Saturday, July 23, 2005

Shigeo Miki memorial symposium.

I gave a talk in the 14th Shigeo Miki memorial symposium held in Geidai (Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music). I talked about the importance of the unrecallable memories in cognition and life. The theme came from my personal experience.
The anatomist Shigeo Miki (1925-1987) had a huge influence over the students in Geidai with his philosophy of "life memory" combined with a detailed discussion of the anatomical structure of various life forms from the fish to the man. Although I had come across his name in passing on several occasions, I never read his book, and thought that my life and Miki had little in common so far.
Then I suddenly realized that I actually had an opportunity to listen to one of the two lectures that Miki gave in the medical school of the Todai (University of Tokyo). I was 22 then. I was walking with my girl friend in the Todai campus, when I glanced upon this notice of a lecture on the development of human fetus in the womb ("The World of the Fetus", it said). Without much awareness I went into the lecture room. The man in the podium talked about how the prenatal development of the human body went through the various stages that the life followed in the long history of evolution. His enthusiasm was electrifying. When the lecture was over, and the lights were on, there was a huge applause.
Then I noticed something strange. My jacket was
wet on my left shoulder. Turning my face, I discovered that my girl friend was weeping. We went out of the lecture room, into the refreshing breeze of May. I asked her what was wrong. She said, after seeing so many photos of human fetus, she wondered why humans couldn't stop fighting each other.
That was a precious moment in my life, but for one reason or another I completely forgot about it. After almost 20 years, after reading a magazine article on Shigeo Miki I had a most strange feeling. Maybe that particular lecture I attended with my girl friend so many years ago was actually given by Shigeo Miki himself. I made enquiries to Hideto Fuse, professor at Geidai, and he confirmed my speculation was almost certainly true.
The very foundation of how I think about human memory was shaken by this experience. In the many years that I was oblivious of the Miki lecture, I think I was unconsciously influenced by what he said on that particular day. For example, when I went to the island of Bali and sat on the beach at night, listening to the waves gently breaking, there were moments when I thought about how our ancestors came ashore from the sea to the land. When I overheard that somebody was pregnant, I unconsciously reflected on the long history of the evolution of life.
In a silent and profound manner, the lecture by Shigeo Miki left a deep impact on my mind, with the particular memory never consciously recalled


Anatomist and thinker Shigeo Miki (1925-1987)

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