This is a blog I’ve been wanting to write for a little over a month, but it never seemed appropriate until now. I had learned a phrase in the middle of September that I had never heard before. I had understood the concept behind it, but I’d never had a simple, succinct way of saying it. Now I do. Ichigo ichie.
Ichigo ichie is a Japanese term that can be translated literally as “one moment, one encounter”. The basic premise behind this phrase is that each moment is unique and can never be duplicated, so each moment must be appreciated completely.
One particular situation in which this phrase comes into play is in a Japanese tea ceremony. The ceremony is the same every time, and yet each ceremony is different because of the people involved, the way the aromas mingle, and many other factors. Thus, although the ceremony is always the same, it is never the same ceremony.
Another aspect of ichigo ichie is the chance encounter of two people who may have never met if not for a particular set of circumstances. An example in my life is the moment I saw the ad for the audition for “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”. I didn’t realize at the time that it would be the moment that resulted in me being on the show and meeting Meredith Vieira. And we all have stories like that. “If it hadn’t been for…this would never have happened.” That’s ichigo ichie. One Moment. One encounter. There is a very popular movie that is particularly dear to me that fully embraces this concept. It’s the story of a man who has many encounters with famous people due to a particular set of circumstances. This man appreciates those moments and fully connects with the people during those moments. His life, and sometimes theirs, is changed by the encounter. The Japanese name for this film is, appropriately enough, “Ichogo Ichie”, but you may know it better as “Forrest Gump”.
Ichigo ichie is something I can, and should, embrace as a Christian. I need to cherish every moment, every encounter with someone else, because that could be my final, or only, moment with that person. If I don’t fully connect, I could miss something amazing, and if my encounter is with someone who is not a Christian, it could be that the time I spend with that person could be what brings them closer to, or drives them further from, Christ. I understand this all too well from personal experience. Many, many, MANY years ago, I first met Rob. We became fast friends, and little did I know that by meeting him, I had taken my first step toward becoming a Christian. It took many years and a lot of discussions with Rob before I gave my life to Jesus. And today, I could be the first step on someone else’s path. In some cases, I may get to see the fruit of that, and in other cases, I may never know if I made a difference. But, the point is, I should approach each moment, each encounter, as if it’s once in a lifetime. Because, honestly, it is.
As I mentioned, this is something I’ve been wanting to write about for some time, but other things seemed to come to the forefront in my ramblings. But Saturday, when I was at Painting with a Twist, I really got to see a visual representation of ichigo ichie. There were twelve people in that class. Those twelve people started with the same canvas, the same paints, the same brushes, and the same instruction. Yet, at the end of the class, there were twelve different paintings. Even if the twelve of us were to go back and take the same class, in the same positions, the twelve paintings for that class would also be different from each other, and even different from the first twelve.
Now, imagine your day is that canvas. Your paints and your brushes are the twenty four hours you’re given. Each day, each painting is going to be different, even if you feel like you’re stuck in a routine. Even if it’s the same ceremony, the ceremony is never the same. What colors will you use? Will the painting be something you can look on with pride at the end of the day? Or will it have some parts you’ll wish you could have painted over? Unlike a canvas, when the day is done, there is no painting over the parts you didn’t like and there’s no filling in the blank spaces of missed opportunity. Make every day a masterpiece.