[I know this is awfully quick for a new entry. If you haven’t yet read the previous posting, “The Reality of Dreams,” I urge you not to miss it!]
One of the movies I enjoyed most in recent months was The Last Station, about Tolstoy in the twilight of his life. The film begins with a quotation from his book War and Peace:
“Everything I know, I know because I love.”
I recommend this quotation as a springboard for discussion here. What do you make of it? Do you like it? Do you agree? Thoughts? Feelings?
I was trying to discuss the quotation earlier this evening with someone here, and even though I’m sure my Japanese translation of it was perfect, it just wasn’t making sense in a literal rendering to the Japanese mind. I’ve often encountered that barrier: people are people, to be sure, and I believe that we all think more or less the same thoughts, although the vehicles for expressing them are vastly different. But sometimes there’s just a Wall, and a thought that makes sense to westerners doesn’t make any sort of sense in Japan . . . and vice-versa. Who wrote, “East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet”? I’m guessing Kipling.
The last writing class before the holidays went well today. We studied parentheses, quotation marks, and conclusions of essays. When we come back after the break, rough drafts of the five-paragraph essay are due. Then I’ll be checking/correcting day and night in order to get them back to the students by the following week. Hard work, but fun. Today a student sought me out in the part-time teachers’ room with some excellent questions. When you’re able to answer exactly what someone wants to know, you’re very glad to be a teacher. It was a great final note before the holidays.
Anyway, I have this eccentric custom of, when I write in my journal each night, reading the entry from a year ago and the entry from ten years ago on the same day. It’s interesting to see what I was doing then — the ways that life has changed, and the ways it’s stayed the same. Tonight I came across this entry from ten years ago — December 23, 2000 — that had me laughing so hard my eyes were streaming. See what you make of it. In this excerpt, I’m describing the Christmas caroling event at Shirone Lutheran Christ Church (the church at which I was most recently a volunteer before I retired from OVYM). Here’s the (partial) entry:
“Mr. Kobayashi wore a Santa Claus suit, complete with a white beard. We drove in 3 cars to a nursing home. Sang first on a stage, with Mrs. Yosai playing a piano & Ms. Takeda playing ocarina; then we sang in two different rooms (4 beds per room) of people who were bedridden and couldn’t come to the common room. Then we caroled inside the main entrance of Jusco. [Jusco is like a Japanese Wal-Mart.] Finally, we sang outside, on the sidewalk in front of a strange little health-food store. The owner seems to have some kind of connection with the church, but I didn’t ask what. Rachel pointed out that it was like a store in a dream — not quite focused or logical — a rack of used clothes, stacks of unlabeled cans, weird pictures on the walls of people with exotic illnesses — and a few other items like omochi and soy sauce. Rachel & I had fun talking & laughing; we rode in the Nakanos’ car. I’m really going to miss her when she goes back to the States.”
[Rachel was the OVYM volunteer, two generations after me, at Shirone.] I do not at all remember those pictures on the walls, but isn’t that something? I’ve got to use that store description in a story someday! I do remember that caroling event as if it were yesterday. The organizer of it was so deadly serious about it that we started rehearsals in the spring. Throughout the summer and fall, we moved outdoors for practices, so we could get used to singing in the open air. That was the best-rehearsed caroling I’ve ever been a part of!
Okay: at the request of Marquee Movies, seconded by Mr. Snowflake and Scott, I tried taking a self-portrait of myself wearing the Christmas tie mentioned in the last posting. Here you go:
Yes, there are more paintings coming soon to a blog near you! (And yes, the picture is totally staged. I don’t really paint while kneeling on my bed, and I don’t paint while wearing a necktie.)
Again: a merry and blessed Christmas to all! The world is dark and cold, but we can laugh and sing; we can rejoice. Because of the baby born in Bethlehem, there can be a happy ending to every story, no matter how dark the journey.