Peace Among the Ruins

19 March 2015
Angkor Wat
Siem Reap, Cambodia

On the endless journey to Siem Reap, through Bangkok, by way of Dubai, I watched the movie, “Hector and the Search for Happiness.” Like a foreboding of the tail end of my trip, one man travels far and wide on his search to find the meaning of happiness, and as you'd probably expect, finds that money, fame and fortune have little to do with it.

It's not a particularly unique angle. Truly, who was surprised by the ending? Yet, damn if we don't constantly need to be kicked in the side of the head and reminded of it. Somewhere I read an article where the author asks what the movie trailer of your life will portray. Insightful question.

For so many of us, the trailer would open with the protagonist you shown grinding it out at school, all the while swearing you won't be trapped like your father was; hard work, sacrifice, missed opportunities for quality of life, maybe a little more hard work and sacrifice for good measure, followed too rapidly by retirement and death. Then, as the trailer rolls, you're portrayed putting in your hard work, your sacrifice, your missed opportunities for quality of life, and, just maybe, you're tossing in a little more hard work and sacrifice for good measure, and as the clip wraps, you're on your death bed muttering about how you'd hoped it would be different. Don't get me wrong, my dad had fun in his life, but I have no doubt he missed a bunch, too.

Make it different. Do something meaningful as often as possible. I met this monk along the way and he reminded me - there's so much more to life and some of it has to do with slowing down, not speeding up.

Philosophy and rambling aside, Siem Reap is home to Angkor Wat, translated - Temple City. Angkor Wat was built some 3000 years ago, and has seen amazing ups and downs. I've heard a population of 1,000,000 at one point, then next to nothing after a feudal history and abandonment, to about 200,000 folks now, with millions of tourists visiting annually. Wandering through here, you're constantly struck by the enormous scale. Every stone, mainly sandstone, hand placed, connected by mortise and tenon joints like craft woodworking. But it's not wood, it's tons of sandstone - estimated at 6-10 million blocks. Virtually every surface covered in intricate carvings. Perfect symmetry. Concentric structures. Awe inspiring.

And the occasional monk, on pilgrimage to Angkor Wat, exuding peace and tranquility - one might even say happiness.

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