In Memory of Anita Mui 梅艳芳
October 10, 1963 – December 30, 2003
What is a life written in water? Meaningful or empty? If it had a melody, would it sound happy or sad, or something else?
Anita Mui sang the evocative “A Life Written in Water” in a 1984 Hong Kong movie called “Homecoming.” Anita was a superstar in Asia and millions wept when she passed away at the age of 40. The 12th anniversary of her passing was less than a month ago.
One does not need to understand the Chinese singing (Cantonese in this case) to feel the poignancy of the melody, written by Kitaro, or to imagine the tenderness of the lyrics. The song captures feelings that most people experience at least once in their lives–profound loss and a sense of being set hopelessly adrift. Read the translation and watch the video (both below) and tell me if you feel this is so.
The Lyrics for “A Life Written in Water” (似水流年)
My friend Dawn Yuan translated the lyrics literally from Chinese. She and I then “smoothed out” the words in English to capture the feeling of the original.
Weary, with no words or tears, I look at the endless sea,
Confused, I look at the endless sky
Like a small boat, my heart is tossed in waves,
I look at my days and wonder
Where am I going?
I can’t see, but I’m willing to keep on
Just who is steering this tiny boat
Struggling to stay afloat in this sea of sadness
My heart mourns
The years flow by like water
The past is gone, forever
All I have now are memories, chains and chains of memories,
I long for yesterday, but time cannot turn back
My youth is gone, all is changed
But not my love
My love will stay, forever
Singing About Her Own Life?
A Life Written in Water was composed for a movie, but it’s like Anita Mui sang about her own life. She was a versatile, talented, hard-working star (singer and actress) who blazed a well-deserved trail to the top. Success brought loyalty and adoration from millions, but it did not safeguard her from great loss—of family members and friends (including Leslie Cheung–1:54 of below video).
Being a female star in the male-dominated world of Hong Kong show business in the 80’s and 90’s, Anita had to develop a certain panache, a strong personality and a “leathery” hide. It was one that barely hid her heart that yearned for the love of a soulmate.
Here she is singing, not only from her heart, but also from her soul. (The melody kicks in at 24 seconds.)
Music to Heal the Heart
There’s a beauty in sharing the truth of what’s happening in your heart. It takes more strength and courage than many people believe they’re capable of. To show vulnerability takes guts! Let’s face it, the thought of having our hearts trampled in the dust is downright paralyzing. (So, be choosy who you share with, but do share!)
What I have come to realize:
Disconnection from the heart closes and hardens the heart. (Sadly, there’s so much of that in our world.) Disconnection brings a sense of emptiness, which is an unbearable, unhealthy kind of pain; that is, if you actually acknowledge that is what’s going on. I think that all of us experience or have experienced this. To fill up the hole, in order to avoid the pain, what do so many people do? Isolate, eat too much, sleep too much, do drugs, become workaholics or alcoholics or shopaholics, or any other number of things.
Connection with the heart opens and softens the heart. For me, beauty that touches deep helps a lot, and sometimes it comes with music. There’s something about A Life Written in Water that brings me to tears. When I let them flow, it’s like they wash my heart.
Beautiful Human Beings
Beauty can help us feel the pain of being human which, I believe, can be a “healthy” kind of pain, even when excruciating. This pain is a kneading (needing) of the heart. Kneading to soften and make more pliable. Kneading to help us feel more compassion for self and others. The ego must step aside.
Open hearts can help us all be more human beings. To be more human and humane, isn’t that what will make all the difference?