Thursday, April 19, 2007

Only positive things

Some time ago, I made a half conscious, and half unconscious resolution that I will basically refer to positive things coming from positive emotions in what I write. I have my share of rage and sometimes very fierce criticisms, but I reserve them for the medium of air. I just say it, and let it pass. When you write it down, it remains, and with the passage of time begins to stink. Positive things age into maturity, but negative things deteriorate and leave a bitter aftertaste. I recommend this differential usage of media for anyone with passion, both positive and negative or otherwise.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Thesis in oil

Leonard da Vinci's "Annunciation" is now on exhibit in the Tokyo National Museum. Taking a good look at it, I realized how it is not only an excellent manifestation of the artistry of painting, but also a fine expression of human intellect.

There is this misconception that the natural media for academism are papers and essays. A piece of art, on the other hand, is often considered as something separate from these expressions of human wisdom, something in coherence with the primordial emotions and urges that are rather curbed in the pursuit of excellence in academism.

But such a view is clearly ill-conceived, and Leonard's work is a fine proof in residence. For a starter, in this painting everything looks alive, vibrant, not only Mary and Gabriel, and the flowers at the foot of the angel, the trees in distance, all those which are considered alive in the conventional world view, but also the stone wall, the mountain, the clouds, the air, and even the Bible. Such a spiritual timbre captured on panel can only come from a deep understanding of the coherences and differentiations between life and materials, the mind and matter, space and time, the essence of all living things, and the relation between man and god.

In short, "Annunciation" is an exquisite expression of a deep thinking intellectual that was Leonard, just as Origin of Species was the culmination of Charles Darwin's intellectual endeavors over many years. Leonard was in his early twenties when he did this "thesis in oil"

Monday, April 16, 2007

The tuna night

In a warm night, when the wind is gently breezing around my body, there is one memory that comes back to me again and again. It is about two university undergraduates lying on the banks of the Sumida River in downtown Tokyo at dusk, just like a pair of tuna fish in the Tsukiji fish market. One is Ken Shiotani, the fat (or in other words, "gravitationally challenged") philosopher of temporality and other enigmas. The other is I, his best friend at that time and since, bubbling about everything like a boiling kettle.

In those days we hang out together and talked about difficult things in general, so there was nothing unusual about our killing time on the riverbank. Still, that night stands out as a hallmark in our youthful investigations. We had a can of beer each, with very casual clothing. We may have looked like two homeless people, or aspiring candidates thereof. There were a number of couples strolling along the river. Night was falling, and walking with your loved one was the only sensible thing to do. We talked about science and philosophy instead. We were clearly the odd ones out.

The couples, seeing that there were two shabbily dressed blokes with beer cans, apparently talking nonsense, chose to do what was clearly sensible. Each of them unfailingly made a large detour along the bank, avoiding us in a great circular trajectory, going back to their normal strolling behavior once they were safely distant from the two strange persona non grata.

I don't know why that night stands out so vividly in my memory. Maybe it is a symbol of our youthful misery, or perhaps it is rather that of a sublime glory in deprivation. In any case, I do cherish the remembrance, wishing that I could go back to that very night as an ignorant youth.

Theoretically, we could restage our "tuna night on the bank" anytime even at a mature age. Only stupid social customs and mannerisms prevent us from enjoying the fruits of poignant follies. Maybe I should get a can of beer and call up Shiotani and head for the Sumida River at this very moment.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


As one gets along with time in life, many thing accumulate in the brain. You cannot recall them explicitly. But it is all there. Therefrom come life's many blessings, like the growing personality and the nostalgic memories. On the other hand, like a wine that has gone bad due to an ill conceived maturation treatment, traces of the past can kill the vital freshness within the self.

Therefore it is sometimes good to forget. To feel as if one was born today, where everything in the world is fresh, envigorating, and full of surprises. To feel again that everything is possible, where you are provided with potentially infinite future time. You felt like that in your childhood. There is no reason why you cannot feel the same, no matter how old you are. It is just a matter of tricking your brain into an exquisite cocktail of context-formation, pretending, and believing in the potential of the universal elan vital. Everything is bottomless, and therefore infinite.