In this Green Renaissance film, Christopher Leow shares the pain and disorientation of leaving behind the expectations of others alongside the joy and sense of purpose found in living a more simple, authentic life.
Green Renaissance produces gorgeous short films that uplift the personal stories of ordinary people, with the goal of sharing ideas and inspiring change. We feel hugely blessed to feature video-stories that filmmakers Michael and Justine capture with exquisite expertise, and which so beautifully illustrate Grateful Living principles and practices. In this short film we hear from Christopher Leow.
I hate money. We can just live without money, right, in an ideal world. And then I just find that we have to do all these funny things. We are just animals, right? We just need to eat, in theory. And I can grow food, so why do I need money? That’s what makes me so frustrated.
As a young boy I would go to different places in Singapore by myself and sit there and just draw, still life. Time stopped. And I wanted to pursue art but the expectation of my parents was that you’re supposed to get an engineering job, a “real job” as they used to say. So I pursued that instead.
Your parents have done so much for you and you want to listen to them. You want to be a good son. I was afraid of failing, disappointing my family and their expectations. I remember those two years were tense and very conflicted because I knew I didn’t want to go back to engineering and they didn’t want to accept that I felt differently and I wanted to do something else.
I had so much baggage in my body and my soul and I knew that I wasn’t happy. I was very depressed. I was pale. I was not eating. I didn’t know how to express my feelings back then. I let it bottle up, let it explode. And then it caused collateral damage. I need to release this pressure that’s building up inside of me. I just wanted to escape. And I literally booked a one way ticket away from here, I didn’t care. I just wanted to get out. I’d had enough of my family, enough of life and societal pressure. So I went to India.
It was the most special place I’ve ever been to. It was very wholesome and it was very honest. Even when I visited the slums, people were poor but they were still kind. You could see in their eyes, when the children light up, when they offer you food with pure generosity and sincerity, you feel it… and I felt it. And that was a value that I then resonated with. They still had this human spirit that connected with me. Every part of the journey I managed to get closer and closer to this enigma moment, this moment of realization.
Even though you don’t have money, you can still be happy. And you can still have this humanness about you.
We’re all just people. We’re all just trying to feed ourselves. We’re all trying to do our best for our families. And it’s as simple as that. It’s not really complicated. We just want to be cared for. We just want to be listened to.
Both them and I had our own struggles. So to be human is to share that same understanding that in different environments you have different struggles. So the rich have the struggles of wanting more, constantly wanting more…having that baggage on them all the time. And then when I saw these people living in poverty, I realized that their struggle is not having enough. But then they had the upside of being light. Everything that they have is joy to them. Maybe I could be more like them. Maybe I could not pursue the wealth but have a more grounded approach. That made me re-evaluate my whole life. And that made me decide that this is the way I want to live.
I want to live an authentic life and I want to live an honest life. I want to live simply. Yeah.
Not many people have this opportunity to find their true purpose. And I think I definitely have found it. Teaching people, sharing with them where food comes from. This is what food is all about…this human connection and connection with nature. I remember seeing this book about the stars and how old the stars are, like billions and billions of years old. And that really puts things in perspective, right? We’re just so tiny. We’re insignificant. But often everyday we feel like we’re the most important thing in the universe. And when it comes to food, we always extract from nature to feed us, but we’re just this little part of the whole ecosystem. It’s all connected. We need to reduce our sense of entitlement.
When I was traveling in India, I happened to chance upon a book by the Dalai Lama that talked about finding peace in nothingness. I had a certain peace — internal peace —when I had nothing. It’s a strange phenomenon but the more you have, the more you want more. And then you keep chasing, and then the more you chase, the more you’re disconnected to human connections, to being close to nature.
The money thing is definitely a struggle, right? Finding the sweet spot. Just so you know, it’s not like I can live without money and I don’t want it. This industry, it’s a hard one. Farmers get paid the least in the world. So I know what I’m getting myself into. It’s going to be financially very difficult. But yet deep in my soul, I know I’m happiest when I’m doing it. There’s this little fire in my belly. I think it’s just all those years of anger and being suppressed that I just wanted to be the solution. If I just go back to another job that pays well then all this time and all these realizations would have become nothing. So sometimes going through that pain is a necessary evil for you to find or seek what you really want to do.
I don’t imagine a perfect world or utopia…that’s kind of boring for me actually. This is my ideal world, crazy and imperfect, but that’s the perfect world for me. To live in this chaos, to weave through it…to provide that encouragement, support, and inspiration wherever I go. And I know I’m not going to change the world but I can just be that one body that is just there and touching people. It sounds a bit cheesy but I have a mission, someone out there is calling me to do it, and the world, the universe, is helping me get there. I’m not on my own.
To support Michael and Justine in their film-making journey, visit Green Renaissance.
Justine and Michael are a creative couple living in South Africa. Their project, Green Renaissance, works to spread positive stories that reflect the wonder of the world. With the goal of sharing ideas and inspiring change, they produce gorgeous short films that are posted online and available for anyone, anywhere, to watch and share freely.
Through their films, they explore what it means to be human. They touch on topics that can often be difficult for people to discuss – from loss of a loved one to aging and retirement to friendship to love and courage – universal themes that we all deal with at some stage in our lives.
By sharing these stories, Justine and Michael hope to remind us of one simple truth – that we are all human – that inside our hearts and minds, we are all facing similar challenges. We have so much to learn from each other, and our connections run so much deeper and stronger than we think. Learn more and support their work at greenrenaissance.co.za.