November 29, 2004


Went to Osaka last night. I cannot think straight or crookedly right now. Saturday was a wonderful day of just about everything one could hope for--coffee, bowling, intimations of love, expressions of love, riding the train back holding someone's hand. Today I did nothing in particular. Studied 文法 for hours in the coffee shop. Tomorrow is the beginning of yet another uneventful JET conference. After feeling better than I have in months or years on Saturday night, I now am back to the same unenthusiastic and doubtful sloth that you listen to now, cringing at the excessiveness of my self-pity. Just kidding everyone, you know that "You must change your life."

November 25, 2004

the Landscape listens

Well, I have just realized that my blog is full of too many words. I have a link to moichido, so if you're wondering what I did yesterday, you can look at the evidence. Good thing I don't match the description of the culprit in the picture. Anyways, my Japanese always seems to get me into deeper mischief here, so maybe pretending I don't understand is an option to consider. Today is Thanksgiving Day. I had a replacement Thanksgiving on Monday night and Tuesday. I went back to the Kibi area (actually Kanaya), along the Arida River, and had NABE, a diverse range of vegetables and meat thrown together in a pot of boiling water (i.e. Japanese style stew). I also made it to Myoekyo onsen in Kanaya Town. It was my first time there in the daytime. That place is incredible, and now I realize how many times I have mentioned a place that I don't have any pictures of. Well, perhaps I can get to the computer tonight and put some photos on this blog. I am not sure if anyone is still reading my entries (myself included), so I will end on that perfectly self-abasing note. I didn't even get to the title of this day's entry. Next time.

November 24, 2004

Second Sight

There are many paths that we walk along, thinking
that what is coming up next will certainly fall
into a sequence, an order, a final position.

Music, the wicked and inexhaustibly profound
syntax of experience, buds indiscreetly
out of each step--to stop this is impossible.

“Her hand in mine” brings me back to many places
that you have never been, but which you have seen
once before this. Once after this, you too

will jump through the open night with your hands
set free of mine, and I yours, and your body will rise and fall
again and again upon the waves, clear enough to see what was before--

though you can still feel my touch, and I yours,
though you may not move toward someone else nor back to me,
nor to a grave, empty bed under whose covers you forget both of our names,
you are still not here, nor am I.

Where is this place? Where we met for some time?
It is left, alive, undergoing change. It is wherever we go,
a shadow turning and facing us.

November 22, 2004

Close to the End of Autumn

This is a fictional account of my weekend. For people who want the truth, you might want to write a new version of it.
November 20

I woke up at 7:35am on Saturday morning. I took a shower, got dressed, ate some natto, drank some carrot juice, smoked a cigarette, and met Mike at 8:35 outside of the Family Mart beneath my apartment. I gave Mike my coffee because he looked like he needed it. I like Mike a lot. He is probably the only person in Japan who has made me laugh a real laugh. Sometimes he almost makes me cry (or does). Well, we got on the train at 8:35 and headed off for Kyoto. Mike felt sick at Kyoto station, so we took it slowly. I didn’t know how to make Mike feel better (the same medical incapacity that my mom accuses me of on a different level), but he was fading out. It was a beautiful day.

At the Demachi Yanagi Station (Exit Town Willow Station), we headed off for Ginkakuji. This temple was very beautiful and very calm. There is something very right about seeing temples in Kyoto, for, despite there being endless and anonymous hordes of tourists both Japanese and foreigner, it is very easy to imagine these people away, to be there alone. I felt this way last winter also when I went to Ryouanji, another Kyoto Temple close to the famous Kinkakuji. Walking along the old wooden planks in my socks, the cold making my limbs stiffen incredibly, it felt as though my bones were made of wood. I heard some strange sound, like two logs knocking together to produce a sound that is like waking up from a vivid dream, or like a baseball being hit, or the first press of lips hitherto unkissed. Well, back to where I was. I was in Kyoto, at Ginkakuji. Mike was feeling better after the delicious food we found at Kyoto University’s culture festival. I had some great pumpkin soup. After many pictures of maple leaves, we found a grove of cedars that bordered the south part of the garden on an embankment covered with moss. The thin rays of mist seemed to have been there as long as the trees. I told Mike to take a picture and it came out beautiful. Mine was not too splendid.

After that, we pressed on to the Philosopher’s Path, or Tetsugaku no Michi. Here Kitaro Nishida used to walk and ponder. Here there were more people. It seemed that this road would be more beautiful in spring, or 100 years ago. Mike took a photo of a baby who was affixed on a lollipop. We ate some organic food at a Café that felt like Berkeley. There was a surprising feeling, though quite mute, of restlessness at that Café. As if anything too much like home might upset me? Why? Is it the feeling that I am idling my life away? At the middle of the road (there was a stone), we went down the hill a little way to a temple called Shinnyodo. Here we took more photos of kaede and also a lonely graveyard (my favorite place that we visited, but not my favorite moment), where there was a big burning pile of fallen leaves. I took a good photo of the dead leaves on the ground, which was a lot more meaningful than all the contrived shots of picturesque reds and yellows in the trees. Well, after that, we sauntered back up to the Path, finished the walking course, and stopped at an old restaurant for Yudoufu, a boiled tofu dish famous and expensive in Kyoto. Sitting in the afternoon sunlight, which fell directly through the window, I looked west and stared blindly into the blinding sun. I couldn’t see my food, nor Mike, that well. I could see only the shape of a bell hanging from the roof of a temple next door. Mike had a nice view of the Higashiyama district, the eastern hills of Kyoto, beyond which lies Lake Biwa. I thought, when he mentioned this view to me, of a haiku by Masaoka Shiki which I have been trying to translate. This was my favorite moment of the day’s trip.

A long day’s journey
over the mountains in Shiga,
seeing the lake.

The next stop was Osaka’s Shinsaibashi district, where we went to see Guitar Wolf at Club Cuattro. The show was very loud. I haven’t been rowdy like that for a long time, and it felt strange and good at the same time. After the show, we headed to a bar called the Pig and Whistle, a place I hate to go to because there are a lot of middle-aged, pink-faced, alcoholic foreigners who really look like pigs. We ran into Yuki and Yoichi, two Japanese fellows we met at the show. They were nice people. They introduced us to Mayuko and Wakana. Wakana is a very beautiful woman, too beautiful. I talked with her a little bit, and although she wanted me to stay with her longer into the evening, I couldn’t due to my lack of money and time (i.e. last train home). I wish had stayed. I don’t know why I left. I had no reason at all to leave, to love. She wrote to me by phone once, but, like every sign of hope in my life, I have insurmountable doubts about her writing again. I am thinking of her now still.

November 21

I woke up on Sunday at about 9:45 with an unbearable ringing in my ears. I ate some natto and drank some carrot juice, shaved and showered. Then I met Takagaki-san, a friend from the gym who is Mr. Japan in a low weight class. He took me on an introductory date with a girl Shiori who is sweet but not someone I would consider dating. However, I am week and will probably see her, go out, do nothing, say very little of any significance, only to be lonely again after our friendship wilts away. When I got back, I was still thinking about Wakana, so I went over to Mike’s. Then I went swimming. Then back to Mikes.

In the evening, Mike’s friend Tomoko came over. Yet another beautiful woman, the same experience as before. She is ostensiblly quite interested in Mike, but as I got drunk with Mike and her, I noticed how beautiful her mannerisms and really everything was about her. Accompanying this love for a person I met twenty minutes before was a different reality, the one against which we often are so violently forced. This meant that I was interested in someone who was interested in the other person in the room. Mike and Tomoko sat on the floor playing chess while I sat on the couch, behind them, directly between them. It felt stupid. I think I told Tomoko she was beautiful, and that I liked her. I can’t remember this. It has been awhile since I last forgot something when I was drunk. I have always been fascinated by a story by Jorge Luis Borges called Funes el Memorioso. It’s about a guy that can remember everything in his life. Sometimes I feel like in the deepest part of my soul, I too remember everything, and that is my only gift (or curse). Well, I was very fond of Tomoko. She is something special. Eventually, Mike wanted to go to bed. I said goodbye and went home.


In the morning I woke up at 7:15am and I could barely hear the alarm clock. My hearing is still damaged. I took a shower, my drain still clogged. I ate granola cereal and an orange. I got dressed. I smoked a cigarette on my porch. It is never the same sky. The first thing I noticed as I sat down blinking in the morning sun was the white car with dew on its windows parked on the street next to the park. Then I watched the homeless man looking through the garbage can and warming his hands with his breath. I thought of nothing in particular. The days are getting shorter. I smoked for a while, and then I saw Tomoko leave in her car. I sat and smoked some more. My hands were really cold. After about five or ten minutes, I went to school. My hands have been cold all day. It has been a really cold day. I feel sick to my stomach. I don’t want to talk to anyone here at school. I wrote this blog twice because the first was erased. I wish someday I’ll find a Tomoko, but today I’ll just look for a place to warm my hands, perhaps.

November 18, 2004

書道 (shodou) and the Sublime...

Dear Friend, I have a short anecdote to share with you based on an experience, or lack of experience, that I have been faced with in the past few weeks. Whether or not I will get to that point in which a promise is fulfilled is still a rather cloudy issue. So, I'll start with the hope that I can finish. Ever since the spring of this year, I took up 書道(shodou), or Japanese calligraphy. Like other Japanese arts (judou, sadou), the second character means "road." So in the case of what I am currently practicing, it is the "road of writing." I have been advised sometimes to stay off of roads, or get my mind clear of the fact that I am always already on a road, on the road, but this forgetting is certainly a talent which is for me impossible to master. Anyways, I started practicing shodou at the first school that I taught at, Arida Chuo Koko. Here my teacher, Mori sensei, was a happy-go-lucky, easy to talk to (if I were able to speak fluent Japanese, that is) kind of guy who is always smiling. When I went to practice there, which never had a definite start or finish, I was allowed to write whatever I wanted, without paying attention to form, technique, or even the amount of ink I wasted on terrible characters. I produced one copy of a haiku by Masaoka Shiki (Summer river, / In mid-stream, / Looking back), which now hangs on my wall with a humble sense of its beautyless innocence. Now I am at a new school. It is a high level academic school, and the teacher of shodou here recently won a calligraphy competition for all of Japan. That could say it all but I am going to say more. He granted me the generous permission of joining Koyo Koko's shodou club. I have gone twice thus far, writhing in my own lack of ability, my sense of needing to acquire ability, and finally now, becoming still again to notice another truth outside of this welter of desire for achievement. What I now mention is something simple. It does not require practice, a technique, or even a form, but it is buried beneath all of the latter, and one could easily leave it in the ground for most of one's life, until, at some critical moment (perhaps too late) it is all exhumed and set free. Yet this subterranean material remains unchanged. This is subliminal, but not in a spatial sense. Apologies: digression. New paragraph. There is a proverb in Japanese which also makes use of the road: "学問にお道無し," or "there is no royal road to learning." I learned this quite viscerally in my attempts to write a four letter saying. Failing quite miserably in these attempts, Kojima sensei decided to give me some rudimentary lessons--forming a line, ending a line, holding the 筆(fude), or brush, and finally the movement of my arm. Shodou requires absolutely no thinking, and considering I am a big bubble of wayward thoughts these days, my frenetic daydreaming precludes the composure, silence, and emptiness required to write kanji well. It is imponderable, this non-method. I think Suzuki talks about it at length in his book on Zen and Japanese culture--the no-mind, or emptiness, from which the world's inexplicable and unique forms (characters, etc.), spring forth into being of an inherent givenness. In a passage I was reading last night taken from Chuang-tzu, there is a phrase that is incredibly believable, 無生念, or museinen , which signifies a desire to for something both transcendent of life and death but what is also immanent in the former. The characters are 無, a negative prefix like non- or un-, 生, or life, and 念, or desire. In shodou, as in any practice which is both silent and sublime, there is an emptiness on both sides of the creative spectrum--both form and content. Thomas Merton reflects that while 'an inspiration is barren without an effective technique, a technique is also barren without its inspiration.' If one were to isolate either, form or content, whatever two you poles take as your reference points, one would find two arid landscapes, without life, without signs. But at the meeting of these two worlds, between the emptiness of one's concrete materials, and the emptiness (or a supreme fullness not in any way comprehensible) of the abstractions that rise and fall within the mind, there is a garden. No, not Eden (perhaps). Marvel but it best as "a green thought in a green shade." I am only doing it second worst to mention his poem in this long-winded scenic route. That's all about shodou for today. Still writing the numbers one " 一" and two "二". Maybe that's all there is to write anyways. They are the most difficult.

November 17, 2004

Long time

I have been grading hundreds of often incomprehensible essays, the philosophic flight occassionally appearing unexpectedly from the unending pile of reflections on how great the school festival was. One student, in his meditations on the time-tested adage "time is money," successfully refuted our capitalist leanings by asserting that "time is not money, for money comes and goes, but time is." I was proud of this kid, Ishikawa, the shyest boy in all of my classes. Other than that, I have no other startling revelations from the pile of essays that lay generously graded on my desk. I must go to Kyoto this weekend, and I am going to try and do some studying as well. Furthermore, I will contemplate the best way to titilate the reader's mind. Maybe if I stand outside in the cold for long enough I'll come across a vision or a miracle. Floating away to sleep here, I realize that I haven't remembered to write to many people in this world that I must write to. Maybe everyone should stop this second and partake in such an endeavor. It would make for a world that is a little less uncommunicative. After all, I am now a teacher of communication, maybe I should be communicating something in the process. That's it. Apologies for this paltry excuse of an entry. Who am I apologizing to other than myself? I know you reader are silently confused as to what I am apologizing for, what I am talking about. So, more whistling in the dark...Good night, Wakayama...

November 10, 2004

Giri Giri

Since we've been on the theme of language in the past few blogs, or one could say every written or spoken text is somehow on the theme of language (Rilke says "a word is an elegy to what it signifies"), I'd like to bring up the vastly fasctinating world of giongo--a very distant cousin of English's onomatopoetic words like buzz, swish, and any other favorite terms sifted out of the dense vocabulary of the old Batman TV series (biff ! bam! sock! smash! bop! pow! blammo!). The word I'd like to mention is "giri-giri," which is what is called gitaigo (there are two types of giongo--gitaigo, in which there is no connection between sound and meaning (so they say), and giseigo, which are words that sound like what they mean--i.e.doki doki is the beating of one's heart when nervous, excited, turned on, etc.). Giri giri is used as an adverb to mean something that is half-assed, shabbily, shakingly, unstably, and/or wobbly done. I thought of this phrase for within all my thoughts in the last few weeks on divine providence, accompanied by the absence of anything good happening (i.e. me not letting myself see what is all around me, in me, or in which I am), I came to think that at best we can only expect this giri giri-ness to help us through. What am I talking about? My writing too is wirily giri-giri, like a dog out in the rain looking for some food on a trash-cluttered curb. Maybe that is how we find our voice as writers, readers, lookers, as humans. Maybe I am trying to get at wabi-sabi in an indirect way. We sense our way through the rich blindness of love, and hopefully find something good not in ourselves but in the fulness of our vulnerability. I think giri-giri sounds like the idea it represents, no matter how much my teacher is right. Well, time to keep on living giri-girily.

Watched an excellent film made by a huge collaboration of animators from all over the world. It is called 冬の日, or Winter Day. Each short is an animated interpretation of a haiku by Basho. It is quite an interesting, often puzzling and/or enchantingly simple display of life's immutable mutability. Above all, it retains the spirit of haiku, something hard to do in modern film, but which many people seem to succeed at these days (I guess it also depends on who is watching). I recommend it--one hand clapping!

November 09, 2004

So I complained to Mike (I should really use the second person because you're the only person reading this anyway) that I have no one reading this blog, except for us two. I have tried to remain positive about life, but it is quite difficult in my second year in Japan. Every once in a while, a gem of a moment comes out of nowhere to greet me in love and give me peace of mind. I have written about too many of these moments in my less legible, hand-written journal, which spans almost all of the time that I have lived in Japan. For the sake of my life, I will not rehearse this trivial sublimity once more. I will put it in a shoebox and leave it in the closet of my apartment for all of posterity to discover and judge for themselves. It is a blessed thing, to think back. If only more people could do so and not think backwards. That is, examine the words we speak and the words we hear. Falling asleep here. The leaves, unlike the line in the poem I wrote a week or so ago in "Autumn Prayer," have started falling and continue to fall throughout the slightly warm, dry afternoon. A sense of wanting nothing has come over me, which is frighteningly fulfilling.

Well, this is as personal as it gets, right? Here at the edge of the sensible, the comprehensible, or, the reprehensible? Should I write about the sense of an ending that looms over one when faced with the reality of another 4-year Bush reign? Or should I post pictures and websites of things of I have done, evidence of me leading an interesting life? AM I of interest to anyone, including myself? Maybe I should write something shocking, abrasively intellectual, underscoring my talents as a literature major whose tongue has fallen out of his mouth (could it be living in Japan, the land of winter mini skirts, which has stricken me down to the level of a shell-shocked dilletante, if at best)? Or how about I start again on a novel I will never publish, never finish, never start. What are your opinions? A Japanese teacher was discussing a presentation that we (increasingly becoming I in a matter of days) will give, and said of the Board of Education's coordinator: "He fucks me," but meaning "He faxed me." I didn't laugh. How about that?

How about this?

November 08, 2004

"Dolls" and Memories

I watched a deeply moving and imponderably beautiful film last night--Takeshi Kitano's "Dolls." In the last couple of hours of a weekend filled by improvised improvidence, I was led away from my normal routine of diversion and back to a "place of first permission"--a state of being so clear that it reflects the world that it takes part in, this being nothing less than a blessing undisguised. The movie weaves together three seemingly unrelated stories of love that has fallen, but is always healing itself. It reminds me of a quote in which I often ground my thoughts, that love on earth is "the resetting of a body of broken bones." Kitano makes the settings of this 'resetting' effortless, timeless, and lucid. Slowly approaching Monday morning, I could not resist being swept into the current of this film, which is the same pulse running through our lives. Thus, I didn't sleep. I laid awake, listening to old cds, thinking of forgotten memories of love.

St. Augustine wrote about memory in a familiar manner. That we remember even that which we forget is a wonder and a paradox through and in which we must live. This might be similar to saying that the brash asseverance that one doesn't believe in God is a form of belief, merely with a translation of words to match the language of one's concrete experiences with the word and institutions that bring one close to or separate one from the mysterious and ineffable source of love, which is behind, below, beyond (whatever) the signifier "God."

Sometimes it seems to me like every moment of my life is an extension of an innate capacity to remember, and with remembering is an attendant forgetting: to remember this life and to forget the myriad desires for an "other" (whether it is a penumbral abstraction like 'success' or the Future, "non-being," or the void of the ego's dark secrets makes no difference). Remembering right now is the peculiar task of and choice to love--to resist the illusions of a futureless despair or the blind, weak, and unchecked expectation of a grand, self-attained apotheosis. Often we can see between these two obstructions, like the the wall that separates two lovers. If one surmounts this barrier, it is certain that what love has done by us will be apparent and clear. This is seeing again with new eyes a world that is never the same.

November 05, 2004


Maybe speaking precedes listening, as crying is a form of speaking--usually to oneself or to God.

A Quotable Quotidian

The first skill that children acquire when learning their first or any language is listening. Then they learn to imitate and speak. This would leave me to believe that, when trying to learn another language, one should learn first how to listen and speak, then supplement, add on, and finally advance into literacy. The two--communicative skills and literate ability--go hand in hand. Sometimes I wonder why my teachers teach so much (ha!) endlessly complex grammar, for which there is sometimes never a single correct answer. I am often asked about the possibilty of varying sentences in diction, syntax, tense or mood, and my answer is always, "Yeah, you can do that, but it changes the meaning." Then the inevitable follow-up question as to how the meaning has changed is answered with an "I am not exactly sure." This type of ambiguity often frightens me. Is it an indication that I am slowly losing my grip on my mother tongue? Does my time spent living in Japan prevent me from learning anything in English? Sometimes former JETs tell me that I am taking it all in now, that I will learn even more when it "sinks in." But that image of sinking can be seen in a different light, in the present light of my being stuck in the mud--unable to move much either in English or Japanese. My student said to me yesterday, "You are 90% Japanese." A strange compliment, but I don't think I could say, would say, or should say to a n English-speaking Japanese friend in America "You, my friend, are 85% American." Who would want to be (or better yet is) 100% American, escpecially now? Maybe I am too jaded to write about this topic of identity, Perhaps you want to climb through the screen and punch me in the nose, but right now I am worried about the state of language, in any country on this earth. Fr. Aguilar, a friend I made in Nagasaki, said something clear and poignant to me: "We have invented so many new means of communication, but people don't communicate." Is language itself going to soon be merely a shadow of something that used to have features, shapes, dimensions, substance? Am I too idealistic to think that a word ever is something--perhaps the link between mind and matter, an artifact left by the memory in order to maintain a relationship to the world? Soon people will no longer need to remember, or will be unable to remember much because it is all done for them. I can't remember words like "hedonism"--why? because I have been eating out, drinking and watching films too much. As funny as it sounds, I think that Kenneth Burke was right when he said that we are "estranged by our environment by the symbols of our own making (or un-making)." As funny as it doesn't sound, I will always be a symbol maker. May I someday participate in a few moments of communication while it is possible.

November 04, 2004

Osaka, Steinbeck, Second-Grade Soccer, and the Unthinkable

I had the day off yesterday because it was 文化の日, or "Culture Day." Certainly what would be a better (or worse) way to spend my day in commemoration of modern, metropolitan Japanese culture (finding anything "old" or "traditional" requires either a long trip on many trains or a reinvention of the said cultural aspect in my imaginative engagement with books that aren't read anymore) than by going shopping? It seems to be all of my students' "hobby" (I still can't see how it can be one, but then again I am still trying to see some good angle of commercialism under the light of my scepticism), so why not give it a whirl? I started the day reading "East of Eden" in McDonalds over a fresh sip of the hottest, but most watered-down coffee. McDonald's is such a reliable disappointment--perhaps a reason for its universal success. Then I sauntered up the staircase at JR Wakayama, caught the Kishujikaisoku (that's a mouthful to remember, but it's better than the two hours plus required by the local train), and arrived at the labyrinthine JR Osaka station. I always tell myself to avoid this station for two reasons: (A) no matter who I am with, whether with a Japanese friend or a foreign friend, I get lost; (B) I have never not seen too many disturbingly beautiful women wandering through the station, staring into space. It reminds me of some words of Neruda "Ah! los ojos de ausencia" (disturbing mostly because I have let myself become affected by my immediate surroundings, which is certainly a bitter (necessary?) fruit of living intimately with the world and with people).

Where did I go shopping? That's the most important question, right? I first made my ritual stop in Kinokuni Bookstore--got a copy of D.T. Suzuki's "Zen and Japanese Culture" (I've been reading a lot of Blyth's work on Haiku, and he takes a different approach to Zen than Suzuki...I like Suzuki's work a great deal no matter what is said about him or about a mistreatment of his work), Goethe's "Die Leiden des jungen Werther," and Hoffmantshal's "Gedichte." Yes, I am back to studying German. Good luck me! Who knows how far I'll get with just my dictionary? Anyways, then I got some clothes at other stores, blah lost two more times...blah blah...made it home...blah...

Steinbeck's book really took me back to the most painful and most joyful (perhaps the only) experience of love. The scene of naming Adam Trask's two motherless boys came at me like a whirlwind of voices that come from various stages in my life. That we all have guilt is a fact of human life. Some people seem to place it in the sphere of Christianity, Catholicism, or even further, certain exegetes of the Catholic tradition through whose work we now have sometimes a deeper understanding of the texts we read, the life we live, though often this understanding is more problematic (the nature of our condition) than redemptive. But isn't this placing of blame a mere shifting of one's own guilt on to something else? Whether or not we are guilty, everyone seems to feel guilty about something, even if it is the absence of guilt. Sometimes indifference can be the most agonizng form of guilt. But in saying something to the effect that guilt is a Catholic concept means there is merely a shift in orientation to the world, and now one set of morals or symbols believed in by one group is scapegoated by the other. Today's world is a prime example of this. In America, a man is being reinstated to lead us into a mass movement of blaming others for what seems to be a worldwide epidemic of myopia, fear, and the refusal to listen to another voice other than what is echoed of one's own. But, this is enough of trying to say what many people have said more eloquently. You can see how my holiday shifted from day into night, like the crux of adolescence which may or may not be the peak of sheer wonder and helplessness, after which we often claim to know ourselves, to know this world, or to know something for certain in truth (all the while there is always a new turn with the same inexhaustible challenges).

My apologies to those reading this blog. It may be too personal. I hope it is not. I will share with you an anecdote on my trip to Nachi last weekend perhaps in hope of lightening the mood of this rather drab and self-consciously reflective (two words applied to me by an abrasively proud and often incoherent Welsh genius) blog. Last Sunday, I watched a football (soccer, sakaa) tournament for many grammar schools in the Nachi area. Such a spectacle this is--to watch a mass of little 7 year olds pile over the ball, kicking it into each other until the ball squirts out five minutes later, leaving the least aggressive kid in prime position to dribble the ball down the entire pitch by himself and fire a beautiful shot, not on goal, but on those soccer moms far away from the perimeter of the field (let alone the goal), getting sports drinks and tea prepared for the halftime cool down. Or, one sees the poor, poor goalie who, watching one ball roll for ten seconds in a line that was perfectly perpindicular to his stance, and then roll right between his legs into the goal, showed no pain of humiliation when he put his team into a 3-0 deficit at halftime because of his battle with hand-eye coordination. This is a great spectacle--these football matches. One can learn much about the human condition, about the incoherence of society, about the beauty of mistakes and coincidences. And those two forwards on the Shimosato squad (who I was rooting for because they were my friend's school), the one's who played the entire match offsides, I salute your lack of shame because you at least knew the concept of distance needed in order to score, the concept of passing (even if its a pass to an offside teammate) and not just kicking rampantly, without looking where you aim. Later, I watched the ocean (the pitch was in a park right on the beach), listened to the waves, watch the deep surf kick up and crash down rhythmically on the beach, all while thinking about the monks of long ago who would get in boats here and set off to sea because that is where they believed the Pure Land was--beyond this sea. They never came back, but never went away. I sat there, the waves saying something the kids' feet also reminded me of--a mystery that we are always a part of. Never, though we are ultimately free, can we go out of bounds.

November 01, 2004

Bodies of Water

A final image to be washed clean of, that is, this weekend was both cathartic and paradoxically problematic...but let's go in order...or in a sense of order...

I started it with a night of drunken revelry in Osaka. What terrible things I allowed myself to think that I wanted to do. Then on Saturday morning I taught my two private students, Naoya and Kazuto. I drank cappuccino (it was not on a menu, so I forget how to spell it), played the 'guess his emotions game,' and had a surprisingly good lesson.

Then I hopped on the train headed all the way down the coast of the Kii Peninsula. On the train, I encountered a last image of desire--an article on Eiko Koike, a famous TV idol in Japan. I thought about bodies of water, about how sometimes a person's eyes look like they are made of water, all the while moving deeper into the southern tip of Honshu. Then I passed through Kushimoto, one of the southernmost points of Wakayama. There I saw rocks jutting from the edge of the coast, the tops of them untouched by the spray of the incessant waves. I thought of pride and humility, and I thought of my life both as a rock and as a wave. Which one might I be? I finally made it to Nachi, where I visited my friend Nick. I had a numinous weekend, spending a peacefully rainy two days watching the ocean and the mists on the mountains, listening to the waterfalls, meeting nice people, and just forgetting about most of my preoccupations and stupidities. I was able to look clearly into my life--as simple as this sounds. The weekend was a little pond in comparison to the grandiose, ocean-like force of one's life when taken as a whole, but this pond was what I needed to find myself again and to keep on living.