Saturday, March 27, 2010

Try to forget

I think one of the most important things in life is to forget.

As we live along, things accumulate, and the momentum becomes a killer rather than nurturer of new initiatives and unexpected twists. We start to tacitly assume that today is going to be something like yesterday, where, even if there is to be some sort of change, it is going to be at best incremental.

It is advisable therefore to forget that you have been living for these "x" years. You are entitled to feel as if you were born today. You are allowed to start things all over again, without necessarily tracing the thing that has been burdening you until yesterday.
Assignments and promises can be reducers in the endeavor to freshly start. Therefore a day, or even an hour without anything specific to do is a godsend, since you would have a free hand to do whatever you liked to do. Imagination is the only limit, and
the problem is that imagination is not wild enough most of the time.

Even if you pretend as if you have forgotten everything, there would be a continuation of neural dynamics, so that consistency is more or less maintained. Forgetting does not constitute a discontinuation of dynamics. It is just a small tiny mode change in the evolving process that goes on anyway.

So try to forget. Act as if you were born today, with brand new ambitions, dreams that are bold beyond reason, and a daredevil ignorance of what tomorrow brings.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Strike out

As a kid I was fond of playing baseball. I was not a particularly good hitter. When I was cornered into two strikes, the bad image of a strike out would pop into my mind. I try to compose myself, but the negative feeling would persist.

There's the pitch, and the ball comes towards me as if in a slow motion. I swing my bat, and sure enough, I miss the ball. Often by wide margins.

To this day, the experience of anticipating a strike out and the actually see it happening remains a persistent item in my collection of feelings. I should say that I rather enjoy the going down. Even if you strike out, there would be always another at bat.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Life is not a belt conveyor

Believe it or not, Japanese University students start the activity of searching for a company to work for ("Shukatsu") more than one year before graduation.

Students start searching for their jobs in December of their third year. Graduation would be still one year and three months away (which takes place in March here), and the academic activities are at their peak. And yet, the students would be obliged to start the job searching right in the middle of the academic year.

The companies, on the other hand, do not usually consider those who have already graduated, or have spent some time away from an institution such as a university, as potential recruits. As a result, there is a tremendous pressure on the students to "stay on course". A gap year is not allowed. For example, if you want to work as a volunteer abroad after graduating from a university, it would usually signify that you would not be able to work for a company as a "regular employee" ("Seishain"), because only the freshly graduating students can be considered for that status.

Personally, I think all this is RIDICULOUS with a capital R.

Life is not a belt conveyor. People make random walks, and are well advised to do so, as they would learn lots of valuable things in wandering around. If you are managing the recruiting process of a company, it would be only sensible to look for people with various different backgrounds, as the survival in the competitive market today would require a diversity of talents, including those who are able to potentially support themselves independent of an institution.
The current Japanese custom, where the big companies consider only fresh graduates as candidates for employment, is not only foolish from economical point of view, but also, needless to say, constitutes a serious infringement of basic human rights. It should be rectified ASAP.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Until I seat myself under that great cherry tree.

Nowadays, I am very uneasy. I look up at the sky from time to time, and think when it must be. Should it be on Saturday, Sunday, or sometimes in the next week? There is not an easy answer. All my agitations are caused by the arrival of cherry blossoms.

First it is the hint of mildness in the cold air. Then the sudden sweet turn of the sunshine. Something in my heart starts to move. And before you know it, the cherry blossoms are blooming. It is difficult to predict when the flowers would be in full bloom. It is like reading your lover-to-be's mind on your first date.

The cherry trees are everywhere in Tokyo. They do not usually bear fruits. The Someiyoshino cherry was developed in the Edo era, and due to the flourishing beauty of blooms, has been adapted and cultivated everywhere. Spring is their prime show time.

Until we perform our annual hanami ("flower admiring") ritual, my state of agitation would persist. I look for the place, I search for the time. I am in a constant motion in search of the fulfillment of my heart, until I seat myself under that great cherry tree.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Togetsukyo bridge

I have been to the wonderful Arashiyama district in the suburbs of Kyoto many times, starting from the school trip at the age of 15. For some reasons, I have never crossed the Togetsukyo bridge. I do not have the faintest idea why I have not gone to the other side. It is a famous bridge, a popular tourist destination, and may people make a point of crossing the bridge, and see the river from the other side. Coming to think about it, it is strange that it never occurred to me to venture into the other side. But then I have never thought about it consciously, as if to avoid something.

Seen from the familiar Sagamino area, the other side of the Togetsukyo bridge always seemed to belong to another world. It was as if the beyond belonged to some fairy kingdom, or, more aptly, "Higan" ("The Other Side"), an important concept in Buddhist philosophy.

Yesterday the precedent was broken. I did cross the Togetsukyo bridge and go to the other side. As the fantasy materialized, it transfigured itself into a rather mundane collections of contemporary buildings, with commonplace souvenir shops and restaurants. My Higan of 30 years has disappeared.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Words of passion

I once heard that Mr. Ivica Osim, when he was serving as the head coach of the Japanese national football team, used to say to the players "Run, run, and run!".

Once, a player complained that his legs were aching. He could not run due to the pain. Mr. Osim then famously said: "Think of a wild rabbit. Would the rabbit ask the fox to wait, because one of his legs was aching?"

Mr. Osim's words were apparently a paraphrase of Vladimir Lenin, who once remarked that it was important to "leran, learn, and learn".

Sturm und Drang. These are words of passion. I sometimes come back to these words in my difficult times.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

It has always been a puzzler for me

This morning, Google is rumored to walk out of China after failure of negotiation with the local government.

It is interesting to compare the reasoning of the two parties concerned. Google is putting forward freedom of information, which, according to the views held by many, has been the driving force of human civilization. China is referring to the "stability of society" as the reason for needing censorship, which, while having a practical significance for those concerned (for those in the power, that is), do not have a comparable stronghold as freedom of information in the history of human civilization.
It is interesting that, whenever such confrontations arise, it appears that one party has a clear, explicit statements of the principles involved, while the other, while being equally obstinate, can cite only practical and ad hoc reasons to support their particular actions and choices.

Having born and been bought up in Tokyo, I know from my own experiences that going back to the first principles is not the practice of many people. I was trained as a physicist, and a physicist always does that--going back to the first principles. And yet, even before studying physics seriously, I was in favor of the first principles approach as a kid, while my friends were not necessarily so.

In my view, the confrontation between Google and China is not simply a question of different cultures, where "different cultures" suggest some sort of symmetry between two equally valuable oddities. It is rather, from my own viewpoint, the question of whether one stands by and consider it desirable to always come back to the first principles of civilization.
It has always been a puzzler for me why some people don't care about the first principles and go about in life following only practical interests. Since I am so accustomed to that particular aspect of human nature, I am not at all surprised by the actions of the Chinese government. I am just intrigued, and go on following my own instinct, rather enjoying the minority status that comes with that attitude.