No, these aren’t random letters, but an Okinawan description of one of life’s very special moments. It means something along the lines of ‘after we meet just once, we become brother and sister.’

How many of you have met someone for the first time and thought ‘I feel like I know this person’? There seems to be something familiar about them, or you instantly feel at ease with them. Perhaps there’s an immediate connection, or a rapport you can’t explain? Like a déjà vu for personal encounters, it begs the question: ‘have I known you in another life, or am I particularly bonkers today?’

There is also the interpretation of strangers who, once met, extend hospitality or courtesy above and beyond what is required or expected. I had such an encounter at an embassy in London, where I spent a wonderful time as the guest of the Consul. Now when I return, I am treated as family. Such behaviour warms the heart but cools the head: why is it that so few encounters in life are like this?

Is genuine, natural affinity with others harder to come by because we have forgotten how to be human? In the clamour of our daily lives, we can misplace our compassion and gratitude, our hope and our forgiveness. Perhaps we cannot accept others because we have not accepted ourselves.

Ichariba chode reminds us that there are phrases out there describing the fullness of human experience – which is ours to experience in this lifetime. It’s easy to swim in narrow channels, when we live in worlds shaped by news-speak – that robotic, limited cousin of classical languages. It constricts the human experience because it is offers human consequence without the experience of humanity; like the blink of a dry eye.

This week I challenge you to live as one expecting strangers to become family – and see what it does to you. If you feel your heart lighten and your mood lift, please let me know. And turn off the news.

© greta von szabo 2016


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