I turned 29 this year. On my birthday, my husband came back with a DVD of the cinematography legend Akira Kurosawa’s “Sichinin no Samurai” or better known as “Seven Samurai” in English. Our youngest had been sleeping through the night and so Husband decided to celebrate the two happy occasions with a movie night. A luxury we had not had since our eldest was born.
We have since been spending weekend nights with Kurosawa’s classics – black and white movies depicting life and man’s ambitions and questioning their meaning. Despite their monochromatic colors, these classics are far from boring. In fact, they capture their audience and leave them in deep contemplation. At least for me.
Much like everyone else, I have had my own dreams of what my life should be before 30. There were lists checked: graduate with a university degree, work a steady job, get married, have children. There were lists left yet to be checked: have a third child and be done with it, travel the world, start a business, earn big dollars, and maybe go check out what all the hip of an avocado toast is about. Because, life is about that, is it not? Get successful! Have the most fun! Before 30.
Alas, or rather, fortunately! Dreams are what they are: dreams. They are not, at least not yet, the reality. Because the reality is, I may or may not even get to 30. There is no guarantee. Heaven only knows. And with such realization, I may see my reality, and therefore reorient my dreams, with better clarity and purpose.
The poor farmers depicted in “Seven Samurai” were awaiting death and destruction by bandits, their faint hope lay on the seven poor ronins‘ swords whom they paid with 3 meals of plain rice daily while they themselves ate millet. For the farmers it was their basic needs and survival, for the samurais their values and virtues. That was what life was about for them.
In “Ikiru” the protagonist learned he had only 6 more months to live. And only then did he realize that he had not really been living before. What is life? What does it mean to live?
Many have asked, and I too, have myself asked, “How should you decide to live your life, is it best to stay at home with your children and forgo career opportunities, or is it better to earn corporate status and money yet miss your children’s growing up moments?” I had grown up thinking that the latter is better, I had spent the past four and half years doing the former. But eventually, how one is to live one’s life is a matter one should honestly ask one’s self with death in mind. Time is not ours to own, “Should I die tomorrow, would I leave regretting how I had lived my life?”
It’s very inauspicious to speak of death in light of a birthday. Yet, death gives birthday its wisest admonition. Be it 20, 30 or 40, each added number brings us closer to death. May it bring us also to a truer meaning of life.