Climbing the stairway to heaven

I had been working in Hong Kong for a few weeks when my hubby joined me for a visit. Granted some free time, we decided to go exploring beyond the urban sprawl. I had already had my fill of skyscrapers, wall to wall people, and open air markets. I wanted to go some place quiet, someplace I could hear myself think. Luckily there were a number of options. Considering its association with a large communist state, Hong Kong is remarkably tolerant of religion and has a slew of temples and other houses of worship scattered across its territory. Located on the second largest island is a Buddhist temple that welcomes believers and tourists alike. It seemed like the perfect place for us to go.

big buddha base

The rainy season was threatening to begin at any moment. The skyline was marred with heavy cloud cover. This temple boasted a huge bronze statue high above the tree line, only you couldn’t see any of it from the ground below. From our vantage, the statue might not exist at all. Sure, plenty of people claimed it was there, but that could easily be some prank pulled on unsuspecting tourists. The only thing we could see was a staircase that continued into what seemed like infinity.

My legs hurt just looking at it (they still do), but we hadn’t come all this way to look at a staircase. We had to go up, and up, and up some more (Hong Kong takes their stair building seriously).

view from big buddhaAfter 500 burnt calories or so we were still only half-way up. The clouds hadn’t gotten any thinner either. I had already gotten what I wanted out of this experience. We were relatively alone on this staircase to nowhere. It was so quiet and peaceful at the landing. I was able to hear myself think, but that might not have been a good thing. I started wondering what was the point of getting to the top. We weren’t going to be able to see anything. Why bother? If we turned around now, at least gravity would make the way easier.

I started wondering what was the point of getting to the top. We weren’t going to be able to see anything. Why bother? If we turned around now, at least gravity would make the way easier.

Not party to my inner whiner, my hubby kept on going. Peace and quiet weren’t his goals, he wanted to see the giant statue. Occasionally it is a problem when our goals don’t line up, but this was one of those expectations. I might have another chance to come back on a day with better weather, but it was unlikely he would. It was now or never. I grit my teeth and continued after him. I’d make it to the top for his sake.

big buddha statue Hong KongThe wind picked up as we climbed higher. Suddenly the clouds parted, and there it was. The bronze statue was not one of those fat and happy Buddhas I was used to seeing in American Chinese restaurants. This version was not grinning from ear to ear, made to look like everything was some big joke. Instead, he appeared accepting, calm, and serene though still with a hint of a smile. His hand was raised up in greeting and welcome.

The wind died back down and the clouds rolled back in, but I had seen the statue. I knew it was there and it was closer than I expected. Those final flights of stairs didn’t seem quite as impossible anymore. I could do this.

The news recently has been quite disheartening, to the point that I am tempted to never turn the TV back on again as if that could in some way stop the events from happening. The damage in Nepal, catastrophic, the loss of life, tragic. Where do you even start rebuilding? How can you possibly mourn so many lost? Closer to home, there have been riots against a system that has so many broken parts that it can be fixed only through a massive undertaking. It seems like we are at the bottom of those stairs. We only can hope that if we work hard we may yet find a better future, but there is no guarantee that we will like the results. And yet, turning around is not an option. If we are to find the peace we seek, we must first take the first step.

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10 thoughts on “Climbing the stairway to heaven

  1. Nice analogy, and I think the clouds and mist added to the allure. Funny, I always picture Hong Kong as this super crowded place full of skyscrapers, neon lights and people. It’s nice to know there is nature available, even if you have to climb a ways to reach it.

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    • The big island is exactly that, but the outer edges, especially the new territories (land connecting Hong Kong to mainland China) isn’t nearly as developed. I would however recommend finding a trusted guide before venturing out that way unless your Cantonese is very good.

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