THE SPEED OF ENLIGHTMENT
The difference between jungle trek and race circuit? Is there one? Both can set you free. Two of our interviewees this month, new Hollywood leading man Henry Golding and F1 stealth driver Valtteri Bottas are fellow travellers on a trajectory to quite somewhere else. Golding, part-Iban, has done bejalai, a rite of passage into his roots and a deep dive into the interiors of Betong, Sarawak. He did it to close one chapter of his life and open a new one, with his future wife, Liv Lo. He’s a lucky man surfing the crest of a wave, and did it partly for TV. But don’t hold that against him. Read his Esquire interview in this issue.
Coincidentally, a study commissioned by the BBC Global Insight team on the effects of watching nature documentaries such as Planet Earth II (and so, is not impartial) done by the University of California, Berkeley, (however conveniently) has this to say:
“It is a deep human intuition that viewing nature and being in nature is good for the mind and body. This notion can be found in the thinking of indigenous peoples on different continents, who routinely guided their adolescents on ritualistic trips out in nature as rites of passage to adulthood. Forest walks in ‘healing forests’ are a common practice in East Asian cultures such as Japan and South Korea because of the alleged benefits of being in nature…”
While I probably wouldn’t use the words ‘alleged’ and nature in the same way (because you can’t allege anything about existential reality), it’s great to know ‘traditional knowledge’ is being drawn on in contemporary academic research. Here is Finnish word, by the way, that Noor Amylia Hilda introduces in her interview with Valtteri Bottas: sisu. Something of sisu’s ineffable meaning is inevitably lost in translation, but Finlandia University explains it like this: “sisu has a mystical, almost magical meaning … [it] can be roughly translated into English as strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity … not momentary courage, but the ability to sustain that courage.”
That’s a lot to take in, but it’s worth pointing out that magic and rationality are seldom seen together in the western canon of learning. The story of Bottas is sisu; he seeks to know just what limits are by trying to find out the speed of enlightenment.
This issue marks the end of an era: Rebecca Chew is the Esquire Malaysia art director who was not merely present at the beginning, but the progenitor of so much of what it is, and could yet become. In another lifetime, we had worked on projects together that she took airborne, winning a couple of international awards. Comedian Kuah Jenhan, the one other person present at Esquire Malaysia’s big bang moment, has the story in his column this month. – JASON TAN, Editor-in-chief