July 13, 2006

English Club--The Last Supper

Here is a scene from the party that the English Club held in honor of my leaving Japan. I had to hold back some tears, as it is starting to kick in--me missing Japan and realizing how much I love the people I've met along the way...You can see the healthy afternoon snack we indulged in on this hot, muggy day.


It's just hit me that I have exactly five classes left: four tomorrow and one next Wednesday. That's all, folks. Perhaps it could even be my last classroom experience for some time. Who knows? I am going to miss the students here at Koyo. Their charm, their willingness to listen, to try to speak English, and (most importantly) to grow is remarkable. Perhaps some of the suits higher up the ladder of social life could learn a thing or two from my kids about availability, in the sense of active reception. To make oneself open to others and make others to themselves.

The cicadas are back for a few months now, droning away like an endless troupe of samba drummers. In this case, each drummer is playing a different kind of drum. The combined effect of which is a "sheet of sound," composed of reverberations that stick together in the thick July air, an undifferentiated rhythm, an invisible wave that is soporific in its inimitable monotony. My clothes turn heavy and damp with sweat from the short walk between the air conditioned staff room to the air conditioned classroom.

I now revisit today from a long way ahead, look upon it with rapture and contentment, and never forget that it is now.

July 03, 2006

Farewell Tokyo

On the weekend I found myself again in the mysteriously and endlessly urbanized sublime of Tokyo. One may gather from my diction of absolutes that I am merely reiterating a static perception of a static world. That is possible to say, but there is another way of looking at my experiences in Japan's capital that one must always consider anew with the turn of each page. This image is, as Wallace Stevens taught us with his "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird", simultaneously an ending and a possibility: "the edge / Of one of many circles." Where I stop is where I keep on going. As Wittgenstein says, "Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen" — whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

In this silence, the ineffable expresses itself. What I speak of is not an expression that we are used to, being accustomed to the book of human language. Rather, what is brought into being by itself, rather than words, which are an 'elegy to what they signify,' cannot be approached, wrapped up, and synthesized. However much we seek for, thrive on, and perish for the sake of a synthetic unity, a self made whole, it is only by sacrifice, by dying a symbolic death, that true communion happens.

What am I talking about? Whom may it concern?

One way of looking at Tokyo...