Sunday, December 7, 2014

Believable Spring (Beethoven 10,000, Ducks, Aikido, Suntory, and Woman on the Bus)

Today I rehearsed and performed Beethoven 9 with 10,000 singers; I walked to Osaka Castle during our break, passing a samurai museum, some people drinking wine from a bottle, and a poorly acted ninja demonstration.  On the way I stopped on the bridge over the mote and watched the ducks for awhile, entranced by how long they could stay under water, and curious about the one duck that always surfaced at a distance from the other two ducks, and only joined the full group slowly and reluctantly.  An outlier.  I wondered about the life of that duck and stared at the intersecting ripples.  After pulling myself away from them, the Asian man with the hat attached to his backpack that said, "F****** Yeah," that had been lingering around me, finally felt comfortable asking me to take his picture with the castle in the background.  Sometimes I don't understand people.  I felt a kinship with that solitary duck.

I continued past the castle, and the crowds of tourists, the food stands, and saw more and more people in the familiar white pants.  I was getting closer.  When I arrived at the budokan, I saw a lot of people leaving and thought perhaps I had missed whatever event had been occurring.  But I took my chances and went in anyway, finding an Aikido tournament in full swing.  The numbers were so great that people could come and go freely and their sum total would hardly be effected.  It's a remarkable gem, this facility.  There are always lots of family and friends and observers in plain clothes watching, so it isn't a problem to come in and watch.  It's quite natural.  And there is almost always some tournament or meet occurring there.  It's the best part of Osaka Castle, but it isn't a tourist attraction.

There were many matches occurring at once, and I moved my attention among them.  Two girls, probably in junior high or high school working together, two more experienced practitioners, and then a group of men practicing one specific throw, all being watched and guided by teachers.  In Aikido, one person attacks the other, and the one defending executes a technique that swiftly throws the attacker to the ground, usually by grabbing the hand or wrist in some way that flips them onto their back.  And the one thrown learns how to gracefully fall, how to relinquish their power so that they can roll and get up again easily. The moves are practiced and prescribed, but the speed and ease of them is remarkable, perhaps lasting only a few seconds.  The sound of bodies hitting the mat filled the space, as did the feeling of peace and ease.  People smiled; there was a lot of trust.  Aikido works with energy flow, and watching these people move with one another's energy was beautiful.

I walked back to the hall and played the 10,000 concert.  Sometimes things are, and sometimes they seem to be.  I'm not sure how to believe when I don't believe; but afterwards, despite generally enjoying the experience and enjoying playing with my stand partner, I just wanted to go home and decompress.  Unfortunately, so did 10,000 other people.  I waylaid from the train rush in the annual reception that Suntory hosts for this concert (they are the sponsors for it) and found myself overwhelmed with another room full of unbelievable.  It's hard to be on the outside of believing.  I'm not sure how it happens; perhaps alcohol or the lack thereof has something to do with it.  I wish I could just extend the connections-making kindness that others so effortlessly do, but when I don't know how to believe, it's hard to do so.  I left once I thought the crowds had cleared.

And at the end of my commute, while I sat on the bus, parked at the station and waiting for departure, a woman stepped on and asked another Japanese passenger if the bus went to Akuradanchi.  The other woman didn't know but I intervened and said, "Yes, it does.  I live in Akuradanchi.  I'm going there.  You can follow me."  She was very grateful and very friendly, a kindness in which I could believe because I knew there was nothing more wanting in it that what I had already agreed to give her.  And I had no reason to be nice to her, which is very a good and believable reason to be.  It turned out that she had come to the concert that day, that her daughter was one of the new violists, and that she was staying at her daughter's apartment for a day or two to come to this concert.  I could see where her daughter had learned her sincere smile and happiness.

It's been a day with many chapters.  There are so many worlds in this world.  Sometimes the world is one thing, and a few minutes later, it is another.  I came home and binged on the past few days of the Writer's Almanac, discovering a poem about lambs born in winter, how they have no idea that spring exists and is about to happen.  What don't we know is possible?  Perhaps our beliefs are waiting for us, in some other world, one in which we actually live.

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