The Pursuit of Happiness: The Story of a Cucumber, an Egg, and Spices

Denny JA
Karya Denny JA Kategori Cerpen/Novel
dipublikasikan 06 September 2017
The Pursuit of Happiness: The Story of a Cucumber, an Egg, and Spices

The Pursuit of Happiness: The Story of a Cucumber, an Egg, and Spices 

Translated by Nate Lukinsky

 

The sky took part in their laughter

In a simple Javanese pendopo (gazebo)

Four old friends told jokes cheerfully

After not having met for 20 years

 

But their mood changed drastically

When Baba, Bibi, and Bubu scowled

They seriously asked their old Esteemed Teacher,

“20 years have already passed by

With all our efforts we have chased and pursued

Dear Teacher, why hasn’t our life become happier?

Why haven’t our endeavors borne the fruits of happiness?

 

The Esteemed Teacher gazed at his 3 students with great compassion

He had listened intently and patiently to their query

He recalled the time 20 years earlier

When they had last met in the same pendopo

 

The Esteemed Teacher was respected by all

Green Bird was the name of his academy

There he taught the art of self-defense

But never for the purpose of brawling

 

Every day, his pupils trained

Exercising both their body and their mind

Not only for the sake of acquiring a healthy body

But also to achieve happiness

 

Baba, Bibi, and Bubu, three precious students

Had attained the highest grades at the academy

They had excelled by mastering every science and art

But they still needed to learn from the chapter of wisdom

 

“Listen to me, my sons,” their Esteemed Teacher said one day

Baba, Bibi and Bubu listened with rapt attention

“There remains one final chapter that you have not yet mastered

This is a discipline that you must each experience on your own”

 

“The last chapter involves the science of wisdom

It is the key to attaining happiness

Everything that you have already mastered is useless

If your heart lacks happiness”

 

Trees, birds, all of the natural world

Suddenly sang together in a choir of voices:

“Na, na, na…

Everything will be useless

Gia, gia, gia…

If you are not happy”

 

“I request that all three of you meditate for the next three nights

Search for genuine truth like a fortune-teller

Then hash it out in one voice

What you would all recommend

To do together

To master the chapter of wisdom

In order to attain happiness”

 

“We are ready, Teacher,” they cried out in unison

Their eyes were glistening and pulsating

One more chapter

After that, their training would be over, and they could leave

 

Baba, Bibi, and Bubu each in his own method

Engaged in various forms of contemplation

On the most precise manner

On the most valuable and effective means

To seek happiness

And then to reach a consensus on this together

 

Three young men, the first day

Three, the second day

Three, the third day

Despite their persistence, they couldn’t manage to speak with one voice

Each of them articulated his own pathway

But none of them was ready to concede his point of view

 

“This is the way to achieve happiness,” exclaimed Baba

“No, not that way… my method has been proven,” said Bibi

“This task is all an illusion, our teacher wanted us to realize this,” stated Bubu

 

The three of them finally requested some time to face the fact

That they couldn’t fulfill what their teacher had expected

Baba spoke first

“Teacher, perhaps you can arrange a contest

And whoever loses will follow the path the winner chooses

Since none of us wants to yield his position

Holding a competition may be the best solution”

 

Bibi and Bubu both rejoined,

“Yes, Teacher let’s just fight to settle this

With our bare fists

Or with weapons

Whoever wins will then determine

The path for seeking happiness”

 

“No, no, no! My sons,” the teacher restrained them

“We will not permit brute strength to determine the truth

After all, my desire was

That the three of you tread the same path

However, if it is too difficult to do this together

You are welcome to walk your own separate way

What’s crucial is achieving your goals”

 

“Please tell me the most valid path

The straight and narrow road to happiness

What did each of you select, my boys?

And please provide a reason for your choice”

 

Baba began to speak

“Teacher, the path I have chosen is science

I will master the laws that govern the sky and the earth

I will study to achieve the highest degrees

So that nothing will escape my attention and understanding

In this manner I will easily attain happiness”

 

Bibi explained his path

“Teacher, what I have chosen is strength

I will subjugate everyone, from the smallest to the biggest

I will target and defeat every source of authority

In this way I will easily achieve happiness”

 

Bubu also conveyed his objective

“Teacher, the path I have selected is wealth

I will amass huge assets by saving every coin

I will become even richer than Uncle Scrooge

With my great purchasing power

Happiness will come on its own”

 

“Alright, my sons

Undergo and experience your own path

This last chapter of study at our academy

Can only be understood through real-life experiences”

 

The four of them embraced

In the pendopo, the three students shed tears

Bidding farewell to their compassionate teacher

Who had taken loving care of them since childhood

 

“Twenty years from now

In the month of June when the full moon shines bright

I will wait for you right here in this pendopo

And you will tell me the outcome of the journey each of you has chosen”

 

The trees, the birds, even the table there

Sang in unison again,

“Na, na, na…

Everything is useless

Gia, gia, gia…

If you are not happy.”

 

The months passed by

Many years passed by

It was exactly 20 years later

In the month of June, when the full moon appeared amidst the clouds

They met at the pendopo

Telling assorted stories of

Their experiences seeking happiness

 

The teacher had become older

But it appeared he had also become more triumphant

Baba, Bibi, and Bubu looked dignified

Mature and grown-up

 

After feeling satisfied with recalling old memories

After having fully retold old stories from their youth

Baba, Bibi, Bubu began to tell their individual stories

Of the outcome of the last 20 years in pursuit of happiness

 

Baba spoke first

“Teacher, I have received every degree in higher education

A Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctorate, even a Post-Doctorate

I have searched for knowledge all the way to China”

 

It’s true, Teacher, that I now have a greater understanding of

The mechanisms that dictate the laws of both the earth and the sky

It’s true, Teacher, that my eyes are now more receptive to

The social sciences that concern the people of this world

However, all the studying I’ve done has not brought me happiness.

What is it I’ve neglected and overlooked?

 

It was now Bibi’s turn to tell his story

“Teacher, I am now very powerful

I have become an elder and head of a village

I am influential on this planet

I have many subordinates who report to me”

 

“I have the authority to change customs and rules

I can bend an oval and transform it into a circle

However, all the power I’ve consolidated has not made me happy

What is it I’ve neglected and overlooked?”

 

Bubu seemed just as curious

“Teacher, I am now exceedingly wealthy

Bus lines, rice fields, hotel chains and other businesses belong to me

I have the funds to buy anything that pleases me

Even the heads of villages can be bought with my money”

 

“My bank reserves pile ever higher

My businesses are all solvent and as firm as deep-fried crackers

However, all my wealth and holdings have not made me happier

What is it I’ve neglected and overlooked?”

 

“Thank God, my sons,” the teacher gladly said

“Your experiences have allowed you to see clearly

The science of happiness can be both complicated and simple

Your eyes have become more open to this truth”

 

“Scientific knowledge, power, and wealth

Ho ho ho ho ho…these are important for civilization

It is wonderful that you have all mastered these

It is especially important that you have already experienced these”

 

“However, the science of happiness is a science of intrinsic qualities, my sons…

It does not depend on what you stow in your pocket

It does not depend on how powerful you become

It does not depend on the amount of wealth you accumulate

It does not depend on the level of education you attain [1]

 

“Could you be more thorough, Teacher?” Baba inquired

“What do you mean?” Bibi asked

“Please tell us more, Teacher!” Bubu requested

 

The old teacher then brought out a teapot of hot boiling water

He also brought out three white bowls

One bowl contained a cucumber

Another bowl contained a blend of spices

One more bowl contained a raw chicken egg

 

Baba, Bibi, and Bubu looked at each other

They gazed at each other as though they were dazed

They could not understand the teacher’s intentions

They could not comprehend the purpose of the cucumber, spices, and egg.

 

“Now learn from the cucumber, egg, and spices

They represent who you are

Comprehend the boiling water in the teapot

It represents the environment of your special talent

Boiling water can symbolize knowledge

Boiling water can symbolize power

Boiling water can symbolize wealth

Now look what happens”

 

The teacher then poured some boiling water

into each white bowl

The bowl that contained a cucumber

The bowl that contained a raw egg

The bowl that contained a blend of spices

Each bowl was completely filled with boiling water

 

The hard cucumber changed and became soft

The liquid egg white and yolk of the raw egg became hard and solid

A fragrant aroma wafted from the immersed blend of spices

 

Baba, Bibi, and Bubu all watched intently

Yet they still could not understand its meaning

“What does this symbolize?” asked Baba

“What does it mean?” asked Bibi

“What message does it have?” asked Bubu

 

“True happiness cannot be attained by you

If you are a cucumber or an egg

Only the boiling water will affect and change you

From a hard to a soft state, like the cucumber

Or from a liquid to a solid state, like the raw egg”

 

“Only the accumulation of science, power, and wealth

Has changed you

You have only taken in your quest for change

You have taken and obtained scientific knowledge

You have taken and obtained power

You have taken and obtained wealth

Like the cucumber that took and absorbed boiling water

and became soft

Like the egg that took and sustained the heat of boiling water

and became solid”

 

“To attain true happiness

You must be like the blend of spices

You will certainly make your environment more sweet-smelling

Just like the spices made the boiling water become fragrant”

 

“The spices bestow in and of itself

The spices dedicate in and of itself

To the boiling water

To its surroundings

Make use of your scientific knowledge

Exercise your authority

Exploit your wealth

So that your surroundings become fragrant”

 

“To live, you need to take

But to achieve happiness, you need to give”

 

Again, the trees, birds and table

Sang out together like a choir:

“Na, na, na…

Nothing has value

Gia, gia, gia…

If you’re not happy

To live, you need to take

But to attain happiness you need to give” [2]

 

“Is the knowledge that I’ve acquired flawed?” asked Baba

“In what way is my authority incorrect?” asked Bibi

“Is there something wrong with my financial assets?” asked Bubu

 

“What’s important is not what you have acquired

But your attitude about what you’ve acquired

Besides taking

You must not forget to contribute”

 

“Bestow lovingly from your heart

Using your vast knowledge, power, and wealth

This is the key to the science of happiness”

 

The sky, the moon, and the dark night

The trees, the birds, and the table

The old teacher, Baba, Bibi, and Bubu

Were like a choir singing together

Enjoying their wisdom

 

“To live, you need to take

But to achieve happiness, you must contribute”

 

Their period of education had come to an end

Baba, Bibi, and Bubu had finished their training at the academy

After 20 years of traveling on their quest to find the right path

They had completed the final chapter of wisdom

The doorway leading to happiness

 

It turned out that the knowledge they had been seeking

Had been stowed deep in their heart

 

Baba, Bibi, and Bubu returned home

Reciting again and again their teacher’s mantra

 

“To live, you need to take

But to achieve happiness, you must contribute”




[1] Extrinsic factors, such as power, education, and wealth exert an influence of at most 10% on a person’s level of happiness: http://thehowofhappiness.com/
[2] Serving others with love and contributing through public service or charity are substantially more meaningful in enhancing one’s level of happiness;
http://sonjalyubomirsky.com/ and http://thehowofhappiness.com

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