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  • Writer's pictureSurapsari Fujimaru


It is a time of danger, suffering, and pain. It is a rip current that sweeps out to the deep water far away from the shore of safety. Its sheer power breaks the heart and bleeds the soul.

You are lucky if you haven’t had it yet. But the chance is that you will encounter it at least once in your lifetime. The passing of a loved one, illness, divorce, career loss, financial hardship—a life-changing event could throw you into it. It sometimes begins with inner conflict rather than a particular event. Midlife turmoil about mortality, life dissatisfaction, loss of purpose, and self-doubt is a good example.

A crisis sounds scary. It generates the dark place of sorrow and disorientation. The feelings of helplessness and hopelessness linger. But the original meaning of crisis is “a turning point in a disease” that would lead to recovery or a more threatening condition, even death. How can we focus on recovery instead of a threat? What will helps us reach out to the light when the darkness feels like the only reality?

The Japanese word for crisis is kiki, written with two Chinese characters, 危 and 機. It is widely (and somewhat incorrectly) understood that 危 means danger and 機 represents opportunity”: hence many people understand the message of 危機 is not to succumb to the danger and grasp the opportunity.

Chinese characters are pictographic. They developed from pictorial drawings, similar to cuneiform and hieroglyphic writing. Here is the original pictograph of 危.

It shows the person kneeling by the steep cliff. When we face an enormous and unavoidable obstacle (steep cliff), we can do nothing but fall to our knees, pray, and surrender. The image of kneeling unstably led to mean danger.

Interestingly, the kneeling person appears twice in the pictograph, above and below the cliff.

Is the one above the cliff frozen, terrified of danger, or taking time to assess the situation as calmly as possible? Is the one below making a desperate plea for help or expressing humility toward the force beyond personal power?

Now, let’s take a look at the original pictograph of 機.

It shows a tree on the left, fine threads on the upper right, and a human wielding a spear with preciseness and focus on the lower right. The whole pictograph represents a wooden loom (that weaves threads with detailed and precise movement).

We could stay kneeling powerlessly or get up and start weaving the next life chapter by taking small steps one at a time with focus and determination.

When 危 and 機 appear one after another, they present a person who surrenders to an unavoidable obstacle with fear, deep sorrow, and humility and begins to weave fine fabric by engaging in laborious, detailed, and continuous work.

We can try avoiding danger but have no power to prevent it. When life throws us into a dangerous place, we fear for what comes next, cry for help, and pray for the best.

Then, we have a choice.

We could stay kneeling powerlessly or get up and start weaving the next life chapter by taking small steps one at a time with focus and determination.

If we choose the second option, our lives will become beautiful tapestries with intricate designs and patterns.


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