Friday, 22 September 2023

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Josie Ho’s Search for Bliss

by Benjamin Cheah

“Our natural state of being is bliss,” Josie Ho declared.

Speaking at the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum 2018, the Hong Kong singer and actress delivered a presentation on her documentary Finding Bliss: Fire and Ice. Set in Iceland, the 80-minute film covered her journey to find bliss in the land of fire and ice.

“Bliss is a supreme state of happiness that everyone consciously or unconsciously strives for. If we need to strive for bliss, then we’re not in our natural state… How do we get back to our natural state?” she asked.

Her answer: opening one’s inner self to humour and ridicule, and in the process gaining a deeper understanding of one’s self.

In her search for bliss, Ms Ho collaborated with Hong Kong comedian Jim Chim. Being students of legendary French comedian Philippe Gaulier, the duo adopted Mr Gaulier’s teachings of Le Jeu, or ‘to play’.

“Hong Kong people are very conservative when it comes to their personal feelings, so I thought it would be interesting to invite some people that are more quiet and reserved in their private lives to come out and find their bliss,” Ms Ho said.

She invited her band The Uni Boys, Hong Kong rapper MC Yan from LMF and 3 underprivileged children from the ChickenSoup Foundation to Iceland to find their bliss.

Iceland was a deliberate choice. As the land of fire and ice, it represented shock treatment, and shock treatment was the order of the day.

Throughout the trip, the participants played a series of games, exposing themselves to ridicule and humour. In one game, players were tasked with greeting each other with funny faces. In another, the participants went around talking gibberish to the locals. The Hong Kong musicians also had an opportunity to jam with Icelandic artistes, meshing Chinese and Icelandic rock in a performance titled Wong Fei Hong meets Thor.

“In games, you learn to open up, let go of your fears and accept yourself for what you are, make fun of your own weakness,” Ms Ho said.

During one such session, the participants stood at the back of a room in front of a crowd and put up a performance. If they sensed that the crowd liked them, they could take a step back. But if they advanced without earning the approval of the audience, they would be sent back.

“[The] most fearful thing is that your performance won’t reach out to anyone at all,” she said. “But you have to eat it, and you have to deal with yourself at the moment and accept it. You have to be happy, you have to be generous enough to pass this game.”

Through the games, she said, the chemistry among the group blossomed. From Jim Chim, she learned that one develops wisdom and joy through games, and that only pleasure brings intellectual compassion.

“By opening up my humorous self, I have nothing more to lose. No hands tied, no shying away from strangers.,” Ms Ho said. “We learned that having a sincere attitude can allow fun ideas to happen. We truly expressed our mind with no hold back.”

Closing out her speech, she discussed the importance of making people happy.

“Be a clown. It makes others happy, as well as you can enjoy the pleasure of making people happy. Once everybody is happy, things get motivated, we are free, we are invincible. Don’t be so serious. Chill.”

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