During the week I watched a Japanese film “Every Day a Good Day”. It was about two characters, Noriko and Mariko, learning the art of Japanese tea ceremony from their sensei. Little details matter; this intricate art is sensitive to the delicate position of the hands, the gentle pouring and even the angle of your sit towards the hearth. It is slow moving, boring for an impatiently busy Martha but rich for a meaningfully contemplative Mary.
Mariko is a go getter, confidently meeting the demands of a worldly life. Noriko is unsure, hesitant and seemingly out of rhythm with the expectations of this world. Mariko is Martha, Noriko is Mary. This film reminded me of the benefits of slowing down and pausing, and the value of contemplation. It reduced the Martha and increased the Mary in me.
For a large part the film is set in the tea room. The girls’ daily life was intentionally pushed into the background, the director cleverly highlighting the seasons of nature against the seasons of life, the journey of life through the journey of time. The film’s main focus was Noriko, her 25 years in the art of tea ceremony against a backdrop of apprehensions and personal unsureness, family life, career challenges, heartbreak, grief, new found love, and eventually to embrace life for what it simply is.
For most of us if we were a film the forefront of our story would be our busy-ness in life. We need to be constantly on the go. Early on in the film, the tone was set. The girls asked many “whys” about the little intricate actions that seem so important in this art. Sensei surprised by this need to know, did not have any answers, only inviting them into the flow of the movements. There is no need to “know”. Just like in life the answers and understandings are often further along its movement.
Life is sometimes this mystery. Amidst all the happenings we always ask “Why God?” and often we never get the answer we want. We can get annoyed with God and walk away or we can surrender in faith into the flow of this movement of life, trusting that Christ indeed will lead us through all the unexplainable twists and turns. In our busy-ness we will never see the presence of Christ in the moments of our life.
When we sit and contemplate we will often find many examples in our personal life when the pain of an un-granted desire became the relief of a blessing in disguise. Through the movement of life and the passage of time we understood the silent, unseen intervening hand of God that guided us to a better place. Simply put we only understand something that happened to us at the age of 25 when we are 50.
When we surrender we give ourselves to faith knowing that Christ is present in every moment of our life, shepherding and guiding us through the twists and turns. His only concern being to lead us home through the trials and tribulations of our worldly life. Along the way Christ reveals himself in our personal life. We can only see better and clearer in times of crisis or when we are older with accumulated life experiences. As with Noriko, she only understood the art of tea ceremony without the need to ask “Why?” after 25 years.
Faith tells us that life is full of good moments because God is present in each of those. Quoting Hayley Scanlon, a reviewer of this film, “Every day really is a good day when you learn to slow down and truly appreciate it, living in the moment while the moment lasts in acknowledgment that it will never come again”.
When we sit and contemplate, we appreciate Christ in our moments. Because of these moments, many good answers lie further along the movement of life. Give God time.
16th Sunday in Ordinary Time