“We’re going to Cambodia!” my mother exclaimed.
“Aren’t you excited?”
My brother doesn’t know how to handle sudden news very well, and I was suffering from a serious headache, so both of us just forced a weak smile.
Of course I was very excited. It was my much-awaited vacation after those gruelling months of thesis-making. This was my chance to rest and recuperate as well as get my adventurous fill of the Angkor temples. I could have my very own Tomb Raider moment!
But why was I not happy?
Was it because I was so concerned with my thesis?
It could literally make or break my academic standing in college.
“Oh well, let’s see what happens,” I thought.
A few days after my parents’ announcement, the inevitable came.
I passed the thesis defense.
I also got a very surprising grade.
I was also going to Cambodia with my family.
I was the happiest person in the world.
Looking back at my photo album of our Cambodia trip, I realized that work – especially, in my case, school work – is not the end-all and be–all of things. Just like what Josef Pieper said in his article, ‘Work, Spare Time and Leisure’, work is essential because it makes one live a good life but it does not end there. The purpose of work is to have time for oneself, to search for one’s meaning and purpose in life. This struck me because I usually study hard to get good grades and the possible Latin Honors when I graduate. I never saw a greater reason in studying until I read Pieper’s article. I am grateful that I have come to understand this higher meaning of work right after I passed my thesis.
During my stay in Cambodia, my respect for the different religions grew. Until my trip to Cambodia, I couldn’t have imagined praying to Buddha, Vishnu, Shiva and the other Buddhist and Hindu deities in the Angkor temples. It’s amazing how a Roman Catholic like me can become connected to a Buddhist through prayer and meditation. I never experienced a religious uplift greater than the one I experienced in those places of worship. What’s amazing was that I did not feel like I was a stranger in the temples, instead I felt like I became one with them. I realized while praying with the Buddhists that we are all the same despite our different religious backgrounds. We all believe in a higher being, even though it has different names.
From the drama of my thesis to my spiritual enlightenment in Cambodia, these strikingly wonderful experiences have made me firmly agree with Aristotle through Pieper’s article when he says, “We work so we can have leisure”. The next time you engage in work, think ahead. You might experience something that will change your life.
By: Andrea Mandinka Asistores, intern for WYA Asia Pacific