Thursday, October 09, 2008

Tokai Shizen Hoedown: Westbound I

Miki and I are biking across town.  The signal is red, but the road is clear.  I bike over to the bridge, and halfway across an old man scolds me for crossing against the light.  This triggers a long discussion about morals and ethics. I recognize that laws are necessary for a (polite) society to exist.  Yet my politics lead me to the belief that most laws are created because man is too selfish and/or ignorant to police his own behavior.  I feel that reality is more important than rules, and they  needn't  be upheld so long as you don't interfere with anyone else's happiness. (See?  I'm selfish too.)  My crossing against the signal didn't impede anyone's momentum, so that was OK, I thought.  Unfortunately, the old man chose to be offended by this, which retroactively contradicted my thinking that no one was negatively affected.  His choosing to scold me in turn affected my happiness.  My taking this on as a point of philosophical argument with Miki negatively interfered with her.   The circle spins on.  I suppose that if we are to take a view of relativity with regard to laws, we need too to take on similar thinking when it comes to how we choose to deal with those who flaunt them.  

The real irony here is that in a few minutes we'll be illegally parking our bikes in order to catch a bus bound for our next hike.  It drops us off near the Chofukan, and a few minutes later, I run into Aimee, on of its members.  After a short catch up, Miki and I descend a steep road pockmarked by circles, then follow the road below into the forest.  It is a peaceful walk along a stream, leading us past a few remote homes where artists communally live and work.  The concrete gives way to a path that rises steeply toward the pass.  The earth is dry here, another reminder of New Mexico.  At the pass, we find the Kyoto circuit trail, an intersection we reached a year ago.  After the following day, everything beyond here is off limits due to the start of Matsutake mushroom season.  These spores  fetch a steep price and any strangers around here are looked at as theives.  The city has therefore closed the trail for six weeks every autumn.  They can't keep out the bears apparently, and the signs warn us of their predilection for these parts.  We chat a bit louder now, passing the narrow road for Sawa-no-Ike, where Miki and I saw the filming of a Mito Komon episode, inspiring me to use it as a film location a few months afterward.   There is a beautiful Fudo statue in a hollowed rock just above the road.  A high waterfall drops to our left, falling powerfully and confidently due to all the recent rain.  Lower down we eat trailmix above a wider river, which we then follow along a busy road.  Being a weekday, the traffic is lighter and rushes at us in small and infrequent clusters.  The long spaces in between allows us some peace on this sunny day, which we wind up just below the root-knotted trail up to Kozanji.      

On the turntable:  John Doe, "A Year in the Wilderness"

On the nighttable:  Jack Kerouac, "On the Road (The Original Scroll)"


nyantaro said...

Dear Ted,
I'm a Japanese man. I read your report with interest.
Yes, for many of the Japanese laws are absolute without discussion. Half of my friends don't cross a road when the signal is red even if the road is clear. (I usually cross a road after making sure, regardless of signals.)
Philippe Troussier, ex-director of Japanese football team said "Japanese players can't determine by their selves. They can't cross a road when a signal is red". He was the French.
Troussier and you commented about Japanese culture, I think.

ted said...

Hello Nyutaro,

I appreciate your comment. During my years in Japan, I have studied many traditional arts, so am very familiar with the idea of 'kata,' which seems to extend to every aspect of Japanese life. It is a very wonderful idea, to do everything in the correct way. As a student of zen, I try to be mindful about every action, though I fail most of the time.

It's fascinating, the differences of cultures, France and the US being much more oriented around the individual. It's like our societies are made to support our individual freedoms and needs, where in Japan it is the opposite. In my own native New Mexico, the wild, cowboy way of thinking stills exists, each individual ignoring the government to attend to his own needs. But this mentality has limitations, which we have seen recently in those people too foolish to leave their homes during the recent hurricane in Texas, and on Wall Street, where the recklessness of greedy brokers may bring down the world economy. It is this latter point which really shows how we are all connected to each other, and that the group is important after all. (I have struggled for years with whether I believe more in "Jiriki" or "Tariki." I used to believe that I was my own man, but now I think that this freedom I feel can only exist within the 'kata' of society. It is this framework which allowed for the refinement, beauty, peace and safety that we experience in Japan everyday.

Do i sound confused? That is why I wrote this post, to show that each day, our fundamental beliefs are constantly being challenged, in the most surprising ways.

I am happy that you are reading my blog...

adekun said...

I've nearly been hit twice crossing on a green light. I can't understand the reasoning behind so many things here; for me there's so many contradictions. Seems to be a law in place against using a keitai whilst driving. What about smoking, jabbering, not looking etc. Where does it end?
I do ponder on the ideas of being free to do as we please (within reason) and laws to protect ourselves from ourselves.
I always try and cross when it's safe... (and perhaps seditiously). People can see that it possible to think for yourself.

nyantaro said...

Sorry for my sketchy explanation. I didn't intend to admire this Japanese culture.
What I want to state is the obedience to the authorities. It may continue from feudal age.
In feudal age, the government instructed bureaucrats to govern people by the following principle. "Don't explain and let them obey." 知らしむべからず、寄らしむべし。
The feudal age lasted so long. I suppose that not a few Japanese don't use to think (about reason of law) by their own opinions, even now.