Sunday, August 9, 2015

The End and New Beginning

It's time for this blog to come to a close.  I'm simply not in Japan anymore, not in the Land of Tomorrow.  It's not that all of me has left, nor that there is none of me left in it.  I think both are true and likely will be for many years, if not for the rest of my life.  But being in America, again, I find that so many aspects of living seem different.  The context is no longer that of Japan.  My body moves more freely and creatively, my posture has more options, and I feel as though my face goes through more expressions, and my hands more gestures as I interact with and notice all the people around me.  

And the same seems to be true of these people.  I'm in New York City.  It is the next chapter of life and there seems to be no limit to the possibilities of human expression.  There are so many different accents, so many different clothing styles, ways of walking, topics of conversations.  And nobody seems to notice anyone around them.  There is no need to do so when there is no goal of fitting in or assessing oneself based on others, at least not in public circles.  To my early eyes, people seem brusk and to the point, but also quite accommodating and non-judgmental given the diversity of people with whom they must live.  No need to be friends, and no need to be enemies.  Everyone is just living together.

I was relaying to a friend a sentiment that I read of General MacArthur's regarding the Japanese people as he facilitated the post-war restructuring of Japan: that they are like children.  To my western eyes I can see what aspects of childhood MacArthur might have seen when he said this.  There is an innocence in the trust and collective spirit of Japan that we in the west seem to equate with childhood.  I see and feel this strongly in the contrast between Japan and New York City.  In the west I think there is an expectation in adulthood that you have strong values and convictions and that you assert them to others and live strongly by them.  And also that you take care of yourself, learn how to look after yourself in a world of, perhaps, less-than-trustworthy individuals.  But my friend suggested that there is also something very mature in the ability to express a collective spirit, to know oneself well enough and be willing to accommodate others, that part of growing up and adulthood is learning to work together, and that to Japan, westerners might also seem like children in our self-entitlement and belief in the absolute truth of our thoughts and emotions.  There are many aspects of childhood and many aspects of adulthood, and probably a great deal that both cultures can learn from one another about the balance of the ideas of individuation and communcal spirit as leaders for a collective good for every person.

I'm looking forward to this next chapter.  Last night I revelled in jet lag as I walked around the dark rooms of our Manhattan apartment, feet on polished wood floors, the ceiling high above me and the windows that connect them filled with the walls of apartments, windows with fans and air conditioners, the sky impossible, surrounded by people in a way I'd never imagined, surrounded by possibilities.  I imagined the air filled with snow, the crisp inhale of winter.  It seems that most people only live in New York for a short period of time.  Maybe it's a year or two, maybe ten or fifteen.  But it seems there are few lifetime New Yorkers.  Most people seem to be making something of and out of this city. Perhaps I'm wrong about that, but it is certainly a description of my projected existence here.  It will be fast, floating, just like Japan.

It still seems so magical to me.  Just as I was reopening my eyes upon leaving Japan, I find them in a ready state to take in New York.  The buildings seems miraculous with their decorated facades, the trees seem strong and hearty in their triumph over the cement and exhaust, the mannerisms of people tell so many stories and beg so many questions, the resources seem endless.  I'm ready and open to take it all in.  But just as I recently reflected on the familiarization that accrued in even the unbelievable land of Japan, so too am I aware that this will become home in the coming months.  And I want to watch it, to savor it as best I can, to see what can be learned, especially in the aftermath of such a different world.  

So as I end this blog, I will be beginning another one called "Borrowing Manhattan."  It will only be a short time that I'm here, about the same amount that I experienced in the Land of Tomorrow.  I'm still not home, and still wanting to take in as much of this incredible world while I'm here.  

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