Friday, October 4, 2013

Decoding a Crane

What are we thinking?
I'm in Japan. A lone crane swoops low over a large, exquisitely landscaped pond. There are two other bystanders; they smile contentedly as the crane reinforces a common bond, evoking fragments of mysticism, national treasure, longevity, good fortune, origami, the number 1,000, childhood memories, and current dreams. I'm seeing a crane swooping over a pond and feeling contented, too.

It's sometimes hard to fathom my own culture or the countless cultures that make up these United States, let alone Japanese cultures.

Several books, mainly novels, have given me glimpses into Japan's psyches.
Haruki Murakami's novels take me to a magical realism world, a world of the Mega-City set off against remote places, the world beyond the cosmopolitan. I'm inspired to explore beyond Honshu, venturing into Kyushu, Shikoku, and Hokkaido. 
Matsuo Bashō draws me into another age (17th century) with moments of familiarity to someone who hikes. As with Murakami's themes, Bashō is drawn to the other, remote world. His long distance walks beyond Edo (today's Tokyo) over many months are described in spare prose and haiku. "Each day is a journey, the journey itself is home." I'd like to retrace some of his understated journey.
On my journey, I don't feel a need to find an identity, other than the one I already possess. However, it is an interesting exercise to muse what my identity might have been, had I been born Japanese. Murakami, Bashō, and other writers provide little windows into this alternate world.

I am standing there, by that pond, comfortable in my own boots. For a moment, I'm imagining what it would be like to be that crane, flying free of cultural baggage. Maybe I'm not alone in that thought.
[Reading List]

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