Sunday, September 2, 2012

Time and Space

There is a lot to process.  It seems like every few days I have a mini-meltdown and then rebuild within a few hours and find myself in a new mental and emotional place.  Soon the sand will settle and I'll come to terms with the elements that make up Japan.  But there are a lot of them.  Two days ago I had to process earthquakes and what it is to live with a backdrop of understanding that extreme disaster may be only seconds away.  In western countries we come to accept the risk of cars and planes and saturated fat and just we swallow it and in Japan I suppose one comes to assume other risks. Life is life and it goes on and I signed up to play in a masterclass to distract myself from things I can't control.  

Another ongoing adjustment is noise and how much noise I feel I need to make in life.  I'd never thought I was a loud person, or a big person, or a clumsy or especially messy person, but living in Japan has giving me a new calibration.  I like to practice cello and that makes noise, but that's an understandable thing for an orchestral member to do and we have a sound proof room for it.  But I also like to practice Tae Kwon Do and this is something that I'm having a hard time finding the physical and respectful space to do as it can be somewhat noisy.  

I woke up this morning and thought about the long meeting of yesterday and I reflected on the value of this country for efficiency of a different kind than that to which I'm accustomed.  In America we value efficiency of time, and in Japan they seem to value the efficiency of doing something well and without waste.  Spending time to do something the right way rather than cutting corners to get it done.  There are so many plans and plans for plans and then different copies and ways of organizing all these plans and in the end there is something that is very efficient though the process is not really that way.  It's a strange thing to get used to but it's made me reflect on the way that Americans (and I'm sure others) can hoard their time and become stressed by it.  We eat fast and drive to avoid the inconvenience of waiting for public transportation.  We'd prefer to give individuals time on their own to more efficiently work on a project rather than have a group meeting to hack things out together.  The offices at Hyogo Performing Arts Center are all in one room with a bunch of desks- no walls, no cubicles- as though the people working there are all one machine.  

I went into my practice room this morning to practice Tae Kwon Do and once again felt concerned about the noise of jumping and keehopping.  I decided to do the warm-ups with no jumps, reduce the volume of the keehops, and then go outside for kicks, kicking combinations, and forms.  But after my warm-up I looked outside and on this Sunday morning at 8 am, the neighbors were out and about.  They were cleaning the small playground area and streets around the apartment, brooms and rakes in hand.  I watched a woman carefully sweep the gutter of the street, draining the water from the dust pan and collecting all the leaves to be thrown away.  I couldn't go out and practice in the face of their work.  But I couldn't practice inside either, for my growing respect for their space and the care they put into it.  I wanted to join them, but even this felt disrespectful.  So I took the place of the crows on the top of the buildings and watched them do the work that they knew so well, and talk to one another, caring for their space together, early on a Sunday morning.

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