Monday, April 04, 2005

Long one

I hesitate to post this it has personal thoughts and impressions and makes me self-conciouss and may offend people and I dunno. That said, go ahead. This is from the zen retreat:

More and more every day I begin to think that it is incredibly important to believe that everyone is doing everything they can, that they are doing their best, and then to be satisfied with that fact rather than with the result. Right now someone is giving a presentation to a horde of 22 year old newly-become-members-of-society and the content of said presentation is Phone Memos. “If you don’t write a memo, you might not remember the details of the phone call.” It’s all just such obvious apparent horseshit and I would be offended if the company that just hired me with my fucking price-tag education felt compelled to tell me – check that, to take a half-hour presentation to tell me repeatedly – how and why it is important to take a phone message.

And yet I appreciate the thought, she walks everyone through it, has everyone take a dummy memo, etc. Its such a silly thing, you would think that she could just hand out the memo sheet (which has slots for such things as “Caller’s Name”, “Call Intended For”, “Person who took the Call” etc) and everyone would look at it and go “Yeah, okay.”

It’s just kinda silly ne. I mean this is the sort of thing that if you sit down at the phone and see a bunch of these you just start writing, because it is so self-explanatory, but she is honestly explaining the meaning of every element on the form with a complex powerpoint presentation. I could give my plant one of these memo sheets and trust it not to fuck it up.

Under normal circumstances I would see this as a great chance to whip myself up into a good old fashioned everyone-who-isn’t-me-is-a-moron frenzy, but today I restrain myself. I want to be happy dammit.

My new favorite concept is sustainability. Not that I would even go so far as to call sustainability desirable in any lasting sense (that is kind of a pun), but my thoughts have been dwelling on it. I have developed a thought. Right now it is just a thought.

It all started like this. I was writing down ideas for, well, things I can do to/with/for words, and I liked the phrase Idol Worship cuz it could become Idle Warship or Isle Washup or Eye Doll Washup or any number of twisted things without losing its original meaning. This is all Joyce, but you see where I am going with this.

So then I tried to do the same thing with the word Lineage, but had less luck. That devolved into the idea of Lineage as a demon that spans past and future, given the dual nature of the word itself, and that of course reminded me of the demon Legion from whichever Testament that was. I liked the idea of Lineage and Legion as related demons of some sort, with regards to humanity’s fears and aspirations. The more I thought about it the more I realized that there is a connection of sorts between the words; an inverse connection. I used a bit of creative reasoning but I am toying with the idea of asserting that the dynamic between the “demons” of the human heart, Legion and Lineage, is the fundamental dialectic when you talk about people.

Whaaaa? Say you. But consider. I want to put Lineage on a Y-axis, it is temporal, it is sustainability, it is elegance, it is reason, it is mind, it is consciousness, it is eyes – but it is not physical, it is not hands. It can see and it can think and it can judge and we can feel those powers in it – we feel our lineage both ways, but it doesn’t have a presence. Are you with me? Oppose that to Legion. Legion is X-axis, width, power over space, momentum, strength, passion, body, presence, arms. (Compare point by point to the list above those are the points of disjunction). But Legion, this show of strength that is everywhere, is only a moment long. It is ephemeral.

Are you with me? Look at the world and pick those things that are eternal (or long lasting) (Catholicism, democracy, the human race, etc) and call them lineage, they stretch from generation to generation. They are in constant fear of the present, aren’t they? That which has a history and plans for a future need fear only the now. The now is Legion, is events, is the physical existence of the world as it is today, it is terrorists and armies and new ideas and sex and drugs and rock and roll and all these things with no eye and no thought for tomorrow, these things that just want to need to exist. It is the thirst for power for power’s sake, the will to power, imperialism, Rome, England, America, etc. Lineage is humanity Legion is nation.

Both of these things appeal to us, huh? We like the idea of the unstoppable force as much as we like the idea of the unmovable object. But they only work to the extent that they cooperate, ne? All the lineage things that you can name off, history family species etc, are only in your head because they have some element of Legion, even now. The less Legion that there is, the thinner the angle on the graph becomes – until it is a vertical line. It works the other way too – Legion is only relevant to the degree that it impacts Lineage. It’s like each is a pen and we can only become aware of its presence to the degree that it writes on the other. Does that make sense? We are all trying not to become the asymptote that we will one day inevitably join.

A slope of one, a 45% angle on the axis, Legion fuses with Lineage, is the dream of every object, from person to rock to religion. It is the promise implied by ephemeral or intangible existence, the completion of the contract - eternal tangible presence. Mind fused with body. Soul, Spirit, God. Tyranny? Sustainability. I listed sustainability as a quality of Lineage above, but that must be wrong. Maybe that should just be longevity. Sustainability implies something is being sustained. It’s Pai Mei vs Terri Schiavo. Terri may be my flagship for longevity as distinct from sustainability.

But of course the place I want to insert these principles is the vague book idea I pounded out months ago. The indistinct female presence from before the dawn of time is of course Lineage; the fearless spontaneous pirate captain who lost his eye in a bet is Legion. It is about their love. I am really interested to see if they can make it work.

Love is a good place for this struggle – it is the abstract love and the here and now love, because the instants where you feel both – where you see the future while feeling the present and appreciating the past – are the eternal instants, ne? And the ones that haunt you when it is over. It is the eternal liberation and eternal oppression, the lack of an answer.

It is perfect.

And here I write this in a Buddhist temple where if I explained it to a monk he would laugh and tell me to hug the asymptote.

That was all written earlier today. Surprised I haven’t written more on this trip but frankly they keep me starving and hungry. And an hour ago they were hitting me with sticks. No joke.

So the rundown. There is this big new-employee orientation program thing, right? Yesterday (Friday) they had all the ceremony stuff at the main Ichimiya building. All these guys are becoming Society People, big deal and important and etc. Then, as a welcome to the working world, all 70 of them are led off to this Zen temple in Kyoto (which is where I am now). Here, there are various presentations given (such as the afore-mentioned note-taking and my English lesson tomorrow etc). Sure, Myk, I get you that far, but why pay to take 70 people to Kyoto and back for a few powerpoint shows? Well, smartass, it’s not just that. Part of what we do here is the Zen thing, right, so we are eating meals temple-style, doing zen meditation, walking around with our hands clasped in front of us barefoot, etc.

So, details. Food: 4 people to a table. Table has big bucket of disgusting rice, just white and pulpy. Not really disgusting, but nothing with it, right. And there is a ton. Table also has a big bucket of Miso soup, which is a soy-paste kinda soup with various stuff in it (like, onions and then a vegetable of the day, so mushroom stems or tofu chunks or whatever). Basically broth with a few chunks, right? And finally there is the side dish. This is like shredded veggies or steamed veggies or goo. There is a ton of that, too. So, at our introduction to the temple, we received our three bowls, a set of cheap wooden chopsticks, a cloth for wiping and a cloth for wrapping it all in. The rules for dinner are, you go in, sit four to a table quietly. When instructed to do so, you unwrap your chopsticks and bowls, and set them up in front of you, large medium small. You are to do this without making a sound. Then there is like 30 seconds of meditation, then you and your three table mates are to eat every shred of rice on the table, eat every bit of food so not so much a grain of rice is wasted. Now, you would think that this would be heaven, right, cuz you just get to eat (or is that just my image of heaven?). But the food tastes genuinely bad, like on purpose. It is as bland as you can imagine, it’s like eating 3 pounds of cardboard. And you have to do it as fast as you can. This is a parallel to teamwork at work apparently. You shovel it into your mouth, all soundlessly mind you, wasting not a minute and dropping not a grain of rice. Disgusting but it gets the filling my stomach job done. THEN comes the bad part. The last thing on the table is a pot of tea with barely any tea in it. Each of you pours a tiny bit of tea into the smallest bowl. You have a slice of pickled radish I forgot to mention. You take the pickled radish with your chopsticks and scrub the little bowl until it is clean, using radish and tea. Then you pour it all into the medium bowl and do it again. Then you pour it into your big bowl, the rice bowl, and scrub for all you are worth. Then you drink every drop of the tea and eat the radish. Yeah, it’s like that, that face you just made. The result is, you find yourself wishing against wish for the blandest food possible because it doesn’t make the tea absolutely undrinkable, right. So the first meal we had was shredded veggies so there were little shredded root things in my shot of tea, but the second meal we had some sort of gooey cooked vegetables that were very Chinese style and it was just like snot. And not only do you have to use the tea for your own bowl but someone has to use the tea to clean the serving bowl that it all came out of and scrub that with the tea then use that tea for their own bowls. The goo bowl was between me and this shy looking chick so I cleaned it and made her drink it. Heh heh heh.

Yeah I’m a bastard. Actually I was just gonna drink it but then she did. And I didn’t stop her. You can tell I feel guilty. There are actually a couple of things I feel guilty about but I can’t talk about them all here. I am lately evaluating myself and some decisions I’ve made lately and wondering.

It’s 9:15am Sunday morning and I have been up and busy for almost 5 hours. Today’s schedule: wake up at 430, brush teeth shave comb hair, assemble in Zazen hall by 5am for an hour of meditation. Will explain meditation later.

So at 6, those with big welts on their back limp back upstairs while the rest of us just walk, and then it is time for cleaning at 6. We are broken into groups and everyone has a cleaning responsibility. I was afraid they were going to make me scrub toilets with a radish or something but I just had to straighten up the meditation room, arranging cushions and such. Then it’s back upstairs and then back downstairs for breakfast.

Breakfast was this sort of gruel-like rice stuff, right, basically rice and hot water. Half-soup half-rice, like were-rice, or were-soup, or something like that. All the Japanese hate it but it tastes quite similar to plain, unseasoned, overly watery oatmeal – something which, for some reason, I have eaten quite a bit of in my day. So I had no problem with that. There is no miso soup for breakfast, and the side was this gooey seaweed thing which had a really interesting taste, which we all know I love. And there were ume-boshi, which are pickled plums. The Japanese hate them, too, but I really like them. So it worked out well for me.

After breakfast we assembled back in the great hall to hear what the main Buddhist guy had to say about life as a society-person. This was very technical and it looked like most of the Japanese folk didn’t understand what he was talking about, so there was very little hope for me, but I did realize he was talking about the World of Suffering, and how there are the four natural agonies (Birth, Aging, Sickness, Death) (apparently Shourenbyoushi in Japanese? That’s what he said and it makes sense provided Ren can mean aging. Unless he said ShouNENbyoushi which makes more sense in a way?). But then he went on to say that there were four terrors of life in society, as well. But he lost me there. He spent an hour explaining these things point by point and everyone around me was drifting off. My boss was maybe impressed with me cuz I was paying attention and came over and took a picture and made me wake up all the oafs sleeping around me. Oh yeah, Supermyk.

And so, all of that done, we assemble in our classroom in time for today’s work to begin at 9. Shudder. So now from 9 to 10 there is a presentation about driving safety which includes this video (That I have seen from the practice things) of car crashes and how to avoid them. It’s hella fun to watch, they just show footage from camera’s at intersections and these cars just plow into people and pedestrians at high velocity. It’s really exciting, though one wonders why they installed a camera at the intersection when a stoplight would have proven perhaps a bit more efficacious. But the video is telling them to do such things as slow down at blind corners and, uh, look both ways before crossing the street. Apparently valuable skills to begin acquiring now that they are Society-People.

After this there is a group activity from 10 until lunch, then lunch (shudder), then another 2 hours of group activity from 1 to 3, then Fujita-san (my most immediate boss) talks for half an hour about gender roles, then I give an English lesson for half an hour. That brings us to 4pm. At 4, the herd has an hour to work on their diaries which they are keeping every day (meaning I have an hour to listen to music in the teachers lounge, as it were), and then it is dinner time from 5 until 630. At 630 there is more zazen for an hour and a half this time, and that brings us to 8pm and preparations for departure. We hop the bus from here to the ferry, hang out at the ferry port for an hour and a half, then hop the ferry for Niihama. We arrive early morning, there is a community service cleaning project of some sort, then another presentation of some sort, then lunch (breakfast is on the ferry before we get off in niihama, meaning wake up will be around 5 I suspect), then basically from the afternoon I am on a regular work schedule again. Except on Tuesday I spend the day at the Freshman Seminar with these guys, which means I think I am gonna be on the receiving end of a lot more speeches and powerpoint presentations about taking phone memos and crossing streets. Yippie. So then that wraps up and then, at long last, this weekend is over.

BUT, I am actually really enjoying this on some level, it’s a really oddly Japanese experience. I couldn’t picture living in a temple with a bunch of coming-of-age Japanese kids in the states. Ha, it sounds like a sitcom. My catchphrase for my character (who is roguishly handsome and always doing something he really shouldn’t be) is “But I don’t understand Japanese!” and I always say it when the monks catch me scaling the fence or trying to catch the carp in the pool outside cuz damn it I need meat. And so then I say that and everyone laughs and I smile roguishly and they shake their heads and welcome me back to the fold.

Have you ever read any Norse mythology? The god Loki is really interesting, he is that sort of character. Always causing mischief, but generally kinda harmless and the gods all kinda roll their eyes and send him to bed with no supper and a smile and that sort of thing. But as the stories evolve, Loki develops this genuine hatred of the other gods, and his tricks become more and more mischievous and more and more malicious until he sheds all pretensions of play and is in open warfare with the pantheon, unleashing terror upon terror upon the world. Even then there are those who play him like the lovable rascal, and he just slaughters them. It is Loki, the archetypical cookie-jar-bandit, who eventually causes Ragnarok. Ragnarok is my favorite part of Norse mythology – some giant cosmic wolf is released by Loki, and he brings this horde of beasts that threaten the very existence of the universe itself. The gods fight against it, joined by the souls of all of the warriors in Valhalla (Valhalla is where you go when you die in battle, to drink mead and eat boar and have lots of sex until your services are required) who are finally awakened. The armies line up and the gods/humanity are completely overwhelmed and destroyed. Finally, Fenrir, the big wolf demon thing, eats Odin, father of the gods and lord of the world. And the gods and the souls of all humanity spend the rest of eternity in agony at the hands of their demonic conquerors. Isn’t that a great ending? Isn’t it great that the best fate in life is to die in combat so that you can at least party until your final defeat and unending pain? And people wonder why the Vikings were always so pissed off.

So anyway, yeah, I guess if I am the Loki archetype then I just try to eat the carp and say “But I don’t understand Japanese!” and smile sheepishly and then burn the temple down in the cover of night with all 800 monks inside. Then I ride back to Kyoto to report my success to my lord but the deed is so nefarious that the universe itself condemns my side of the war to pain and suffering and eventually a long epic is composed by blind guitarists to sooth the damned souls of my people about the rise and the fall of my epic house. I am mixing metaphors and references and stories but I think if you were all to get together and read this you could trace my influences and I assure you, in the end it is all deft and funny.

So anyway, Zazen. I should get around to explaining this. For those of you not schooled in classical Japanese religious practice (for shame!), zazen is the meditative practice of zen buddhism. The idea, of course, is to empty your mind of all thought and basically be at one with the universe, lose sense of self, something like that. I am being vague here. The ultimate goal is to attain sattori, enlightenment, through contemplation. There are rituals and in the end a zazen session is a lot like a catholic church service (by the way how is the pope?) only with a lot more time spent doing buddhist meditation.

So we sit there in lotus (or, for the weak (like me), half lotus) position, which is uncomfortable. We close our eyes, put our hands together in our lap with our thumbs pointed up, kinda close our eyes, and sit in silence for an hour. “But Myk!” you all shriek, “What was that about welts you said earlier? Why do some people get welts from sitting in silence for an hour?!” God you have a whiney voice, imaginary representative of my readership. The reason for the welts is that as we sit there, presumably emptying our mind of all thoughts, the monks walk around with these big wooden sticks and whack the shit out of people who are moving or not sitting properly or sometimes for no good reason at all. The first time I did it they just went from person to person and whacked us each a good six times on the back. The way it works is, they stop in front of you and tap your shoulder with their Big Fucking Stick. You open your eyes, act surprised that they are there (because you were so deep in meditation that you didn’t see/hear them arrive), and bow to them as they bow to you. Then you put hands on opposite shoulders and lean way forward. Then the monk whacks the shit out of you. Then you sit up and bow to the monk appreciatively. Then the monk looks at you sternly and moves to the next sucker. The guy who hit me I think held back – I heard the whackings the other people got (ha, word doesn’t think whackings is a word) and man they scared me. There is a kendo dojo in this temple and these monks whack like it. And anyway the result is that whereas you are supposed to be focusing on nothing and emptying your mind to liberate your soul, instead you have your eyes open a slit and are always worried about where the nearest whacking monk is. The best part is, they usually follow the whacking procedure but sometimes they just shout something, run across the room and whack someone across the back really suddenly and seemingly much harder than the normal whacking. I mean these monks are whacking like they have a grudge against bad posture. This morning’s session, the main whacking monk hit so hard you could hear the echoes for a few seconds after he was done. I was scared shitless the whole time even though it doesn’t REALLY matter, ya know? Like it hurts but it doesn’t hurt that much and I like pain anyway. But the idea that any second one of these guys can just run up and beat the shit out of me and I have to thank him is just something that hangs in the air like a bad smell, it makes it impossible to just chill out.

But yeah, this trip is cool. It’s like all sorts of stuff to just not look forward to – they even took the meals from me – all buffered by long periods of more or less downtime for me while the kiddies listen to presentations I have already seen twice. I am in an interesting position – I am the same age as these guys, and have also entered the company this year in a way, and yet in a way I am their senpai, I am ahead of them. They all kinda look up to me and speak to me deferentially, the way I speak to my bosses. They stand at attention when I walk by. Can you imagine? There are 70 people in this room who stand at attention when I walk by. I am going to teach them a bit later, and when it comes to sleeping arrangements I have a private room with one of the other instructors (the boss I have now at Nissen, Fukushima-san, I like him a lot) whereas they sleep on the floor in a giant room with bugs and drafty windows. And in the ferry as well – they are kinda in the cargo hold but I have the nicest room in the boat.

BUT, for all that, when the suits come off and it’s hang out time, they all love me. I eat with them, not with the bosses who wait, and on the ferry on the way over I drank with the bosses and then went and drank with them. It’s this weird sort of respect thing where they vacate one of the three chairs for me to sit in when they see me and pour me drinks and talk to me in English and ask me how to pick up girls. I am like Santa Claus, Hugh Hefner and Jesus rolled into one vaguely stressed out bag of poor Japanese skills. For them it’s like Christmas, Easter, and whatever the main holiday of the playboy faith is, all rolled into one. Why the reputation for being a ladies man? Well, as you may or may not know, there are supposedly biological differences between Japanese guys and Western guys, dealing with size. The Japanese guys kept asking me “How big is your weapon?” and I had no idea what they were talking about. Then one took a toothpick, put it in his crotch and said “I have a very small weapon.” And they all argued over who had the “smallest weapon.” Odd as hell lemme tell you. And so, given my presumed massive “weapon size” they all want to ask me for help picking up girls. Then they grabbed two unfortunate 18-year-old new company recruits (this was drinking on the ferry) two girls who were really shy and sat them down in front of me and demanded I pick them up. It was odd as hell, those poor girls were so embarrassed. I felt like I had just stumbled into never-land and the lost boys wanted me to explain how to deal with the odd feelings they have around Tiger Lilly. So I laughed and talked to the girls in a friendly way and didn’t “put any moves” on them, whatever that would entail. Then the girls left and I just shook my head at the guys. It is weird how they are treating me. I think drinks are gonna be on me on the ferry ride back. That or I may teach them poker, then I can take their money as well as their booze and any sense of masculinity. Heh, I feel like the great white invader and can’t understand the open-arms welcome.

So that is my role here. I spend the vast part of every day just kinda listening to what’s going on and typing away on my laptop. When the folks interact with me it is half worshipful and half buddy-esque which makes me feel like a character in a short story who is about to get whacked.

So the pope may already have died or if not will likely die shortly, eh? Can I ask someone with access to TV in the states to please tape any particularly good documentaries or whatnot about him? I have a vague sense of him as a genuine crusader for a better world, but I must confess to a lack of specific knowledge about him. I do know he has been a Good Guy by most peoples’ standards and would like to know more about him. Dan I am gonna go a step further in my request and ask that you be the one to do it, eh? Tape me a good one.

Tekken 5 came out here on Friday. I have been zenning so I haven’t picked it up yet but I will tomorrow. Dan and Jon, we can’t fight directly, but I leave open challenge for survival mode. My best in 4 is a paltry 23, but I suspect if I am in competition I will be inspired to excel in 5.

So I have gotten to be incredibly negative. Maybe I always have been? But I am just realizing that as I look at myself and the way I react to people things places ideas I am negative; not critical, that can be positive, I am uncritically negative. And that is wrong, that might be the thing I hate most about myself and now that it is in my spotlight I am gonna bust my ass to destroy it. I remember when I got here I was trying really hard to be positive about every experience but that faded at some point – I could probably find it in my blog and it was probably somewhere early on. Ah, probably October, the month that blew. Disillusionment and suffering. I betcha my positivity is taking a permanent vacation in October 2004. Gotta get it back, gotta reawaken the magic of the Moment.

Why, you ask (in that nasal voice), do I have such an insight now? Couple reasons. I always think of Jackie as pretty negative, and she has every right to be given her recent history, but the other night she told me that I am really negative. I denied it of course but she is right. And when the people you consider negative tell you that you are more negative, it is time to step back and reevaluate. Two, I was talking to the new girl in town the other day, Clare. She is like 18 from Australia and has been here a month and a half and still sounds the way I remember sounding in my first few weeks, just excited as fucking hell to be here and can’t believe she gets paid for this and look at this and look at that and wow wow wow, it was really inspiring and not in the sappy kinda way that some people are always like “oooooo preeeetty” right but in the “Yes, I understand and appreciate this so much that I am just gonna say ‘wow’ and mean it” kinda way. I like that, I have missed that, I don’t have any friends like that here.

My circle, which is basically Alison Tricia Jackie, tends towards the negative which is unfortunate and I wonder to what degree that is my influence. I wouldn’t presume myself to be so powerful or capable of spreading negativity, but the circle at school wasn’t a positivity-fest either. I am realizing a similar world exists here and want to do away with it. We can fix this, we can. It is spring and the flowers are coming out and there’s the genki new kid and dammit I am tired of looking down on things it’s time to look at the good side of things.

That’s why way back at the top of this post I was talking about how I wasn’t letting myself get irritated by the inanity of the presentations here. Normally I would but that’s so negative – I want to open myself to feeling impressed by how hard someone would work on a powerpoint presentation/speech about taking notes because even though it is simple it is something that really should be explained well. I think that ties in well to the meals here, too, I think the severity of the lifestyle is designed to impress a similar notion, maybe? It’s really easy to be yeah-yeah-okay-itadakimasu-lets-eat grateful for your food if it is delicious. Here they are trying to teach us to be grateful for food that is terrible. And I am learning, in spite of myself.

Genki Sudo says you should carry yourself with a feeling of gratitude in everything you do – he says, imagine how the world would change if we just SAID thank you to everything we use, every person, every meal, every once of pencil lead, etc. Because positivity is gratitude, isn’t it? That’s it. And ya know what? It is difficult. But wow, yeah, I am learning that lesson. I am tired of being mad at my boss for not replacing my moped, instead I am going to let myself appreciate the fact that they are giving me a place to live for a year, 1000 dollars a month, plane fare, many amazing meals, a trip to a zen temple, etc etc etc. When I first got here I had that sense of awe and gratitude. I loved my apartment. I still love my apartment. Such an odd mood I am in. Can I keep this up? I have been casting around for something, for an insight or a mood or something, for weeks now, and I think I finally found it. I have been searching Japan for gratitude but no matter what I do where I go who I meet I won’t find it because I resist it. Fuck that.

So anyway, yeah, sorry if that little rant seems sappy or trite, I think it might be the most important realization I’ve had out here. I dunno how I went from awe that my apartment had tatami to resentment that the hot water that they gave me doesn’t have a lot of pressure. Fuck that, fuck that fuck that. I am gonna be free of that at least and we will see where it takes me. Much to think about. Always there is the expectation that insight and lifestyle change is simple, that its difficulty lies in its simplicity, but it’s hard. If I want to change to a gratitude-centered life, I need to change the way I clean my apartment, I need to change the things my friends and I talk about, I need to change the way I do my work, and it is all conscious. Interesting.

I guess maybe now that I think about it that usually when I say “gratitude” I feel that it means “obligation,” and that is wrong – I think maybe to be truly grateful is to be free of a sense of obligation, right? Because gratitude is a sense of appreciation, not even of certain acts but of the world, isn’t it? And to confuse it with obligation, that’s like confusing positivity with...well, I dunno, with hamburgers. It’s not that they aren’t related, but obligation is just one small part of the world and it is the world that is the object of gratitude – just like hamburgers are one small part of the word and the world is the object of positivity. I feel as though I have had blinders on, but such epiphanies are always suspect. I guess I am writing this now with the sense that I know how to change the way I live but that’s never quite that easy is it. This mood could just be gas from the soup-rice wafting into my brain. But we will see. I am not claiming to be a newly-made human being, merely claiming to understand something, and I think that that understanding won’t fade if I let it sit a few days, right? So I haven’t attained enlightenment I have simply added yet another clear scale between The Way I Want to Be and The Way I Am, two forces that have this sort of gulf between them filled with vague lines. Every time I can straighten out a line I can cross it, if I try hard enough. Is that fair?

See now I am getting that irritating feeling that comes with being emotional, personal. I feel…self-conscious? Writing this in my blog. Like I shouldn’t be letting you see these thoughts, but that’s silly, isn’t it? The worst that’ll happen is I’ll revert to curmudgeon mode and you can wave this post in my face but frankly I’d deserve it. Or perhaps you will think less of me for spewing such obvious things in a public forum like I’ve stumbled upon something. Well, you might have a point. But frankly I feel like I have stumbled upon something. And then I get to thinking about how various people will react to reading the various stuff in here, how Dan will take me really seriously with a comically serious look on his face because he’s interested in what I have to say, how my mom will roll up her sleeves and see what her son is up to and smile while rolling her eyes at his latest intellectual foray into the depths of his soul, how my dad will just roll his eyes, how Jon will read three paragraphs today and two tomorrow and maybe finish if it’s interesting, how Sarah will read and think about the various things and email me later with thoughts about them, how Pat will read it and try to correlate the personality expressed in these paragraphs with the kinda boring guy he knows who hangs out with Jackie too much, how Ayako will read this with a dictionary in her hand, how Jackie will read this at work, casting nervous glances at her demonic boss, and feel kinda sad, how my little brothers will read this with a curious mix of respect for me and disdain for me that they can’t quite sort out, how I myself will read this later, what I will think about it. I dunno how accurate any of those are, but that is how you all look in my mind as you read through page after page of too-small gray text on a black screen, searching for you aren’t sure what but vaguely interested in getting to the end in case I say something that blows you away because deep down inside you think that just maybe I might be capable, but you aren’t sure why or even what I could say that would move you. Maybe you just read it to be nice. Why do you read it? Or do you? And so the self-doubt sets in and I feel like wrapping up, like stopping because I am too exposed like I am Prometheus chained regenerating to the rocks for the birds, and every paragraph, every honest revelation is a bit of flesh laid open to the eagles (that’s you, sorry) to digest without every really making me less. I worry what the eagles think of the taste. Odd, ne?.

Boy, I think I need to wrap up this little post, I am sitting at over 10 pages and this spans from the phone memo speech to the Lineage/Legion notion (which I want to explore a lot more yet) to the description of the zen thing to bitching about the food (I am ashamed for bitching about the food to my boss yesterday, I thought I was being funny and here it has taught me something) to my enlightenment about the notion of gratitude. I think the post was about gratitude when I started it but I didn’t know how to write it, it was vague in my head and now I have an idea. Isn’t that great how thinking works? It’s like sometimes you know the answers before you start, you feel something, you just aren’t sure of the question. We’ll see where this goes from here. Anyway I am gonna wrap up this little post. I will probably have more to write tomorrow.

Oh, one last thing because I find it funny. I was playing some music on my laptop during a break with my headphones and Fujita-san asks me if I can download some Destiny’s Child for her. I told that if she gets me internet in my apartment I will download anything she wants for her. She said okay. Nifty. Maybe I will open an I-Tunes account and start doing the download thing legally? God and I can finally start downloading Anime, how weird that I would come to Japan and need internet to get my cartoon fix. Although I am sure that at this point I can probably watch a lot of it w/out subs. But the problem of course is that the really cool stuff is technical and complex. It’d be like the time I played through metal gear solid 3 and got from start to finish without understanding the specifics of the plot.

Okay it’s not tomorrow but I am back from lunch now so I’ll make this a new section. My boss was just talking to me about girls in Japan, how I should have asked her for advice before dating here. My first impulse is to laugh at the idea of asking the gossipy woman above me for advice in my love life, but upon reflection she is sharper than one thinks and her advice is always on the ball. She says I shouldn’t date anyone here I wouldn’t consider/half plan on taking to America with me from the get-go. I guess now I understand why. I think it’s a fair plan. I don’t regret dating Ayako at all but am afraid that I’ve created some shitty karma for myself. So it goes. I am reminded of a quote I saw somewhere and have misplaced the source, but somewhere I have seen the words “no regrets just rebirth.” [editors note: from jon’s girlfriends facebook profile]

Have I ever told you my grand theory of rebirth? I like the idea of reincarnation, right, but the big problem everyone always has with it right from the get-go is that population has increased over the years so where do the new souls come from? Adam and Eve can only be two out of the 6 billion people we got, ne?

Ah but how about this! I like the idea of reincarnation being outside of time, as all such metaphysical hocus pocus usually is, right? Then it wouldn’t matter when you were born and there would just be an average number of souls, not all of whom are present in periods of low population, ne?

But THEN! Then, the icing on the cake is, if a soul can skip around in time in its path to being reborn, then who is to say that there is even more than one soul? Could it be possible that there is only one soul and that it circulates, reborn again and again, that each of us is a fresh instance of an old soul, the The Old Soul? That there is only one being? That everything you do to anyone you do to yourself? Nifty, eh?

Of course there are holes in the idea too great to point out, but isn’t it nice in an artistic sense?

I like my religions as art. There is no reasonable grounds for buying one over any other, so you might as well use aesthetics, right? When I become religious it will be for whatever group’s eschatology appeals to me as most aesthetic. Like the Norse Pantheon, for instance, is in the running.

Well boy did that mood fade fast. The insights remain but the boost of positive energy that went with them just disappeared. It came time for my presentation and my boss Fukushima-san forgot my name in the middle of introducing me. Then the whole time I was talking everyone looked at me like I was an idiot and didn’t really participate. Then I finished and there was a big applause and everyone told me great job. Fukushima-san felt awful, I could tell. I just wanted to crawl under a rock. Then I got a few phone emails that just made me feel awful, my karma is haunting me from various misadventures. Sigh. Put a good face on it I guess. Almost time for my last meal here. This is me at my worst. Let me see if I can put on a smile and wolf down whatever they drop in front of me.

“I am the resurrection and I am the life. I could never bring myself to hate you as I like.”
Not sure why that is relevant but it is in my ear in the moment. Catchy tune.

“There’s a man who spoke wonders, though I’ve never met him. He said, he who seeks finds, who knocks will be let in. I think of you in motion and just how close you are getting, and how eeeeevery little thing anticipates you… All down my veins, my heart strings call – are you the one that I’ve been waiting for?”

I love the line “every little thing anticipates you,” the word “anticipate” is perfect there. So that’s a bit of a switch from the last song, but don’t worry, I am still a godless heathen wandering blind and alone through a fiery maelstrom, just like you. Not you, Mom.

So the last meal here was, uh, I guess the same as the rest. I sat with kyokuchou, the main guy on this little adventure. There was no speaking as you are not allowed to speak during dinner here but I ate more and faster than he did so I think I made an okay impression? If not whatever. No, stop, I owe him a lot. I am gonna start checking myself when I am being a rude asshole. That’s a lot of checks. Although I suppose I can’t let myself start being rude to myself, either? I have to bear gratitude for myself as much as for anyone else, so self-respect is mandatory, eh? Curses.

I like how you can hear something wise a thousand times and never give it two moments of thought until you discover the same thing for yourself and realize “Oh, THAT’S what they were talking about.” Funny.

There are lots of song lyrics and impressions coming, I am just in that kind of mood. I know it breaks my blog rule number one but it’s okay, I am just really into it right now.

“Let me fall out of a window with confetti in my hair, deal me jacks or better on a blanket by the stairs; I tell you all my secrets but I lie about my past, so send me off to bed forever more…”

I made a music playlist here, it is an odd selection. Because I am just writing now I am going to list it out for you. Ready? Here it is:

David Bowie – All the Madmen
The White Stripes – In the Cold, Cold Night
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Are you the one (that I’ve been waiting for)?
Sugar Soul – Garden
Tom Waits – Tango Till They’re Sore
Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Nature Boy
The Stone Roses – I am the Resurrection
Dragon Ash – Shizuka na hibi no kaidan wo
Queen – One Vision

What think you?

“Well your faith was strong but you needed proof. You saw her bathing on the roof, her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you. And she tied you to her kitchen chair, and she broke your throne and she cut your hair, and from your lips she drew the hallelujah…”

The Old Testament is gorgeous.

“Well baby I’ve been here before, I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked this floor – ya know, I used to live alone before I knew you. And I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch, but love is not a victory march – it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.”

And what the hell,

“Well there was a time when you let me know what’s really goin on below, but now you never show that to me do ya? [rising volume, confidence] But remember when I moved in you? And the Holy Dove was moving too, and every breath we drew was hallelujah!”

But no, he doesn’t let us stop there. We think he will, that it will end bravely, the music trickles out, and then –

“Well maybe there’s a God above – but all I ever learned from love is how to shoot somebody that outdrew you. And it’s not a cry that you hear at night, it’s not somebody who’s seen the light – it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah!”
And then just “Hallelujah” repeats until your heart breaks, and it keeps going and going and there’s gentle music and in spite of it all, the final word is a worshipful “Hallelujah.” How amazing.

That final chord is broken really well by Nature Boy just jumping in –

“I was just a boy when I sat down to watch the news on TV. I saw some ordinary slaughter, I saw some routine atrocity. My father said ‘don’t look away, you got to be strong, you got to be bold now.’ He said that in the end it is beauty that is going to save the world.

And she moves among the sparrows, and she floats among the breeze, and she moves among the flowers, and she moves something deep inside of me….

I was walkin round the flower store like a leopard coming down with some sort of nervous hysteria; I saw you standing there green-eyes, black hair, up against the pink and purple wisteria. You said, ‘hey nature boy, you lookin’ at me with some unrighteous intention.’ I could not speak my knees went weak was having thoughts it was not in my best interest to mention.

And she moves among the flowers, and she floats among the smoke, and she moves along the shadows, and she moves me with just one little look…

You took me back to your place and dressed me up in a deep sea diver’s suit. You played the patriot, you raised the flag, and I stood at full salute. Well later on we smoked a pipe that struck me dumb and made it impossible to speak, as you closed in in slow motion quoting sapho in the original greek…

And she moves among the shadows, and she floats upon the breeze, and she moves among the cowbells, and we move through the days and through the years…

The years pass by we’re walking by the sea half-delirious. You smiled at me and said ‘Babe, I think this thing is getting kinda serious.’ You pointed at something and said ‘Have you ever seen such a beautiful thing?’ Well it was then that I broke down, it was then that you lifted me up again.

And she moves among the sparrows, and she walks across the sea, and she moves among the flowers, and she moves something deep inside of me…”

Now back to “I am the resurrection.”

I am not gonna bother. Zazen in a few minutes. Crap. Speaking of which, I should go to the bathroom before we start. Only Japanese-style squat toilets here, which is good because it means I finally learned to use them.

I think the song lyrics section is over now, you can uncover your eyes. And feel free to laugh at Nick Cave if it seems absurd to you, part of me thinks it is but there’s a beauty to it. I love that he met her in the flowershop by the wisteria. This from the guy who was once the baddest badboy of the punk/goth scene if my information is correct.
Actually I am by far the most negative person in my circle here aren't I. That's too bad. Sorry gang. :)
I thought the text was white
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