Friday, September 13, 2013

To Japan

I depart Newark at eleven a.m. and fourteen hours later I stand across the Pacific in Tokyo.  I've travelled for as long as I can remember, but I'm still surprised when I disembark to find rather different faces, signs, symbols...  Maybe the mind (or at least my mind!) is baffled by the speed of change.  It seems impossible that while I sat with strangers in a cramped, long room for just fourteen hours, the world could have changed so much.  Here, order prevails over chaos (the sign says "no carts beyond the line", but the people stay back too, presumably out of caution rather than self-identification with carts; in general, the Japanese are excellent line-followers):

While the world was changing around me, I read Nikos Kazantzakis' Zorba the Greek.  I've been meaning to read it ever since a friend introduced me to Askitikiwith its haunting prologue: "We come from a dark abyss, we end in a dark abyss, and we call the luminous interval life."  Zorba is a kind of self-discovery tale, in which the bookish, intellectual protagonist is introduced to different way of life by the elderly man Zorba, who despite his age brims with raw, dazzling, dionysian energy.  It's a classical setup -- an encounter with Zorba in the Piraeus leads to a journey from the shadow into the light, the substance of life... 

One lesson I took away (only half in jest) is the importance of listening to friends who say they want to dance:  
“I’ve got a thick skull, boss, I don’t grasp these things easily. . . . Ah, if only you could dance all that you’ve just said, then I’d understand.” 
I bit my lip in consternation. All those desperate thoughts, if only I could have danced them! But I was incapable of it; my life was wasted. 
Kazantzakis, Nikos (2012-03-20). Zorba the Greek (p. 278). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Tomorrow, onwards to Kyoto.  If the weather holds up, there should be some fun photo opportunities.  I admire the color and feel of to the photos that the gentlemen at the Shoot Tokyo blog takes: 

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