Words: Nguyễn Cao Hoàng Anh
Photography: Mike Dennler
I have travelled far and often enough to know that it is not the place that matters, it must be the people you are with. Since no place in this world has the obligation to impress you, being with the right people will make you feel the place as it is. Sounds too good to be true, but it is true.
“That is an ugly-looking mountain”, I was told. But it cannot be, to be honest. There was this one moment while being on the bus to the Alpes, hundreds of marvelous ancient mountains were all around and I was left in awe. Perhaps it was because the image of me moving fast around something that has been forever right where they are itself is a nice thing to think of. Then I asked myself have I ever looked at a perfect mountain. Now that somewhat small greenish brownish one covered with little plants could be a perfect mountain, it looks really splendid, or the gigantic limestone looking mountain blanketed with snow or the spreading one with a little stream curving around. Probably all of them are perfect looking if you think about it. This is not logical at all, but it might be true that because mountains have been here on for so long before your brief life ever started, they suddenly become too beautiful to our eyes to look at. Our twenty or thirty or even ninety-something year old eyes are granted with creations of the million years old.
It is almost impossible to write when you are happening at a place, and this too was written when the moment is far gone and now a part of my memories. The incidence with bus moving around mountains was as well only my imagination, because if you try hard enough denying, eventually you’d be convinced that a particular moment has never happened, that it was not real and was only in your mind. You could change the details of a trip, invent a whole new childhood, or convince yourself that one touch, that particular smell of wind, or the one glance at a gradually vanishing snowflake, none of that ever happened to you. The feelings associated with those moments were seemingly suggestions swiftly stolen from something you watched on movies or read from books. Memories make us, but they could be so deceiving and unreliable.
When Buddha said he saw through thousands previous lives of his, was it all just in his mind? Or did he subconsciously invent the memories for his other lives based on the continuous images and stories his brain has collected through his life? A friend told me only because we are so blind, we cannot even see reality as it is yet. Very likely though. Yet the idea of being blind is so terrifying, of being placed within a maze of realities and forever bound within ignorance and insufficiency. Should one learn to live with that? Or should one, instead, keep on finding or seeking for the thing? Does it even exist? Should one’s life, therefore, be wasted looking for something that probably does not exist? That could be a very irrational quest- looking for such impossibility, but irrationality creates tempting possibilities, and we keep on searching still. Will any trophy be given for such stubbornness? The journey is already tiring, the destination promises nothing, but we keep going, which exactly what I did and what I have wandered astray for.