Patricia Chargot is a retired journalist from Ann Arbor, MI. She contributed an essay which “describes a moment and an experience that altered my expectations of what may happen on any day, at any time.”
An excerpt is included in this post. We invite you to read the entire essay in the 2022 Fall Journal.
“Double Happiness x2”
I can’t recall where I first read or heard that the secret to keeping life fresh was to “stay in the moment” rather than obsess on the past or speculate about the future.
It was probably in the early 1980s, when Ram Dass’s admonition to “Be Here Now,” began to go mainstream in Michigan along with Eastern Spirituality and yoga. But the concept was so abstract; I had no idea what it meant.
A few years later, I was swept into the “now” like a log in a flash flood. It was late 1985, and I was on sabbatical in China, working at the China Daily, the country’s English-language newspaper. It was a balmy Sunday and I was meandering around Beijing with Andy, a British colleague; Jasper, a friend of his who also was British, and Jasper’s Chinese interpreter, Christine.
We were on our way to the city’s Catholic Cathedral for Mass – my idea – and got sidetracked. We strayed into the old Hutong District, a labyrinth of winding streets leading to a jumble of alleys, each alley opening to a courtyard shared by several families living in traditional dwellings with red tiled roofs.
Andy and Jasper were up ahead; just when Christine and I thought we had lost them, a shower of firecrackers exploded around us. We jumped into an alley. The men ran back to see what all the excitement was about, and Christine shouted, “It’s a Chinese wedding!”
A young bride and groom loomed at the hutong entrance like giant wedding cake toppers. She wore a scarlet Mandarin-style dress, embroidered in gold, he a dark Western-style suit. Their entourage piled behind them, and a blizzard of multi-colored metallic confetti rained down on our heads.
The bride and groom looked at us exactly as we might have looked at them if it had been our wedding taking place in the United States and we had found four Canadian Inuit on our doorstep, dressed in sealskins and mukluks.
“You must come to our wedding,” they insisted, pulling us into the alley. How could we resist? Christine explained that our appearance was considered especially auspicious because it was out of the ordinary, a symbol of “Double Happiness” times two!
The memory of being whisked so dramatically into the “Mystery of the Moment” has dimmed, but the wonder is still with me. The experience now seems like the equivalent of a Buddhist teacher hitting a student on the head with a stickRead the full essay.