February 20, 2006

An Exclamatory Awareness of Being

It is such a strangely satisfying sense of the world that one feels upon witnessing the resurfacing of a vivid image from one's life, one that was once pulled down deep into the undertow of the past. This afternoon, while reading through the beginning chapters of Murakami's Norwegian Wood (if one is reading this blog regularly, it is unavoidable to notice that I am going through a twentieth-century Japanese novel phase), I found myself writing to a friend, in the process of which unearthing a few charms of the past. It was too much to bear--the long mornings spent in college by myself, drinking coffee and reading Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain, the sunlight on a Wednesday morning, waiting for the bus with my walkman on, reading Paradise Lost at an A's vs. Giants game because there was nothing happening and it was still spring training.

In the past year or more, most of my thoughts have been directed to the act of memory and the thing itself. There is "to remember" and "memory." Bergson once talked about "pure memory" as opposed to that of our practical working mind, the one that remembers to pick up some milk and toilet paper on the way home. What is pure memory? I am not sure if I remember the definition, if there ever was one, but let's make up a new one just for the sake of re-creation. Pure memory reminds me of the sensation that Gabirel Marcel called "an exclamatory awareness of being." Pure memory is connected to that moment when you are awakened by a strange dream or a stange sound and hear your voice utter out a cry even before you have time to think. It is an unmediated connection between you and the world you are in. In Bergson's words, memory is the locus at which mind and matter are joined. That locus, where the acts in the world and the acts in your mind are conjoined, is what constitutes being a person and not just a record of things done. Actually, over "mind" I would prefer the Japanese word 心 more for its suppler ambiguity. It is more representative of life in its endless ways.

So now that I have been on earth for a fair amount of time, have memories rich with colors both dark and light, things start coming back to me, like the fact that I am out of toilet paper, but pure memory is qualitatively different from the latter. It is not only a thought I have about the world, but it is a thought which is me. These memories are my experiences, places I've been, things I've observed, people met and lost, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, visions of every sort under the sun or moon. It is strange to think back on who one was a few years ago. A particular day or habit comes back--like waiting for the bus in the morning light, all alone on an empty street and feeling doubt as to whether time is real or not--and it is as real as the present. I mentioned the "phantom mirror" that Mishima had depicted in the end of his tetralogy. But unlike Mishima's main character Honda, who at the end of the book remembers and regards nothing except the present moment (i.e. reaches enlightenment) in the temple garden at noon, the sun glaring in a sharp, transcendent whiteness on the garden's green, I have lived more richly in a life of confluence, of simultaneity, polyrhythmic and harmonic. A life of complex chords and symbols that sometimes don't reach me until well after the fact.

ALTs all have figured out ways to idle their time at work. As I sit here, trying to figure out my future and also trying to forget it, in order to not waste my life worrying; trying to balance the deep, life-sized figures of the past with a present which often seems flimsy and two-dimensional (like those stand-up cardboard pictures of celebrities), and trying to revive the present from its immovable ennui and aporia, I get knowhere but the same place I left off, a few words richer than before.

I have sat by the heater for too long, so I must move. There is always some other place for one to go.


Blogger Nikku said...

I still haven't distilled any of the information I got in Yokohama. There is a stack of papers on the floor near my computer that has been there since I unpacked last week. I will gleen what I can and get back to you. I am starting to feel like there is less there than I thought at the time, some resume tips and a packet of papers for helping get our pension money back are perhaps the highlights. You may be able to get most of the same type of stuff if you check out the JETAANC (JET Alumni Assoc. of Northern California) that is based in SF and offers events and support after we arrive back home. It may be a good way to find ways of keeping in touch with Japan or Japanese when you are in CA.

Do you know the dates of any upcoming gigs with your bands? My band has a couple of things planned in March, the 18th and the 25th.

Kyoko and I will be going up to Osaka for the weekend of the 11th for a wedding. Maybe we could find a way to hang out.

4:36 PM  

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