What if, just what if…

Once upon a time in a small and disorderly room at one corner of the Institute, there was a conversation reeking of cigarette smoke.

So Bopeng, as always, began. “I’d like to live another person’s life, just for a moment, just to get a grip on the ‘how does it feel?’ question.” What on Earth is he talking about? “But you retain all of your previous memory so you can compare it with your own life.” he added. It was an awfully mysterious remark, you know, so it was only natural that we asked him to elaborate.

“Well, for a start, take the life of a very rich man. Full of gold and silver as it may be in his pocket, is he leading a happy life or not? Then take the life of a wanted fugitive. How does it feel to be in his shoes, to be constantly looking over his shoulder, to be deprived of even the smallest measure of security? Then take the life of a monk, way up in the Himalaya. It must be quite a different way of living, quite a different experience, right?”

So we began to wander in our own thoughts, here and there, thinking up all the possibilities. “I would like to live an Antarctic explorer’s life, beholding ocean waves ten storey high, charging dangers head-on. Wouldn’t it be a stupendous experience, just looking at the sheer size of water in front of you?” one thought.

Another pondered how would it be if, just for a moment, he’s suddenly assigned to a life belonging to a convict whose execution is fixed at tomorrow midnight. He wasn’t even there at the crime scene, let alone committing the crime. How would it feel? How does his anguish compare to mine, to yours, to hers?

Now here’s an altogether different life to consider: an inglorious nihilist. All that remains from his childhood was the colour of his foster-care room wall. No pat on his head, no kiss on his cheek, no Christmas gift had ever been given to him. During his adolescence, he had no passion for anything, not even football. He was devoid of any hope whatsoever, it seemed like the tunnel got darker and darker for each step taken forward. Indeed, it got darker as he grew up. He had a house but no home, he had a body but no self.

Never in his life does he be able to comprehend the meaning of this playful nonsense.

So here is him, now, standing on the very edge of a meaningless steel bridge. Below him roars the cold and brutal ocean, the Death himself. Above him beckons the bright and beautiful Milky Way, redemption. Should he jump? Should YOU jump?

Think again.


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