Friday, October 23, 2009

Original sin

On the airplane, I was thinking again about Glenn Gould.

In an earlier post ("Private language of music", 14th October 2009), I wrote:

I have a hunch why Gould refrained from playing in the public later in his career. The presence of attentive minds is a great stimulator. On the other hand, it sometimes stimulates one in a vulgar way. One would like to entertain, and therefore goes out of the way. A great art lies there, so it is not necessarily a bad thing. However, it is at the same time a distraction from purity, which Gould probably hated.
For a performer like Vladimir Horowitz, the audience is a godsend. Gould, on the other hand, thrived in the absolute privacy.

The crucial thing is that the very nature of music is transformed in the presence of others. We are social beings, and confronting others come so naturally to us. However, it also affects our existence. Maybe it is the original sin.

In a sense, Glenn Gould was trying the impossible. How to make music without the presence of an audience. It is like forgetting how one looked in the mirror. Knowledge has tainted our consciousness, and we simply cannot go back. The bliss of ignorance is never to return, not even as a momentary lapse, as in the unconscious there would be always knowledge.

Sometimes beauty holds a terrible truth. Gould's music is a Pandora's box.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Secretly mischievous

I was walking to NHK, and going through the Yoyogi park. Near the entrance, there is a shop where they sell beer, drinks, and miscellaneous things.

It was a find day. The sun was setting in the Western horizon. And I bought a color ball.

It is a soft ball made of plastic, something that I used to play with when I was a kid. I don't know why I bought it. The idea somehow captured me.

I threw and caught it with my hands several times, and then put it into my backpack.

Once in NHK, I behaved like a normal adult, pretending that something like a color ball never had anything to do with my serious life.

All the while, I felt secretly mischievous. With a color ball, when nobody is around, you can always go back to five year old.
Later in the evening, I passed the security gate at Haneda airport with the color ball in my bag. I winced a little, but needless to say, the alarm did not sound.

Now I am with the color ball in the southern city of Kochi. The freedom to be a little mischievous is still with me.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Despised and rejected

It was late, as I finally made my way towards home. I was alone in the street, with the hush of night surrounding my existence.
As often happens in such a situation, I thought of the miracle of our existence. I don't understand. Why am I here and now? How come there are these elementary particles flying all over the place, with natural laws governing them all?

13.7 billions years of physical abundance, and presto, we are here, as conscious beings, the enigma of the mind-body remaining unsolvable as in the days of Baruch Spinoza. The efforts towards the solution have not moved an inch.

I am not associated with any organized religion. However, at such moments I am convinced of an order beyond human comprehension, which we might refer to in the name of God, not necessarily meaning human-like, but some "entity" responsible for the whole thing.

Among those who consider themselves rational, the very idea tends to be rejected, as something that belongs to prejudices and superstitions of past times.

The Bible describes the life's processions of Jesus Christ with poetic precision of human psychology. The observation is keen and without mercy.

He was despised and rejected.

"He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering (Isaiah)."

What the Bible describes in this great passage about the fall of the savior has always been a source of inspiration for me.

What is essential and fundamental can be despised and rejected, as if it was worthless, something to be disposed of.

This truth, put to beautiful music by George Frideric Handel in Messiah, is something to be cherished and thought over when you approach an idea which tends to be ridiculed by the intellects of the day.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The next big thing

In life what you see in the periphery is often more important than what you observe in the central vision.

If your attention is stuck, then you do not have the flexibility to move your mind around, and capture what is transient and disappearing ever and ever.

Catch it if you can. The essential and important things often play hide and seek with your mind. There, in the corner of your visual field, the next big thing is secretly throbbing with excitement, for you to discover and make a contact of the soul.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Enjoy the clumsiness

One of the things I am quite sure is that when I have spare time I know how to spend it.

Without money, left alone from the world at large, I would think of loads of ways to entertain myself. I am a proclaimed self-entertainer. I would never be at a loss what to do in the next few hours.

Recently, when I was on the road, I thought of another way of entertaining myself. Left hand drawing. I am a right hander, and have almost never used the left hand to draw or write. Maybe I was a bit drunk at that time. What happened was that while I was in a hotel room, I thought hey let's draw with my left hand. Let's enjoy the clumsiness.

Enjoy the clumsiness I did. Drawing with the other hand proved to be such a fun. Much better than these "brain drills" advertised in the media, like damn calculations and repetitive puzzles.

The degree of freedom involved in drawing is incredible. There is a whole universe in it. There are big bangs and white holes. Although at every step the clumsiness of the left hand tended to let me down, I weathered on, hugely enjoying the whole thing.

Stating the obvious, as the left hand is controlled by the right brain, using it can enhance the emotive hemisphere, which is a bonus to the fun.

My proposition is thus simple. Don't you ever be bored by life. There are numerous ways that you could entertain your own brain. The only limit is your imagination.

My left hand drawing number 3. Untitled.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Starry apparitions

As a kid I used to dream of starry apparitions.

I would be lying on the ground looking up at the night sky. While observing the twinkling stars, there is suddenly a great transformation of things. The lights become brighter, and the milky way literally turns into a ever changing river of white liquid entity filling and dancing in the overall.

Intriguingly, great wheels would appear and turn in the sky. From time to time, steam locomotives made of constellations would emerge and cross the visual field. All sorts of heavenly machinery would start appearing here and there, with their unique motions and styles of presences.

The scenery fills me with awe, and my excitement would grow uncontrollably until it invariably culminates in a gasp.

At that moment of shuddering sensations, I would regain consciousness.

I would find myself wide awake in bed, wondering whence these wondrous images came.

Although quite fantastic out of proportion and unpredictable in emergence, those visions of starry apparitions are cherished gemstones in the chest of my life's memory.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


From yesterday's twitter entry.

Have become the world's fastest leopard. 7C of the 9th in Shinkansen heading for Kyoto. Correction. Orangutan, rather than leopard.

I like to be idle on the bullet train. It is the utmost luxury given the hectic schedule that I am usually exposed to.

You close your laptop, and throw your legs out. You put the seat to the reclining position, then close your eyes.

The sunshine is emanating from mount Fuji. You become sweetly dizzy embraced by the gold. Memory of the past times resurge with a pang. You move in the chair a bit uneasily, as if to assimilate the upheaval in the psyche with the mass of your body.

While all this is happening, you are speeding at 300 kilometers per hour.

You have become a bullet.

A bullet conventionally kills, but this one nurtures.

It nurtures your idleness, until it grows out of proportion, shrinks again as the train arrives at your destination.

The magic is gone, and you are free to do whatever practical things you'd like.

The session is over.

Friday, October 16, 2009


I usually take a morning stroll to a convenience store nearby, and pick up some morning goods. For the last couple of days, I have walked on to the park, and dashed up the hill that flanks the woods.

It is just a little deviation, which makes all the difference. In life, you turn 90 degrees and run from your path of everyday, and then you discover a new scenery.

It is not that difficult. All you have to do is to identify an unsearched domain. And then you delve into it. Even for a very brief time.

Within a moment the storm of contingency would rage. The conviction that you are here for no reason. You taste the throbbing sensation of knowing you could have been quite another, while loving and embracing the here and now.

From a recent twitter entry.

Mediocrity hurts. The remedy is the sky.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Flower petals in the wind.

At the end of another busy day, I went to Kazahana in the Shinjuku district. Kazahana is a legendary literary bar. "Kazahana" ("flower petals in the wind") is the poetic Japanese word for snowflakes.

I did not intend to stay for long, but simply had to drop by, psychologically needing the sojourn.

Earlier, I was meeting with the novelist Makoto Shiina. Mr. Shiina is one of Japan's great weapons of the literary genre. After Mr. Shiina left, I felt rather lonely, and was naturally drawn to my favorite hanging-out place. I was with an editor and a freelance writer.

On the day, I still had several things to do. The ongoing rain occasionally became strong. The sound of drops falling was a testimony of the nuisance once outside. Listening to the sound, we became gradually uneasy.

How many ups and downs of emotion one encounters during the course of a day. Science does not tell you still.

I know from experience that when you're down, with perseverance, things would eventually improve, the clouds in the mind clearing.

Earlier, I was weeping spiritually, inside. Before long, the tears froze to become snowflakes. The snowflakes then danced in the invisible air.

Snow is the materialization of love that penetrates all life. We must observe the dynamics within, while falling, rising, and then falling again, like dancing flower petals in the wind.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Private language of music

I love the film in which Glenn Gould plays the Goldberg Variations. What a beautiful procession! Aria, 30 variations, and then aria again. At the end of the finger maneuvers, Gould holds his hands together in a gesture in which he appears to be praying. Then his whole performance impresses one as a dedication to the spirit of music, with a beautiful hindsight.

I love this set of variations from the great composer, J. S. Bach. The 30th variation, with its jovial start, always strikes me as if a huge plateful of delicious dish was being carried from the kitchen with great solemnity, to the shining eyes of the beholders.
I have a hunch why Gould refrained from playing in the public later in his career. The presence of attentive minds is a great stimulator. On the other hand, it sometimes stimulates one in a vulgar way. One would like to entertain, and therefore goes out of the way. A great art lies there, so it is not necessarily a bad thing. However, it is at the same time a distraction from purity, which Gould probably hated.

For a performer like Vladimir Horowitz, the audience is a godsend. Gould, on the other hand, thrived in the absolute privacy.
Gould's music is as close as one can come to the impossibility of the private language of music, sensu Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The school hike.

I love autumn when the sky is blue and high. My best stroll would be along a river bank, where the autumn flowers display their miscellaneous colors while swaying to and fro in the wind. Dragon flies would display their glistening of the wings in the crystal bright autumn sunbeam. I would like to walk very slowly, without goal, without aim, and breathe in the air as if it was a nectar for the soul, every minute, every second.

I particularly remember a school hike in the junior high, when we went all the way to the river from school. I was fourteen. Once on the river bank, we pupils strolled along the path, playing with cosmos flowers and autumn butterflies.

We all wore the tedious orange color school trainer, but even that fact did not hinder us from enjoying the walk. The issue was mainly about spatial distribution. Who walked where, with whom. The parallels of our existence filled us with inexplicable joys and pangs, rather like a short story by Katherine Mansfield, or a pointillism painting by Georges-Pierre Seurat.

I was foolish, and considered the hike as something that belongs to yearly regularities. I was unconsciously thinking that there would be many repeats of a hike like the one on that day. I was to learn later, only too late, that the onceness in life was to pass and gone forever.

I am bewildered even today how on earth the school hike took place on that particular day, like a miracle, without any photographic record to support my recollection. Only this vivid picture in my mind pointing to the now uncertain past stays alive.

Monday, October 12, 2009

They can't know.

"De Profundis" is a work in the form of a letter that Oscar Wilde wrote during his time in prison. In it, there is this beautiful passage.

The more mechanical people...always know where they are going, and go there...A man whose desire is to be something separate from himself, to be a Member of Parliament, or a successful grocer, or a prominent solicitor, or a judge, or something equally tedious, invariably succeeds in being what he wants to be.

That is his punishment. Those who want a mask have to wear it. But with the dynamic forces of is different. People whose desire is solely for self-realization never know where they are going. They can't know.


One never knows where one is going, if one follows one's inner voice. How true.

There is glory in being lost. Not knowing where to go, one encounters the vastness of the universe face to face.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

When friends and lovers meet

It is a remarkable aspect of human cognition that when something passes, it remains unnoticed for a long time. We recognize the golden time of childhood only when we have lost it.

Used to be that when friends and lovers meet, they would make appointments quite well in advance, designating subway stations and landmarks as the point of meeting. Then something would happen. When the time passes and the counterpart does not show up, anxiety and uneasiness would grow in the heart. Every minute that passes becomes a dance in suspension. And then, the final relief when your boy friend or girl friend appears around the corner. The sunshine has come out of the clouds again. O what joy!

Now, with the advent of the mobile phone and other means of communication, the torture and bliss of waiting is gone forever. With the SMS and emails and calls, you can "adjust" the meeting point in space and time anyway and as many times as you like. When you look back on how it was 20 years or even 10 years ago, you realize that an era has passed, for ever and ever.

Ken Shiotani, my beloved philosopher friend, is the only one that I know closely who does not possess a mobile phone. So I do have the now ancient joy of the suspense of waiting when I make appointments with Ken Shiotani. His manners of independence from the mobile network might be outdated these days. But he does remind me how sweet and fragrant the yesterdays were.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

No award is premature

The decision of the Nobel committee to award Mr. Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize was laudable. Some people might say that it has been premature. I disagree, considering the nature of the human mind.

With recognition comes self reflection, as recognition, by its very nature, involves the vision of the others. Recognition can and should be the basis for further development, within the context of the relations with others. With recognition one can step forward with increased courage. Mr. Obama is now likely to be more invigorated in his efforts to make the world a better place.

In elementary school, the teacher sometimes hands out awards. Considering that the recipients are very early in their "career" indeed, every recognition that a child receives is arguably premature. From the point of view of the development of the child, however, no award is premature.

It is nice to learn that the award committee of the world's most prestigious prize knows the human nature well.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Couldn't swallow the pills.

When I was a kid, I found it really difficult to swallow the pills. It was not that the pills were particularly large. These were ordinary pills for the kids, prescribed by the doctor when the child had a cold, stomachache, etc.

When I got sick, I would go to see Dr. Hishikawa, who had the office near my parent's house. When Dr. Hishikawa said "I am going to give you some pills", I would wince, as I knew that I was going to have a hard time swallowing one.

From the perspectives of adulthood, it is difficult to explain why it was so difficult for me as a child to swallow the pills. It was partly psychological. I simply could not take the pills down the throat, no matter how hard I tried.

My mother would say, "what if the doctor told you that you are going to die if you don't swallow this pill?"

I could not figure out what I should do in such a circumstance. The plain fact was that I simply could not swallow the pills.

As a result, I always had to take powder medicine. Oh boy, these were bitter. My mother would say again and again, half jokingly and half reproaching, that I was inviting my own misfortune by being unable to take the pills.

Many years later, when I read "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" by Friedrich Nietzsche, I came across the famous narrative of a man who was bitten by a snake in the throat. Then I remembered my childhood miseries, and felt that the whole experience was rather like this episode in the philosophical novel.

I was six or so when I was finally able to swallow a pill down the throat. I remember the sensation quite vividly.
In Zarathustra, the unfortunate man finally rises by biting of the snake head, and stands, with his eyes glittering like the blazing sun. The new man is born.

As I look back, it feels as if I saw the burning flame of life by being able to swallow the pill finally, at the mature age of six.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Typhoon No. 18.

Without even knowing it, one becomes a prisoner of one's own prejudices, I thought.

I was in a Tokyo bar as the typhoon number 18 approached the Honshu island.

Why cant we break it. How come we can't let free of the chains we are just imagining?

As my compatriots are in general rather restrained, I sometimes feel as if the imprisonment is mirrored into my own system. Implicit connotations are good thing for a culture, but sometimes it can also suffocate one.

The typhoon number 18 was approaching. It brought with it the tremendous energy of the south sea, where the temperature is high.

As I left the bar, a gush of wind blew against my umbrella. I almost wished that the umbrella would be destroyed, exposing me to the brutal forces of nature.

But it wasn't to be.

The typhoon No.18 approaching Honshu island.
From a Japanese weather forecast, 8 a.m., 8th October 2009.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Wall that be.

I went to the Superdeluxe club in the Roppongi district of Tokyo. I was late, having finished my work for a broadcaster at 22 hours.

As I arrived at the scene, a young artist started fighting against the wall. He first scribed unintelligible words involving "peace" and " will", and then painted them all over in blue. He used the hands and pressed them very hardly against the wall, as if rebelling against it.

When young, you are naturally surrounded by many walls, both real and imagined. When you get older and become mature, being able to keep seeing the wall that be is one of the manifestations of a creative mind.

In life, you've got to face the wall, more or less, and it becomes incumbent to decide your attitudes toward it.

Painting. What fantastic way to come to terms with the wall. You don't destroy it. You dance with it. By becoming one with the wall, feeling its physical brutality, you can give birth to a monster that is art. And then the monster breathes beautiful air.

A young artist fighting the wall in Superdeluxe.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


The return of Soseki Natsume from the two years' stay in London, in retrospect, was a watershed in the cultural history of modern Japan.

Records show that he was an excellent writer of English. His knowledge of the English literature was vast and deep, reinforced by intensive readings of volumes of the genre during his stay in the United Kingdom. Had he chosen to do so, he could have started a successful career in English prose, rather like Mr. Kazuo Ishiguro of contemporary times.

However, history had it that Soseki chose to write novels in Japanese, much to the benefit and enrichment of the Japanese literature for sure, but effectively closing the Japanese mind at the same time.

To date, considering the significant presence of Japanese economy, it is astonishing that Japanese intellectuals have produced so little in English writings. Surely, natural scientists do write papers, but then the expressions tend to be dry and do not reflect the subtle nuances of living on the island. It is a remarkable fact that there has not been an active English voice based in Tokyo, The Japanese scholars, especially in the humanities, have been primarily importers rather than exporters.

The result is a void in which the inner visions have never found a channel for expression. Such novels as "Memoirs of a Geisha" has strange connotations seen from a insider's viewpoint, as if the proportions are distorted and feelings were trodden on. The film "The Last Samurai" was in many ways a joke in facts and sensitivities.

These misrepresentations are all due to the lack of vigor in Japanese intellectuals in expressing the insider's viewpoint in the lingua franca, to the loss of both the island inhabitors and people at large.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Stream of consciousness

It is often said that the stream of consciousness was discovered by the great American psychologist William James. Needless to say, the stream has been with us always, ever since our birth, before WJ. It is only that the particular way of looking at our own experience, in its phenomenological dimensions in particular, solidifies and defines itself only with the explicit introduction of this concept.

Once in a while, during the course of the day, I would think about the stream of consciousness. How subtle are its manifestations. The ups and downs, the subtleties, multitudes of nuances, anticipations, apprehensions, sweets and bitters.

Even for a brief period of, say, one minute, it is not possible to give a full description of the stream of consciousness. We can only witness in helpless promised amnesia its magnificent processions before our own eyes.

The phenomenology of subjective experience is then a hopeless battle of the ever losing and being lost, rather like the explosive grandeur of Olivier Messiaen's Turangalîla-Symphonie.

What solace and disappointment to this mortal soul!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Full moon

I have been up and doing recently, for quite a long time. Galloping has to stop somewhere and sometime. Now seems to be the time for reflection.

Took a deep dip in the hot spring. Tasted the water from the bathtub. Pondered how divine is every thing. Between earth and heaven.

In the Okinawa Islands, there is a saying.

The moon is beautiful on the thirteenth night.

The girls are beautiful in the seventeenth year.

When I look up at a beautiful moon, I am wont to think of this poetic song. I first heard it when I was 10. I have been missing its touch ever since.

When you do too much typing, you feel as if you were starving, as if your inner words reservoir was getting low. Then you read a beautiful essay written by a lonely soul. You feel replenished. You can go on again.

You have a full moon in your soul again.