Updated: Sep 11, 2020
The reason that I am reaching out to you today - at precisely 11:02am - has something to do with a pair of camphor trees.
The trees are rooted within the Sannō Shinto Shrine in Nagasaki, Japan. If you visit, you will be less than half of a mile from the epicenter of the world's last nuclear bombing. The bomb exploded on a Thursday - August the 9th of 1945 - at precisely 11:02am (75 years ago, today).
Much like the bombing of Hiroshima earlier that week, the destruction in Nagasaki was profound. A staggering 74,000 people died from the explosion, or from radiation-related illness and injury.
The landscape was devastated. Even the stone torii - the gate at the shrine's entrance - was blown in half.
The shrine's camphor trees - 400 years old at the time - were scorched beyond recognition, and believed to be dead.
Photo credit: Wikipedia; Creative Commons
Can you imagine? These trees had grown for more than four centuries. All of that time - all of that energy - was erased in a blinding white heat that lasted only a moment.
I must imagine the trees because I cannot comprehend the true human implications of that terrible light.
1945 was a brutal year in Japan. As the city of Nagasaki started to rebuild itself - like Hiroshima - amidst unprecedented loss and grief, it seems likely that nobody even noticed. At least not at first.
The trees did something most unexpected. Their branches budded just before the seasons changed.
Over time, the camphor trees have become an important symbol of healing and hope, of strength and resilience. Today, the trees stand as formally-designated natural monuments.
Photo credit: Gregor Jamroski
During unquestionably challenging times in my country, I find hope in the branches of those trees. What is Joy if not hope amidst desperation?
At 11:02am (75 years and some 7,300 miles from a blinding light in Nagasaki), I am the grandson of an American veteran of WWII (RIP Grampa Ken). I spend my time seeking and working to spread something that I think of as Joy. And in large part I'm inspired to do so by my wonderful stepchildren, who are Japanese on their father's side.
The love and life in our family tree must have surely seemed impossible 75 years ago. Yet, human love and life are always more powerful than their challenges. Love and life bud anyway - often when and where you least expect them.
I don't know what will happen next. None of us do. And that can create so much needless pain and suffering.
Just for today, from 11:02 onward, can I be willing to give up my pursuit of power, control, or comfort - especially when those things come at the expense of another? That hunger is within me, whether I like it or not. But, that hunger is not all that is within me. I am more than my appetites, like all people.
Can I seek out - and nurture - my relationships with the people, places, and things that insist on growing with love?
I do not - and I do not want to - have control over everything in my life. What I want is to make healthy choices for myself and those around me. I want to make the kinds of choices that are still growing, strong and inspiring, in 75 years.
When I take care of myself and remember to 'stand back and let it all be' I can see the world's beautiful Oneness. That's where the Joy begins and ends for me.
So, when and where I am uncertain or overwhelmed, may I remember the Joyful teaching of two camphor trees:
If love and life are always possible, then what is to be done here and now?
Thank you for making the time to read this, and here's to your Joy!