their own.

Jason Finau
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