Thursday, December 14, 2017

The production of The Qualia Song.

Near the end of each year, just before the holiday seasons, our lab has a special meeting called "The Brain Club Xmas Special." (The Brain Club is the name for the journal and research club held every week.)
In the Xmas Special, we hold a competition to create (often humorous) works. We vote, and there is a prize for the winner.

So this year, I created a song titled "The Qualia Song" using GarageBand. I knew for quite some time that there was this music software on my Mac (and iPhone), but this was the first time I used it. Initially, it was difficult to grasp how to use regions and loops, but I went through the learning curve and here it is.

The lyrics are by me, and I take responsibility for any biases or misperceptions. : - )  

The Qualia Song.

(Lyrics by Ken Mogi)

Qualia are sensory qualities
Like the redness of red
If you don’t get it you can still have it
So relax, breathe, and enjoy your qualia
Immersed in the here and now

Some people just don’t get it
Like the great Daniel D
We can agree to disagree
So relax, breathe, and enjoy your qualia
Your existence in the here and now

It is such a silly idea
But many people stick to it
The integrated information Theory
(IIT is obviously wrong! You know that!)
So relax, breathe, and enjoy your qualia
Your existence in the here and now

An individual arises from relations
in the Mach’s principle
Maybe twistor is the great savior
(God save Sir Roger Penrose!)
So relax, breathe, rejoice in your qualia

Your existence in the here and now 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

An audience with Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi at Christie's London.

During my latest visit to London, I had the fortune of viewing Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi, recently authenticated by experts. Christies announced that it would be put on auction on November 15. The artwork is expected to fetch astronomical sums. The last time it was put on auction in 1958, it fetched just 45 pounds. 

Learning that "The Last da Vinci" was to be shown in London, I was grateful for the happy coincidence. On the first day of the public viewing, which happened to be my last day in London, I started off to Christies at 8 King Street, after finishing my usual rounds of 10 km run in Hyde Park.
As I approached the venue, I was apprehensive of the wait time. Fortunately, the queue was not that long, perhaps due to the fact it was still early in the day. There were only six people before me. 

However, the movement of the queue was very slow. Apparently, given the nature of the venue (it's Christie's, after all) and people (some of them might actually be considering a purchase), they were taking extra time to admire the recovered work of the genius.
When I finally turned around the corner and the painting came into view, I understood the real reason why the movement had been so slow. 

It was such a fascinating painting. Once enraptured by it, it was really hard to leave. 
Christ's right hand is giving benediction. The luminance coming from the crossed fingers is counterbalanced by the subtle nuances of the face on one hand, and the serene, detached beauty of the crystal ball on the other, in an exquisite trinity of artistic motifs. As with Mona Lisa, the countenance of the savior, Jesus Christ, seemed to be conveying a poignant enigma.
The mystery of that expression would perhaps never be solvable, as in the case of Mona Lisa. People would discuss the "meaning" of the Salvator Mundi for many years to come.

Walking along the streets of London, I thought about the unique position that a savior of the world is placed. What does it take to sacrifice oneself for the redemption of the original sin of all humanity? What would the emotion of the savior be, as he reflects on his own destiny. Would it be resignation, sorrow, joy, pride, sense of duty, resilience, or sheer rapture?

Later that day, sitting on a chair at Heathrow, I felt as if, in some strange sense, I have encountered the person of Jesus Christ himself, in the house of Christie's. At the least, I had a sense of a reverberating intimacy of physical closeness. 

The very vividness and mastery coordinations of Leonardo's artistic expressions perhaps did that trick. 
As far as I was concerned, I met Jesus Christ in London, on that morning.
That would be what you would call the magic of a great work of art.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Writing the Little Book of IKIGAI.

The Little Book of IKIGAI, due to be published from Quercus on the 7th September 2017, is my first full English language book.

In the past, within the English language domain, I have written book chapters and edited a volume. However, this is the first time I have ever written a book in English from the beginning to the end. 

It is not that I am a stranger to the publishing world. I have published more than ~100 books in Japanese. 

However, the practical and imagined language barrier has been huge. For someone who was born and educated in Japan, writing a book in the English language de novo has been a dream that I thought would perhaps never become a reality.

Now that I have finished writing the book, with the final proof sent to the publisher, I can look forward to see that impossibility actually happen. 

Needless to say, I am extremely happy.

Writing a book in the English language has always been one of my personal ambitions. Like many other things in life, it got postponed for some reason or another, in a series of not-so-creative procrastinations.

The serendipity happened when my literary agent Mr. H made a trip to the London Book Fair. To be precise, Mr. H was not my literary agent at that time, since I did not have a single publication to my name in the English langauge. Mr. H was born in Australia and is now based in Tokyo. We have been discussing book projects over the years, but nothing had materialized, until last year.

During the London Book Fair, Mr. H met with an editor at Quercus, Katy. Katy apparently said she was looking for someone who would write a book on IKIGAI—the Japanese philosophy of life which contributes to good life and longevity. Mr. H immediately thought of me, and sent an e-mail.
To be honest, at that time, writing a book on IKIGAI was not on the top of my "to do list". 

Interestingly, there were several interesting coincidences. I already knew the Dan Buettner TED talk in which he mentioned IKIGAI as the secret of longevity in Okinawa, a lovely island in the south of Japan. Just before I got that e-mail from Mr. H, I was attending a TEDx conference in Tokyo, in which one of the audiences (who was apparently an American) mentioned in passing IKIGAI as one of the Japanese ideas that was catching the world's imagination.

So when I received that e-mail from Mr. H, although I had not thought of writing a book on IKIGAI before, I immediately thought it would be an interesting challenge to come up with something that would be not only helpful, but also provide some insights into the Japanese ways of life.

IKIGAI is something that many Japanese take for granted, like the air. In the process of writing the book, I needed to do some soul searching, reflecting on how this particular concept actually formed our daily lives. I also tried to present a concise explanation of science involved in the elucidation of the benefits of IKIGAI.

I did my best to make the book balanced on practical indications and in-depth explorations. I discussed the world of sumo, sushi, Shinto shrines, the usual suspects when discussing the unique values of the Japanese culture, as well as some themes probably new to many Western readers, such as radio calisthenics, comiket (comic market), and cosplay. 

I hope this book will be helpful for people who are interested in IKIGAI as a hint for a better life.