Saturday, November 21, 2009

Inner pictures

Nowadays, we are used to the idea of capturing moments of life with camera.

Needless to say, it used to be quite different in the old times.

Although photos do help us in recalling things in the past, most of the precious things in early life is remembered privately, without any photographic records to testify them.

When I was about 7 years old, there was a baby sparrow on the road in front of home. It was apparently feeble and helpless, unable to fly by itself.

I held it in my palms in an endeavor to give protection, and carried to the living room. Looking at the sparrow, my mother said, "maybe it wouldn't eat anything". I went to a pet shop with my sister, and bought some bird food. My mother was right. No matter how hard we tried, the baby sparrow would not swallow a thing. I knew that wild animals sometimes would refuse to eat in captivity. I was very worried.

Then things started to move very quickly. First there was a slight commotion outside. I heard the sound of wings. The baby sparrow started to react.

Before I realized that the mother sparrow have come to the rescue, the baby sparrow was already airborne. The strength left in it surprised me. Although I thought the windows were closed, there was this tiny gap. The baby sparrow flew straight to it, and went out into the open air with mother sparrow before I could do anything.

Thus all was well in the end. I was delighted, although there was a slight pang of loneliness.

To this day, I can recall the scenes of this incident very vividly. Although there are no photographic records, I still carry the inner pictures with me. I sometimes recall the gallery of images that made one of the most memorable experiences in my early life.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Precisely because it is absurd.

After writing about "Alice in Wonderland" yesterday, I remembered many different things.
The sequel, "Through the Looking-Glass", is also very delightful. I love, for example, the remark by the Red Queen.

"Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

Historically, this sentence has been giving inspirations to evolutionary biologists.
When I first read the Looking-Glass in the teens, the Jabberwocky poem struck me with its sensitive sense of humor.

This was the poem that Alice read.


'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

'Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!'

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought--
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

'And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

'It seems very pretty,' she said when she had finished it, 'but it's
RATHER hard to understand!' (You see she didn't like to confess, even
to herself, that she couldn't make it out at all.) 'Somehow it seems
to fill my head with ideas--only I don't exactly know what they are!
However, SOMEBODY killed SOMETHING: that's clear, at any rate--'

" However, SOMEBODY killed SOMETHING: that's clear, at any rate".
What a fine spirit of nonsense!

Nonsensical things lifts our spirit.
And the world is the merrier, precisely because it is absurd.

The Jabberwocky. Illustration by John Tenniel.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A picture or conversation, please!

The immortal "Alice's adventures in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll begins thus:

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, 'and what is the use of a book,' thought Alice 'without pictures or conversation?'

I really love the way Alice expresses her preferred condition for a book, namely "with a picture or conversation in it".
A picture or a conversation is like a scaffold which attracts a child's attention. As one is drawn deeply into the story, other things come to the rescue of the "keep going on", but there must be some initial inducers.

The necessity for a "spoonful of sugar" continues well into adulthood. There are things that makes our eyes gleam with kindled enthusiasm when we encounter a strange thing.

We are children deep inside, with things setting fire to our investigative mind in a manner like that "all in a golden afternoon".

Therefore, "a picture or conversation, please!"

Here's a picture. The white rabbit alluring Alice into Wonderland.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A tiny leaf dancing

In Andrei Tarkovsky's film "Solaris", the ocean plays an important role. The ever changing, whirling tides are living organisms, beyond human comprehension, floating above the normal modes of communication, the mundane existence of humanity.

Although the Solaris ocean is a fictitious entity, the same degree of invisibility surrounds the vast chunk of water that is earth's ocean. When I go to seaside, I never fail to be impressed by the intractable, impenetrable mass, refusing human civilization, protecting the last virgin nature on this overcivilized planet.

The point is to see that there is an ocean in each of us. The vastness of our unconscious and its uncontrollability is a scandal for anyone who professes to pursue a logical and coherent life.

Walking along a Tokyo street, I feel the ocean that is inside me swaying to-and-fro. I am a tiny leaf dancing on the waves of the vast ocean, never knowing where I am going, oblivious of what I have been.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

If you have the soul of a poet

I went to lecture at the International Conference Center Hiroshima. On the way, I passed by the Atomic Bomb Dome (Genbaku Dome).

Its shape against the sky never fails to impress me deeply. The deep impression is a testimony that inside that beauty, there resides a deep sadness. And that sadness is shared by all things in the universe, whether living or otherwise.

If you have the soul of a poet, and everybody has the soul of poet, you feel the awe and the tears flow in your inner space. Peace is a strong resolution. It is a fighting spirit, to get rid of the stupid brutalities.

Myself in front of the Genbaku Dome in the year 2000.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Surprise visit of sunbeam

On Saturday and Sunday, I was in Shinjo village to attend a symposium. Shinjo is such a hidden treasure. There is a street with cherry trees on both sides. Hazy mountains surround the cozily small plain on which the human habitation finds itself. The houses stand in a quiet harmony. Shinjo is one of these best kept secrets.

Apart from a single Minshuku, there aren't any hotels or ryokans in Shinjo. Therefore the participants of the symposium stayed at private houses. I was staying with Mr. Katsuthoshi Shishido. Before going to bed, (or rather, futon), I strolled along the cherry street. It was an incredible night. There were several drinking parties going on, with people from the symposium gathering here and there.

I enjoyed chatting with people over beer and sake as well as finding solace in the solitude as I ventured into the night air from time to time.

Strolling the stretch among houses dimly lit by candles, I pondered why precious things are hard to give explicit expressions for. The practical and vulgar things get easily distributed. While the gentle and poignant suffer. People hardly gave a thought, for example, to the destruction of nature for a long, long time. Or the deterioration of conscience.

No wonder self-consciousness suffers in modern times. Each one us is bleeding internally from the effects of civilization. But then the fact that I am I have always suffered, the brutal forces of nature and society trespassing and degrading its sovereignty, while the comfort comes occasionally, like a surprise visit of sunbeam through a thick black cloud.