April 17, 2010

You were never here.

Filed under: Blog — manspeaksfire @ 11:05 am

Take a look around.Where are you? No, I’m not starting an Old Spice ripoff, I’m really asking. Maybe you’re hovering over a laptop with a cup of tea, or hard at work besides a big thrumming desktop. Maybe you’re in bed, too tired to put the netbook aside and hit the lights, but not yet willing to surrender to sleep. Maybe you’re enjoying free Wifi someplace, just because you can.

Wherever you are, the bed, desk, or office, it’s probably very familiar to you.  And that familiarity should be the most natural thing in the world, right? Or should it? I mean, how well do you know ‘here’?

Some theories of the universe suppose that since the Big Bang occured, our planet and everything else there is has been rocketing through space and will continue to do so forever, more or less. If that’s the case, then every ‘here’ we’ve ever known is actually already gone. Why? Because in astrophysical terms, we’ve left it behind already. And so your living room, bedroom, (dinette?) , are all in fact different places with every second that passes.

What does this mean? It means that despite the familiarity of your surrounds, you have, so to speak,  never sat in that space before. And you never will again. And now you’re in a different place, and now again. Some would even philosophise that you’re sitting in a different chair altogether. After all, if your chair is a second older than it wa — Hey! Wake up! Sorry, did I lose you there?

Most people start to snooze off at the very mention of temporal conundrums, but they suddenly become a lot more accessible when we focus on the occupants of those chairs instead.

Are  you the same person as one second ago? One minute? One day, week, year? Of course not. And yet, how often do we bear that in mind when raking over the coals of our own memory? Or when debating how things were in the ‘good old days’? Losing historical perspective –  anachronism – can vary in severity from trifling details right through to dangerous distortion of facts. And it’s something that’s been on my mind a lot lately.

I’ve been living in Japan for almost five years, but I’ve never kept a journal. In that time, I’ve met a host of people from different backgrounds, and had many unique, delightful, surprising and even harrowing moments, but I’ve never bothered to note any of them down. My attitudes have changed enormously over the years, too. I felt exceedingly positive about Japan for a very long time – probably because I wasn’t around other foreigners for my first few years here – and only recently have the rose-coloured lenses started to fade . As they did, I came to the realisation that I’m losing valuable chances to record my impressions. I already feel quite remorseful for the years of everyday experience that I’ve failed to properly catalogue, and believe me – Japan has provided enough  surprises that I’ve never tired of being here. But the further you get from an experience, the more difficult it is to remember – and the higher the risk of recounting it with an anachronistic viewpoint.

Thus this page was born. Each week, I’ll try to recount a few of my Japanese experiences before their colour bleeds entirely from my mind. In doing so, I hope to change my own mental landscape a bit. I’ve probably spent as much time as anyone being mortified over my own moments of shame or failure. If I can expunge the habit of mental self-flagellation through writing, perhaps I’ll be able to look back on my Japan days with a fresh feeling every time.

I have one confession, though – this isn’t the first time I’ve tried to start a blog. My other attempts have withered pretty quickly, but now that I have a reason to anchor my words, I hope this time will be different.


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