- California born by a Cuban mother, married to a Japanese man, and have lived in Japan since 2004, minus one year living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I have friends and family in many places in the world. I dreamed of traveling to many distant lands, creating music and dancing to it, meeting interesting people, and discovering treasures in the most unlikely of places.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Why I came to Japan in the first place
This is kind of a response to what my friend Danielle just wrote about, seeing completely new patterns versus creating patterns using old ones. It is about why I originally came to Japan.
When I was a child, I was really very concerned about the environment. I thought a lot about what we could do as a group, as humans, to change our ways. I often cried about the situation. Then my grandparents came to Japan to visit Hiroshima and they brought me back a book on Bonsai. I saw the pictures as something very different from your average topiary or garden tree. Then I found a book on Ikebana (Japanese Flower Arrangement) at a yard sale, and was shocked. The same rhythm could be found there.
It was a movement, a flow; a thought and then a silence and then a change in direction, and again. I saw that the Japanese must appreciate this art form, and since popular art is a reflection of people's hearts, they must think in the same way. I compared it to the noisiness and fullness of Western Art, and thought that if we could possibly learn to not be quite so aggressive and be more thoughtful in our movements, that we could save our world. So that is the original reason why I decided to come to Japan, hoping to learn it so that I could take it back and do something with that knowlege. What I know now is that that Wabi-sabi, Do and Sei, are uncommon in modern Japan, and an equivalence to Western Art is what is popular here now. I can't say that I haven't learned anything about it, but it is much harder to learn than anticipated, and I wonder if it is actually possible. There is, however, an underlying feeling that lingers, but the culture is so complex that it might have been more likely if I had come as a child.
First of all, it is probably not about taking from something or using something, but more about paths, and this is something that I did not understand in my youth. For me, the feeling in Japanese traditional art and life is something like this: it is like a silence that says that there are only a few correct paths that one can take, and that you must decide or be lost in the situation. But no one actually every comes out and says what someone must do, it is something that you have to feel out. Some people tell you, but they are your in-group(family or good friends), and very few. It would be very, very hard to try to teach how to move in this silent, thoughtful way to people who are used to being open and honest and not depending upon a particular path, but who can see that there are more options in the open air. I think that one of the difference in the cultures is that the Japanese think very hard about what the best path to take is, and if not, just stay on the one that they are on. For example, most people have no hobbies or only one, which they do to perfection. Ask them if they are bored. They aren't. In my home country, however, most people have several things that they enjoy doing, and if they aren't then they are bored. Most Japanese people have few friends. This is desirable. They can be silent, simply happy, appreciate the simple things in life, moving nowhere fast, thinking about everything before doing it, perhaps never stepping out of a comfort zone. But when they do decide to move, it is decisive and very strong in its direction. Most of my foreign friends have a lot of friends, and this suits them. Enjoying a variety of different people, working with different ideas, moving forward, somewhere, everywhere, quickly.
The long, slender, silent branch, with a single leaf and two berries, rising out of a small garden of leaves, versus a big bouquet of roses with smaller and bigger other flowers and colors, comes to mind. Many modern Japanese people however, might choose the bouquet over the simple arrangement, if you were to ask them to choose.
A mix of both might be best for our world, if it were possible. A seeking of a path, and then a blossoming into an area, but not too much, and then a change of path, and another blossoming into another area. I think, as in the very beginning at seven years of age, that if we take our time, and stop to think, that we might be able to change.