By Richard Hsu
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Story From Sunday Mass: Junk Collector

There are two things I like about Sunday mass: The music and stories (homily/sermon). Here is one Father Galea told last Sunday. I don't remember the exact words so this is an adapted version.

A man asks a boy "what do you want to be when you grow up?". He answers "a junk collector". Surprised at the answer, then disappointed but not curious at all, the man gets ready to give unsolicited advice about life choices. He is about to tell the boy why he should be anything but a junk collector when the boy asks "so what have you done?". The man is quiet, thinks and then realises everything he has collected is junk.

Father gave an example of J. Robert Oppenheimer, considered the "father of the atomic bomb", a bright scientist who spent years leading a team developing weapons of mass destruction. When the first atomic bomb was detonated in 1945, his thoughts were "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.". He would later oppose the use of nuclear weapons. Perhaps, all he considered valuable wasn't so?

I thought about the answer to "so what have you done?". Difficult one.

"Look for treasures in life, not junk", advised Father Galea. How to tell them apart? To help answer this question, you should think about death said Father. It will give a better perspective on life and what is a treasure, what is junk. My own views on this changes with time. My favourites on the subject of death and purpose of life are How to Do What You Love by Paul Graham, Steve Job's commencement address, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch1 and Empathy by Matt Gemmell.

Things I tell myself and others (when they ask):

  • Laugh at yourself
  • Don't worry about money or prestige
  • Stay hungry, stay foolish
  • Have fun all the time
  • Don't complain; just work harder

  1. The last part "Why I Gave the Talk" tears me up everytime. This is the 10 mins. version. The original 1 hr version is on YouTube