“CUBA: The Blue Bird Dreams about the World beyond the Sea”
There are two types of people in this world: those who are happy with their everyday life and those who can but dream of finding their ideal home somewhere far away. The same difference can be seen even between two siblings who grew up in the same family. Sometimes their views of happiness are so different that they look as if they were from different families. Why is that? What is the meaning of our happiness? The conclusion of The Blue Bird written by Belgian author Maeterlinck is that the blue bird of happiness resides at home. The message of this story is the happiness is not somewhere far away but that it is always in your heart. That may be true. But hope for happiness in a faraway place still clings to some people. They believe that something good will wait for them if they go somewhere far away. They might be natural-born dreamers. But anyway their wish would be stronger if they had grown up under strict rules and regulations.
In February, 2014, I stayed in Cuba, having a lot of conversations with the local people. “What is happiness?” This was the question that most frequently came to my mind during my stay. Cuba, an island country in the Caribbean, is a socialist state. Only a very limited number of people are allowed to cross the sea. The state is well advanced in education and social welfare. People can receive education and medical care for free. It is true that a certain gap between the haves and the have-nots exists, but the basic food supply is guaranteed for everyone unless something like a food crisis occurs. Therefore, even the people in a poor area look quite full of life. It seems Cubans in general live a mentally secured life. However, some people still hang their hopes on another place beyond the sea.
When I was in Cuba, one of my childhood memories came back to me. That was about a pair of parakeets and their four chicks that I had when I was six years old. One sunny holiday in autumn, my family went out to a zoo. That morning, my mother and I hung the birdcage on a laundry pole in the yard so that the birds could enjoy the sun. But the weather changed toward evening. It turned very windy, which we had never expected. On the way home, my sister and I were very much worried about our birds. On reaching our home, I rushed toward the yard. Even from afar, I could see the cage blown down mercilessly on the ground, which was what I had feared. The door of the cage was wide open. Though I was still a young child, I could presume all the birds must have gone. However, in the next moment, my disappointment turned into surprise and delight. My eyes caught the yellowish green in the fallen cage. That was Pico, the father bird. Instead of flying away like the rest of the birds, he chose to stay. He alone remained in the cage, standing still. What did he feel when he saw all the rest of his family flying away? Why didn’t he follow them even on impulse? I did not understand. The only thing I knew for sure was that Pico liked the place where he lived. Then I learned for the first time that even the birds have different sensibilities about the place to stay. That is why this episode has remained in my memory as an important experience.
The concern about the place to stay continues to be in our psych throughout our life. “What is the place that is truly ours?” “What is happiness?” My stay in Cuba gave me an opportunity to think about those questions. For that I am grateful. The answer to these questions differs from person to person, yet there is one thing that somehow remains in all our heads. That is the story of The Blue Bird, the journey to find a place of happiness. Wherever “the blue bird” might be, we may just want to see that place with our own eyes.
On December 17th in 2014, news about the US-Cuba relationship broke all over the world. Both countries decided to begin the process of normalizing diplomatic relations for the first time in fifty-four years. If the process goes well, the living environment will surely change in Cuba though we have yet to see what effect it brings to the country’s socialist system. But if the day comes when the ordinary Cubans can look for “the blue bird” of their own will, their stories about happiness will truly begin.