The Garden – Dandelion (Prologue)

One day, the sun named Sunflower found himself once again at the gates of The Garden — a galaxy at the far ends of the universe, and where he had turned from a sunflower into a sun. The Gardener, keeper of the The Garden, was there.

(Now if you had read about the Sunflower in his tale, you would remember that we had left the Sunflower and our dear friend Flare in a beautiful ending in the Garden. How is it, you may ask, that Sunflower had left The Garden and went elsewhere? What happened to Flare? What I will tell you is this: that all stories are real and truthful but at the same time, they are allegories. This is a big way of saying that every story contains a truth about the world we know, even when the story is about impossible things. You will grow up to understand that truths in this world are complex, and writers like myself try to make them simple and beautiful by writing stories that even children like yourself can understand.

When I told you that Sunflower and Flare were left on a beautiful planet in the Garden, with the dying embers of Flare forever kept alive as a sunset in a painting, and with the Sunflower always rising as a sun on it, it was my way of saying: what is important to us will never diminish. But truly, Flare felt the stilling of his gaseous heart and his last light ray of light dim. You might be very sad to hear this, as the Sunflower was, for a long long time. And it was during his deep grief that the Sunflower returned to the Garden.]

“Hello,” the Gardener greeted him. “You are back. Are you here to stay?”

Sunflower thought for a moment and replied, “No, not yet.”

“Then what are you looking for?” the Gardener asked.

And because Sunflower was still very sad about Flare, he answered, “I would like to be with Flare once more, on the golden planet. Can you do that?”

The Gardener gave a small smile and replied, “When Flare first found you, he had to complete a task so that he can stay here, in the Garden. To fulfil your wish, you too, must complete a task.”

“Tell me what it is, and I’ll do it!” Sunflower said eagerly, glad for the chance to see Flare once more.

“On the way to the golden planet, Flare passed by ten planets of dust and snow. One of them, the closest to the golden planet, lives a flower named Dandelion. Speak to her and help her with her wish, then come back, and I will tell you how to meet Flare again.”

And so, Sunflower blazed into the outer reaches of the Garden once more.



Every Breaking Wave

“What is it that pulls a man in many directions all at once… but which at the same time also holds him together?”

Although I could not have truly comprehended it then, I remembered this line — overwrought sentiments are always memorable for impressionable sixteen year olds.

Years later, I came to understand — it is our contradictions that define us.

How we may yearn for piercing connections and impenetrable solitude, in equal measures, all at once. How we chase new suns, again and again, even as the shadow of nostalgia and loss nips and lengthens at our heels. How it is the unfulfilled — closed doors and only-ifs and 错过了 and endless possibilities blown away in the breeze — that possess terrible enduring beauty. 幸福需圆满,但刻骨铭心的是遗憾。

Who I am, at any one time, is a shift in the kaleidoscope of the tensions between solitude and camaraderie, change and constancy, simple joys and terrible beauty. And they have shifted, they keep shifting.

How can I hold on to the joy and contentment of a simple life; while seeking to be moved by the unfinished?

I don’t know that I will ever know. Perhaps the contradictions are their own answers — in living out a quiet life I may never plumb the full depths of what I can feel. And the exquisite disquiet of the knowledge then fulfils the need for an unfinished desire.

And perhaps it is in this way, that we are kept together, and pulled apart — within our souls, by our own inscrutable hearts.

Hello, 17.

It’s strange to realise that it was ten years ago, when this particular door was first presented to me. At that time, it wasn’t something I even knew of, much less looked to. And in retrospect, much of the past ten years, much of my life has been as such — I never really planned for things to work out one way or the other but simply went along with the opportunities that came up.

I wasn’t always sure if this is the best way to live — to leave so much to happenstance, although I have always been grateful for the many wonderful opportunities that simply came to me. But over time, I came to think that perhaps this is the particular narrative of my life, and what may seem random and serendipitous were all God’s hand in my life.

It’s been ten years now. Later on, I was told that the door I thought closed was not, although I don’t think I ever truly believed that it remained open either. But in this year, this entire chapter is moving to a close — whether it’s through a particular door or others and some of it will be my decision.

Over the past few days, I have thought a lot about this — what I should do, and where I want to be. And I still can’t say what is the exact destination I want for myself.

Except, in the still of my heart, I know that it’s no longer about any one particular door. What I want is — at the risk of sounding trite — is to be who I am, to reflect the values I care about, and to make a difference this way. And this can be done anywhere.

The decision I made to be where I am now, when I had thought the door closed, was just to do what I felt was interesting, and in a place where I thought I could learn and contribute in equal measure. It was never intended to put myself in the view of important people, or back on the path I was on. And so, I accept that today, what I have done in the past two years remains obscure.

But I don’t have a single regret because the past two years were the happiest two years of my work life. And affirmations I most cared about were not from those above me, but from the people I worked with — when a peer said that I had much to contribute if I stayed; when I receive notes on how I have been inspiring as a leader and as a role model for balancing work and family. I hesitate to take credit for these because so much of what I can do and have done is due to the gifts and opportunities I have been blessed with and the support of so many around me. These may never be known to the bosses above me, but I am humbled by the fact that I have had an opportunity to make a difference to the people around me, in a way that will last beyond any single one piece of work.

These ending rites are always filled with uncertainties but I also recall how things were, a decade ago — and it is with a sense of peace and equanimity that I have made the decisions I have to, and to watch things unfold and come to a close.

Ten years ago — even when I wanted something very much, I said, nevertheless, let it be as You, not I, would have it — and I saw how, no matter the number of hoops and hurdles, things that were meant to be will happen despite them.

So it’s a strange full circle to be here again and it is still the same — I know in my heart that if it’s God’s will I can go through the smallest sliver of an opening; but also that I have moved beyond going through any one specific door; and also that in the end, I leave it wholeheartedly and unreservedly to His will.

In the year ahead and always, let it be as You, and not I, would have it =)

Hello, 2017!