Life Codecs @

Ruminations. Reflections. Refractions. Code.

Dec 22, 2008 - philosophy

Ordinary Miracles

As a kid, and even now, I have often wondered how cool it would be to have various abilities (think the TV series Heroes) – to be able to fly, to move things with your mind, to possess telepathy, run like the flash, and so on. Having a martial arts background, I have constantly been fascinated at some of the amazing feats people have performed demonstrating speed, strength, and dedication. Mas Oyama, founder of Kyokushinkai Karate, was able to knock a bull dead with one punch if I recall correctly. A chief instructor in my organisation was able to thrust his fingers through the skull of a goat.

As time progresses, however, and life experiences accumulate, one begins to see the true value of different abilities. My grandmaster has often said if you had the power to knock someone dead with one blow, and that person died.. well so what? Big deal. Are you proud that you caused a death? Admittedly, many years back I thought such an ability was cool… of course I did not think very far on what it meant – a life taken, the guilt weighing on one’s conscience, etc. I am not downplaying the dedication needed to get that ability – all I am saying is that while within itself, it is amazing, in the long run, it does not matter. To further illustrate, there’s a story of Gautama Buddha meeting an ascetic who proudly proclaimed that after 6 or 7 years of asceticism he was able to walk on water and cross the river. The Buddha said that he wasted 6 to 7 years of his life when he could have paid the boatman a tiny amount to get him across whenever he fancied it. That 6 or 7 years had he strived for enlightenment, the ultimate goal, instead, he would’ve gained something far more valuable.

So, what is a truly valuable ability? The Javanese ask for something from the Divine, they often term it “Ilmu Slamet”, ilmu means knowledge, but also an ability, and slamet means safety. Safety here is all-encompassing: safety in all activities in life, to be spared dangerous situations, to be granted the wisdom to make the right choices, etc. In other words, they ask for a prosperous, blessed life. Another Indonesian term I love is “mulia”, which is also harder to define, it means various things such as glory, stateliness, divine, noble, etc. “Hidup yang mulia” – a divine/glorious/noble life (hidup == alive/life). Truly, that is an ability, a knowledge worth having, the wisdom and the capacity to ride life’s sometimes tumultous waves, to escape problems unscathed, or at least, to heal as soon as possible, to make wise decisions, to have a pure heart and mind, to be compassionate. Given all that, what need do we have for super powers… when ordinary miracles happen everyday once one follows principles that lead to such a life. Heck, the term ‘ordinary miracle’ sounds like an oxymoron once you consider it, for there’s nothing ordinary – natural perhaps – but certainly not ordinary.

Anyhow, I am far from perfect, nor do I think it is easy to achieve a noble life, but it is something that I have begun to understand, something I thought was worth sharing. I still think various powers are uber-cool however. I suspect also however, that certain cool powers will be a byproduct of a nobler life, much like how many saints and sages had various abilities that came post-enlightenment.

— Kamal