Having innocent joy is something that most of us never grow tired of. We can for a time be caught up and distracted by our own problems but something within us seems to inevitably draw us back to a place where happiness can be our selfless and tireless companion as long as we don’t allow ourselves to get in the way.
For Ashrita, who has spent much of his life achieving and setting hundreds of Guinness world records the anniversary of his Spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy’s birthday has for decades been an occasion when the dimensions and scale of his record breaking has shattered the conventions of size in incredible and mind boggling ways.
This year with the help of a team led by Yuyudhan and Papaha the world’s longest seesaw was constructed. It was 88 foot long to mark what would have been Sri Chinmoy’s 88th birthday.
“This is an 88 foot 2 inch seesaw or the beginnings of it.” Like all big projects there is always a lot of work going on behind the scenes to make the construction of the world’s longest seesaw possible.
I first spoke with Yuyudhan after he had already spent 5 days working on its construction. He says that 9 years earlier he had been part of a group constructing a 79 foot seesaw so approached Ashrita this year with the possibility of scaling up the original project by an additional 9 feet. “I already know how to build that. So it was not going to be a huge design issue.”
When asked just how long he had been part of constructing projects for August 27th there is some understandable head scratching. “I think 20 years or so.” He believes his first was taking part in assembling a 27,000 flower bouquet.
The point of doing them is simple. He says that the projects built to celebrate August 27th are all about joy. Yuyudhan says that he was happy from the moment the lumber was delivered by a large forklift for this one. “I have been working here for 5 days now and it is just fun.”
“With Sri Chinmoy’s birthday you get to see a gigantic thing being made. It is just part of you transcending your own self. When you are building something bigger than the last thing you made…. this is just so cool. I enjoyed making it last time, this time is giving me even more joy. I know that it is going to work.”
Yuyudhan vividly recalls that when people of all ages rode the seesaw 9 years earlier they all got joy and could feel themselves reviving their childlike enthusiasm. “You could see them as kids. They enjoyed it, it was fun. We had a waiting line of people trying to get on it. I foresee the same thing here. People really wanting to get on it.”
“This is one of the few records that Ashrita has done that everybody gets to participate in, because they get to ride it.”
Papaha tells me that he has had previous experience on Mega teeter tooter work. He was part of the team that worked on the 79 foot seesaw 9 years earlier. “Everyone loved working on it.”
“I think when you got on it you went up 12 feet into the sky.” As we are talking most of the main body of the seesaw have been constructed. “I get the easy job. I get to pick out the fun colors. We always go with bright birthday cake type colors. So we will prime this up and paint this up and tomorrow, once it is all dry. We will put the vinyl lettering on it.”
“We celebrate Sri Chinmoy’s birthday. Ashrita, who has the most Guinness records likes to get a bunch of us together and work as a team.” It is by working collectively Papaha says that they are able to achieve so much more. The result is that many many more are able to receive innocent joy from their efforts to celebrate Sri Chinmoy’s birthday.
“We are going to do a bluish green along the side, blue along the top. The fulcrum will be a bright yellow. The lettering will be a magenta.”
“For me it is fun.” He then points towards Yuyudhan and says it may be just a little less fun as he has to take care of most of the construction. Papaha says that there are difficult times but overall, “it is always a joy.”
“I do look forward to my maiden voyage.”
We must accept life’s
Up and down waves
Smilingly and bravely.
It is a quality that we all cherish and ironically it is perhaps one we yearn and strive for most when it is absent or tenuous in our lives. Yet when our lives are bountiful with happiness, we simply take it for granted, believing perhaps that this is a the most natural state of being that all humanity was meant to exist at all times in this way.
From time to time Governments have actively sought to enshrine the concept of happiness as a fundamental part of life. Recognizing that the society we all live within should be able to exist whereby all people can attain and have access to happiness. Though most certainly most of us have our own unique concept of happiness, there certainly exists some fundamental truths about happiness. That on a pure and in a fundamental way happiness is never exclusive to the rights of others. Rather when one person seeks out true happiness we also enable and make it possible for others to have access and find happiness more easily. That when one person benefits than so do we all.
This quality has been deemed so important and so necessary and fundamental to life, that on June 28, 2012, The United Nations General Assembly declared March 20th of each year as the International Day of Happiness. Bhikshuni Weisbrot, a staff member of the United Nations Development Programme, and is President of the UNSRC Society of Writers, was inspired to create a unique exhibit at the Queens Museum of Art this past March. It was a display that was up for several weeks dedicated solely to Happiness. On the 17th of March a diverse panel of speakers were invited to come and speak about this most significant subject. She was helped by many others in creating this truly wonderful exhibit which she called, ‘Happiness: A Visual Poem.’
At one point Bhikshuni mentions that it was 50 years ago that she was first at this spot, when the World’s Fair was held here in Flushing Meadow. I ask her how it feels to be back in this same location after such a long time. Experiencing perhaps in a more direct way what the World’s Fair had set out to do back then. “It’s funny, but I think it has always been my theme. I think it has just come to fruition now.” She recounts a conversation she once had with her mom in which she told her Mom, “I just want to be happy.”