June 13, 2005

どこでもドア,"The Anywhere Door"

Often I realize that my life is not something I can understand in its totality, be it through books that I read (but do not remember), things that I do (but do not mean to), or thoughts that strike me as beautiful and true, however ephemerally and cryptically they surface and founder (I, of course, proceed to handle these thoughts in the process of disclosure as an untrained butcher would, botching the most painstakingly delicate cuts). Whatever I think of as "my life," it comes down to finding a way or ways to take part in this world, a sort of ex-istence, or going out, so that the meeting point is both here and now, and forever. Whoa, where did that last word come from? What was that? I was talking about ephemerality, but had to sneak eternity through the back door. As I struggle also to sneak out of this paragraph, I hope to keep in mind 1) the importance of the imagination 2) the difference between a mystery (which is different thing within each individual and within each instance) and a problem (an objective situation requiring an objective solution).

I have two English conversation "students" that visit my dinky seventh-floor apartment every Wednesday from 6:00-7:00. They are both elementary school teachers, mid-50s, generous, and open to learning. Often they feign a childish awe at the fact that they didn't know something about the world outside Japan. I think this wonder at being taught something new from someone half their age reveals a significance about being here, about one's life, about participating in the moment when you meet another person, whether it is the first, last, or just another time, on the street, at work, home, in bed, in heaven or hell (a dream?); as friends, enemies, lovers, family, strangers, souls separated at the birth of the world, etc. What does it mean to meet someone? To exchange names, some pertinent information about oneself that can be used in a classification index (birthdate, age, sex, country, religion, etc)? How often does one say that one "knows someone" but doesn't distinguish this from "knowing something about someone"? Whatever name or aspect through which one identifies a relationship with another, there are periods, spaces, between each meeting, just as their are pauses between sentences. There are stops and starts in our lives just as there are in language--places where something unstated, unexperienced, has transpired. These are what we call mysteries. Robert Duncan calls it "the scene of what cannot be revealed." If there is no way to reveal this, there is at least the undeniable fact of taking part in it, whatever it may or may not be.

Some months ago, one of my aforementioned "students," Keiko-san, mentioned the deep philosophical teachings contained within one of my favorite Japanese comic books, Doraemon. We found ourselves in this conversation as Keiko, in response to some problem I had at the time, suggested I needed Doraemon's "どこでもドア--dokodemo doa (anywhere door)." { To review, Doraemon is the blue, robotic cat from Futureland, who comes to the present via a desk drawer and befriends Nobita-kun, the protagonist of the series. Doraemon, in the spirit of homo faber, produces inventions which assist and estrange Nobita during his childhood crises--being bullied, being punished by his parents, being in love with his childhood flame, Shizu-chan, and many other situations one knows too well. } One of Doraemon's tools is his "どこでもドア"--a door to anywhere. This door takes us anywhere, or to Anywhere. Perhaps this is the beauty of relationships, that one never knows where one is going to be taken to. When in relation to another human being, one must realize the possibilty of irrevocable folly and of unexpected, inexplicable, and immeasurable joy. To keep this door open, then, is what one may always do. One has to choose.

After all this, after "Anywhere Door"s and gadgets of all shapes and sizes, I wonder why Nobita's problems never come to a close. Many of the endings of the comics are a comedic recapitulation of the same problem that appeared to have been resolved by the end of the episode. That we can laugh at the irresolved things in our lives, that we can find joy in something that won't end but hangs around and is always changing, that we use language to pacify and excite; to extol, expose, and exhume, shows that our words are the real "Anywhere Door," that they too have to, as abstract as it may sound, remain open, or at least unlocked.


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