Tuesday, June 30, 2009

'kokoro no semasa', or: random thoughts from exile...

One of the aspects that deeply, deeply upsets me in this country is most people's absolute lack of spontaneity, their exasperating inability to drop the social script and do (or say, for god's sake!) something unexpected for a change. As if life's main purpose were to rule out the unpredictable.

If you want to invite someone to lunch or dinner, you have to plan it days and days (and often weeks or even months) ahead, as most Japanese folks are always way too 'isogashii' - busy, hectic, whatever - to accept an impromptu invitation. I often think they must derive some sort of puritan pleasure from making themselves unavailable, irresponsive to other people: 'tsugo ga warui' ('it's a bad/inconvenient time for me'). A recurrent, calculated, morally superior excuse for which I have less and less patience. It's such a difference when you invite a European pal (not yet adulterated by native customs, of course, since some are already beyond hope) for a spur-of-the-moment stroll or drink... Such a difference.

I used to find it hard to believe, but in the past few years I've come to fully understand why so many foreigners leave Japan with the bitter feeling there is no 'native' they can genuinely call a friend. A friend is someone who uncalculatingly, un-arse-lickingly has time and space for you, and there are, alas, fewer and fewer people like that around town.

The sad paradox is that usually none of this isogashisa, none of this self-righteous franticness, translates itself into high standards of productivity and excellence - well, certainly not in a creative, inspired way, even though most people do in fact excel in sheepishly doing what they are told, no questions asked. I guess that's what keeps the status quo from crumbling or imploding.

And how could you expect things to be otherwise when the educational system (aided by religion, I would add) laboriously, obsessively extirpates from the outset any signs of individuality, passion, desire - the very lifeblood of creativity, imagination, vision, originality - in favour of authoritarianism, senseless hierarchies, narrow-mindedness and collectivism?...

Well, anyway, the show must go on, or, as the song goes, everybody's got to live their life, and god knows I've got to live mine - god knows I've got to live mine... [sigh]

*(14:32): Yup, you're absolutely right, Antonio. If you surround yourself as much as possible by genuinely interesting, caring, humane, warm-hearted people, like a fortress, you can at least ward off the most crippling effects of the contact with the system and its hypocritical zombies.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Underneath all the raucous laughter, effusiveness, tittle-tattle, was that soft but unmistakable touch of sadness, loneliness, or shall I perhaps call it 'melancholy'?...

Tongue-tied, two vagrant, wounded souls in search of something they'll never find outside themselves (until they find it within. Will they ever?...).

Yes, that's what brought us together from the outset, a sense of solidarity in our utter inadequacy - or shall I say we 'bumped into' each other on the way to nowhere?...

I really don't know. What I do know is that yesterday I too was crying within, darling, all the time my heart was bleeding, bleeding.

Monday, June 8, 2009

larger despairs than ours...


Above and below
The roll of days spread out like a cloth
Days engraved on everyone's forehead
Yesterday folding Tomorrow opening
Today like a horse without a rider
Today a drop of water falling into a lake
Today a white light above and below

A fan of days held in a virgin hand
A burning taper burning paper
And you can turn back no longer
No longer stand still
The words of poems curling among the ashes
Hieroglyphics of larger despairs than ours.

David Gascoyne, Selected Poems (London: Enitharmon Press, 1994), p. 34.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

whistling in the dark

Another definition of the poet's art and of poetry's place in our lives that I wholeheartedly endorse.

. . . in the wood
Of wandering among wood-hiding trees, where poet's art
Is how to whistle in the dark, where pockets all have holes,
All roofs for refugees have rents, we ought to know
That there can be for us no place quite alien and unknown,
No situation wholly hostile, if somewhere there burn
The faithful fire of vision still awaiting our return.

David Gascoyne, from "The Sacred Hearth", in Selected Poems (London: Enitharmon Press, 1994), p. 153.