Tag Archives: literature

Siddhartha

Perhaps that you’re searching far too much? That in all that searching, you don’t find the time for finding?

I read Hesse’s Siddhartha this week. It was a good parable, and full of much thought to give me insight.

There are lessons on philosophy, on the meaning of knowledge and wisdom, as well as parallels to my own life and feeling of obligation, the suffering of love. Many things to reflect on…

One thing I’ve been thinking about is reducing anxiety by training myself on the irrationality of anxiety. For example, from the perspective of loving things. If I stop to wonder if I’ve misplaced something, I remember that I either have it, or I don’t; hurrying to check doesn’t change the fact that I’ve lost it or not. There is much human life in Tokyo, so many infrastructures and pieces in motion. When meditating many things to process, to take note of, filter and appreciate.

Next steps

I’ve thought about next steps, or sharing. Well I say sharing, but I mean production, the refinement of the experience into something digestible. is that what we call “artifact”? The processing or expression of an experience into some form of media external to the original party.

My feet still ache in the heels, but they’re already much better. The tour de force of the last few days must have driven me upwards of forty kilometers a day. I just noticed now that tapping my socks causes them to emit a rather large dust cloud, despite having been “washed”. I guess that’s what you get for drying them on your pack after walking through quarry routes all afternoon.

But back to artifact. I have photo graphs, despite losing my camera (film), and twenty or so of these journal entries, along with notes. I imagine writing a novel is quite difficult. I showed some promise in both poetry and prose in college, perhaps with a course or two and a return to my university materials I could produce something remotely-interesting. Like the cliche’, I even have the title already thought out; something along the lines of “Henro Road Blues”.

My Berlin

Volkspark

Holger asked me to give him a tour of “my” Berlin. This is a tiny peek into how I find the city.

This is a bench, under a tree, in the northeast corner of Volkspark. It is rather nondescript as far as benches in parks go: it is made from weathered wooden slats, chipped and split, with the occasional graffiti tag along the brim. But to me it is a dais in the mind, a stationary raft in an ocean of thought.

I sit here, on the bench overlooking the volleyball pit below. Each time that I’ve come to the city it has been winter, and the park mostly empty, save for an unleashed dog that goes wandering through the sand while his owner strolls along the outer rim. There is traffic in the distance on Danziger Strauss, though I don’t mind it. What I do focus on is the sound of winter, the muffled sound caught in snow with pockets of ice footprints. My mind takes me to the era of the GDR, of Eastern Germany under Communist rule, a city built by Turkish labourers, and the endless rows of humble unadorned concrete apartment blocks which still fill the borough of Friedrichshain. I think about the beleaguered Spree, and great brick bridge Oberbaum that spans it, once so proud and now just humbly tolerating the fate of a city who still hasn’t seen enough gentrification to purge an ecosystem of patchwork industry and sodden club flyers.

When I first came to Berlin in 2009 I bought a copy of Faust. In between the hours I spent wandering the graveyards and remnants of The Wall, I drank charmingly minor Bavarian lagers and got lost in the tale of a man dissatisfied with life and tragically seeking something more.

From a cold bench overlooking a bowl of ragged turf in the People’s Park I read novels and write my thoughts about an equally tragic city. The withered leaves from the eternally barren tree fall silently, and I stare into a grey city obligated to eternally apologise for its past.

On the road to quality

Times away from focused work are dry enough that they can soak up the mood you put yourself in. This is easily accomplished with music, or reading. I think there needs to be a balance in what we consume mentally. Maybe consumption isn’t the right word. I’ve been reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance again and it’s coloring my thought. All evaluations of actions and matter is divided into the subjective and objective, the romantic and classic, as Pirsig would say.

I’ve had an opportunity to look at my artistic expression, and that of others, in that dual-pronged way which leads to the evaluation of its quality. Lots of thinking, not much sorted resolution yet. I don’t know how exacting I should be in coming to those kinds of analytic conclusions. “Elliot (Irwin) succeeds in a presentation of society from a whimsical and satirical point of view, but fails to deliver a message of any significant worth.” There’s the word, “worth”, which is indicative of quality. A subjective evaluation of the work is of course going to provide varying results, the opposite would lead to a very cold and rational metric for art, and eliminate all individuality in the field.

So picking apart my feelings and actions is the idle pastime I enjoy while travelling. Whether it produces any long term growth of character I’m not sure, for as I mentioned it all ends rather fuzzy and vague, unrecorded with no notes or deliverables, or checklist for evaluating actionable items after the fact. Yes, we agree to endeavour to do better, to be more sensitive and aware of our actions. But perhaps these distilled spiritual doctrines are exactly what add to the mounting neuroses which impedes my happiness.

A poet in search of history

Basho came to Hiraizumi to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Yoshitsune’s death. It was then, seeing the open fields, all that remained of the once great Fujiwara monuments, that he wrote the famous haiku to sum up mankind’s fleeting glory.

Natsukusa ya (Ah, summer grass)
Tamedomo ga (All that remains from the ruin)
Yume no ato (of warriors’ dreams)

Though I always turn off my iPod when I enter a temple or shrine, I’ve spent most of my time walking around listening to the solemn half of the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack. While this is fitting, reinforcing the muted, cold atmosphere I half-wished to find on this trip, this is not completely fair. Music, like any other form of art, can be used in recreation to serve us. We see what we want to see, we hear what we want to hear, and we feel what we want to feel. Walking around with headphones all the time reinforces any barriers we already have built up around us, encased in our our little private bubbles. This cannot continue for very long without adverse effect.

So I took off the headphones to leave my mind to idle though. As I further realized when walking through the jukai of Aokigahara, it’s not long before I start making nonsensical remarks to myself, quoting movies and books, frequently in an absurd voice. Before stopping for afternoon tea I wondered aloud if Basho talked to himself three hundred years ago, and if he did, did he quote popular theatrical comedy of the day, pausing to chuckle at how amused with himself he was?

Jukai travels

When I was in elementary school, the annual book fair was always a time of great anticipation. How many yarn-tasseled Garfield bookmarks could I con mom into buying me this year? One time I bought a book, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. At the time I thought that it was related to Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective, in which the main character was named Basil. However, this was not the case as my mother informed me before buying it, but stubborn and not wanting to believe such depressing news, I insisted I knew this and wanted the book nonetheless. So, she bought it and it did indeed end up about being nothing about detectives or mice named Basil, but it was a very interesting read about two children who run away and live in a museum for a number of months. The image of all those toilets to oneself; the kind of comfort that comes only from the absolute pristine silence of dozens of toilets all to oneself, was strangely appealing. There is a similar line in the film With Honors; Joe Pesci makes such a comment about the bliss of living in a Harvard library.

I have a similar situation presented to me now, the only patron in a camping area with dozens of empty, tidily swept lodges. I enjoyed heavenly twenty minute trips to the ice cold toilets, slowly savoring my third read of The Dharma Bums.

Today was indeed a day spun in stories. Like a lot of times my assumptions and plans were all nonsense, but i was lucky to have people showing me the way. I climbed a 1200 meter mountain, I rode a horse, I picked my way through suicide woods at desk, I went spelunking in a bat cave, I bathed in hot water springs and ate one of the most perfect meals of my entire life. Twelve miles, thirteen hours, and a sense of deep satisfaction. I have half a bottle of the most delicious win but Japhy was right, in the mountains the air is thin and you don’t crave it. Kerouac was telling the truth, and I know how he felt…

Too physically active to drink, and something of completeness, and the hope to start a new direction in one’s life. The silence is almost maddening. [It was at least until a deer scream from the forest behind sent me quaking deeper into my Carinthia.]

The return of busyness

Though I can’t really claim to have had any significant downtime in the last four years, I do have a standard that I’ve maintained for more or less half a year. A normal day starts with one hour waking up/shower, thirteen hours communting/work, one and a half hours dinner/television, one hour reading news/comics on the computer, half an hour tidying/getting ready for bed, and then roughly six-seven hours of sleep. I used to analyze it thinking I could improve it somehow, but there are constants which fighting will only exhaust you more.

After I got back from Paris last May and registered for GEISAI, I made plans for a restructured schedule, and got into it really during the summer, at which point I spiraled into an intense three months of simply work (corporate) + work (private). It was tiring, it was exciting, and it ended in a sleepless daze that I vaguely remember. Afterwards I “took a break” which meant going back to “the standard”, and not touching my camera or synth for about six weeks. It didn’t exactly get me back to like-new condition.

But, an idle mind is a crazy one, for me, so perhaps it’s best that I stay near the cusp of exhaustion fighting for something that only makes sense to me.

Now that I am “idle”, and have a lot of time on my hands, I decided I needed another improbable goal to motivate me to tighten the screws on my regimen. The next GEISAI is proported to occur sometime in the summer, and a tentative art show four months away isn’t enough of a impetus to spur me to serious action, so I made a spur of the moment decision. I squeezed through the closing door of DESIGN FESTA 25 registration and got myself a booth for Saturday the 26th of May.

My gosh! That’s less than seven weeks away! How in the world will I put together a display of artwork that’s a substantial improvement over last autumn in half the time?

Good question, let’s find out.

On books, intelligence and frustration

I have been meaning to write that I finished “Flowers for Algernon” last Thursday. So I guess I got through it in about three or four days– it was a pretty good story. I was standing next to a small restaurant out of the misting rain when I got to the end. I didn’t cry but there were tears forming in my eyes. It took me on a journey and it made me think about more than one key think, so I guess that says a lot; the message was multi-layered. At the beginning I was confused and a little frustrated (due to the lead character’s inability to write and speak decent English). Towards the middle I became fascinated and emboldened; I wanted to become smarter myself and break down all the barriers that prevent me from living a balanced, happy life here. Three-quarters the way through I found myself sharing perhaps a little too much in common with the story, and I began to miss New York City. And as the book drew to a close, I felt genuinely sad yet satisfyingly content. I won’t say anymore to spoil it for you, but I recommend you try it.

Now that I’ve finished “Flowers…”, I have had the chance to get deeper into my Dalai Lama book. Though I have yet to conclude how rigidly I should interpret his teachings, I am content to discover that throughout the course of reading the book in conjunction with some experimentation on my own part. In the meantime, I’ve already started trying to apply some of the tenets to my daily life. I question myself before I make decisions on how to behave, and when I am frustrated I attempt to take an objective look at why, so that I can backtrack and diffuse the situation earlier in the future. Though it may be a little laborious, I think in the near future I’ll start sharing some quotes from the book with you when I frame a blog entry around the metaphysics of happiness and self-awareness.

I want to be a creature of shining light in harmony with all of the world’s inhabitants. I must be careful and choose my steps forward wisely so as to purify and project the love in my heart.

The things that make life sweet (pt. 3)

I carried “Flowers for Algernon” around in my coat pocket today so I could read it during lunch and break. I also have gotten into the questionable habit of reading it when I walk, I just started this morning and I’m already up to page 50. Books have an interesting way of affecting my behavior. It may be kind of silly, but as Charlie is growing more and more intelligent, I’ve found myself walking with better posture and thinking about everything in more than one dimension at a time. I want to believe that I have the potential to be exceptionally bright, and just as the Dalai Lama says of happiness, I feel my capacity for intelligence and learning is dependent largely on my attitude and the way I approach the challenges I encounter each day.

Anyway, I’m writing mainly to report that mood is continuing to skyrocket. It seems that ever since the weather changed things have been markedly different. I still feel great mentally, even though I am fully conscious of how precarious a position I’m putting myself in by not resting. In addition, the temperature has plummeted from a humid 87 on Friday to a poor shadow of summer with a high in the mid 60s. People say this kind of dramatic change makes it easy to get sick, but I’m so thrilled to be able to have my window open and feel the brisk evening I don’t care. I didn’t get to cleaning the dishes I mentioned earlier as I probably should, in fact at work I toyed with the idea of putting it off until tomorrow morning when I have to take out the trash, but the odor right now is demanding otherwise. It’s just a pain in the neck dealing with the common space downstairs that I’m trying to avoid, not the actual dish washing itself (which I actually enjoy).

Tokyo is a city of 12 million people. I’m not sure how many I get to see on a daily basis just walking to the train station and back, but I’d guess it’s close to several hundred if not a thousand. Shinjuku eki is the busiest train station in the world, over one million people go through it _every day_. I’m one of that million, twice, though I have the entrances, exits, times and train doors memorized so well it’s quite effortless for me at this point. The great thing about the cold weather is the crowds are no longer oppressive with heat and humidity, but rather a Dionysian field of pleasant fragrances both synthetic and natural. I CAN’T GET OVER how fantastic girls smell. It may just be that I’m starstruck, or in one of the most fashionable cities in the world, but Japanese women seem leagues more feminine than their American counterparts. Ack, my head is going to explode from so much coquettish allure.

Life is an ever-evolving, biomechanical, multi-dimensioned beast of synaesthesia, and I possess the means to navigate its bloodstream en force.

The Tokyo Game Show is this weekend. w00t.

The things that make life sweet (pt. 2)

I feel so happy and content today, I wonder why. This is like the polar opposite of how things were last week before I got my project schedule extended. I think I remember hearing something about how when you’re sleepy you may have low blood sugar levels, so you get light-headed and a little nutty. This phenomenon was once described by a coworker of mine at DSR [which coincidentally was bought just last week] as “Silly o’clock”. You know, that time of night when you’ve been staying up late doing something so you just start laughing at everything for no apparent reason. I dunno, maybe this is different. Regardless, my body is so beat now but my mood is fantastic. I love every thing and everybody. In the words of Russell from Almost Famous “I am a golden god!” … “Tell Rolling Stone that my last words were…’I’m on drugs!'”

Tangentially of interest, I procured some much-needed books at Japanese megastore Kinokuniya over the weekend. Usually I’m cheap as dirt and would never _buy_ books, I’d borrow them from the library and keep renewing them, but I was tired and didn’t feel like doing the legwork to find a library in Shibuya that had a decent English language section. [I _should_ do this soon as I really want a book on Shinto and one on Japanese history] So while on the sixth floor and looking through the English books section, I discovered a number of gems that I MasterCard’ed (thanks, Dad) as I didn’t have any cash. [Maybe I had some cash and didn’t want to admit it…I forget.] I’ll give little reviews of each after I finish them but for now let me introduce you to our lucky contestants:

1) The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler MD. I read a little Buddhism 101 book last summer over my daily tonkatsu in the ATR cafeteria and kinda dug it. Not that I’m looking for spiritual meaning or anything, but I definitely think there is much to be gained from a) a basic understanding of eastern philosophy and thought, and b) material about self-improvement as I am always striving to further master the talent of living and making the word a better place throughin and throughout. That and the fact I love learning like some people love speed or coke. Anyway, I’m into this one 14 pages and already I feel a little wiser. Thanks D.L.!

2) Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes. You may laugh, but I didn’t really think about this title until I was watching Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and following the subplot involving the Tachikoma (highly intelligent AIs in police attack robots). In one episode focusing on their independent and extraordinary development of human-like emotions and autonomous thought, some of the mechs are discussing the meaning of life, death, and the imperfection of humanity when one of them mentions this book. As I was in the fiction section of Kinokuniya and looking for Kerouac (see below) and Keyes was right there, so I figured “What the hell?”. I’m trying to read more modern classics anyway despite that (unfortunately Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man kinda let me down with its the excessive extollings of Christianity). Mom said she liked it [Flowers…] and the movie, so it looks like a win-win-win [damn, I sound like a slot machine].

3) On the Road, Jack Kerouac. Yeah, I’ve read this one several times already, but I didn’t have my own copy yet (a la aforementioned cheap-skatedness) and I needed some hopped-up mad poet love to play on the solitude I’ve been so reeking of lately. It’s a great book, and I only regret this bookstore didn’t have Big Sur as well, because the two dovetail so well together, and its hard for me to decide which I like more. Long story short (haha), On the Road: great book about _living_ life and surrounding yourself with people equally as zealous for just that. (I have a large poster of the man over my desk). [Note: I’m crazy about this guy…this book and Sur are on the “Great friend/lover of David Ventura Required Reading (to understand me) List”]

BTW, I advanced my UFO Catcher (those wacky toy and claw games they have at bowling alleys in the US) hall of fame with a sleepy (like me) bedtime Minnie Mouse holding teddy. The question of the day is: will I keep this snuggly, chamois sleepmate for myself or go for the gushing gratitude of a garrulous girl?


Minnie and Tama-chan (and the $130 pillow in the background).