Monday, June 25, 2012

Ancient Capital


This weekend I began to re-read Robert Pirsig's "Lila" for the second time.  (Though I can't really use "re-read," as my first exposure was as a book on tape with which I passed the time on a long 36 hour ferry ride from Kyushu to Tokyo back in 1995.)  Any one who knows the book knows that it a treatise on categorization.

Thus it is that I find myself looking at my life, and the subtle shifts that are defining this return to Japan.  I find that Kyoto v2.0 is about history overriding aesthetics.  I feel that my 20s and 30s were about the latter, pursuing beauty as a means of getting at truth. I am tempted also to look at this as the intellect superseding the physical, which though reasonably close to history and aesthetics, is slightly off.   In a few weeks I turn 45, therefore placing me firmly in my own Middle Ages.  So it seems natural that to move away from the body as it slows down.  But in my case as an incredibly active person, it is more about a change in emphasis rather than a question of waning abilities.

Previously in Kyoto, I had been interested in hiking and walking as an aesthetic activity, of exploring the beauty in a place.  Now the history of this place is far more fascinating to me. I'm enthralled by the villages and culture which developed out of some ancient's choice to become part of this landscape.   These days I photograph explanatory signs far more than I do the scenery.  My work as a walking guide of course bears some responsibility, though the opposite may be equally true.  Also, my connection to my Kyoto community has taken on renewed importance, to be a part of what this place is at this point in history.   

In my current phase of yoga teaching, I am happier teaching workshops and teacher trainings than I am doing regular classes.  With the former, there is more room for an intellectual understanding of the mysteries and mechanics of the body, rather than simply putting the mechanism itself through its paces.  In my martial arts training, this too applies.  While younger, I was looking more to explore what my body could do, to affix it as firmly as possible to a relationship with the ever-revolving world around.  Later this summer, I intend to return to my Takenouchi training, though here my initial motivation in training had always been less for the opportunity to develop skills to keep me safe on the street, and more for the chance to connect with something whose roots go back nearly 500 years.

I would argue that Kyoto's patina has some miles on it, and even if this weren't true, Pirsig himself would be the first to mention that 'beauty' itself is subjective.  (Which will make more sense if you've read the book.)  Though it is obvious that history too can be viewed subjectively, written by the victors, as the oft-quoted cliche goes. Yet what is most intriguing to me about Kyoto is how it is continuing to develop, in ways that the tourist board itself hasn't a clue.  And at this time in my life there is no greater beauty than to be a living part of this history, to be present and engaged in its unfolding.       


On the turntable:  Duran Duran, "Rio"
On the nighttable:  Robert M. Pirsig, "Lila"



2 comments:

blaine said...

I love history so I often find myself not just focused on beauty or scenery. A place strikes me but I more often wonder about the past and the individuals who were in my place at some point long ago.

I think this is one reason I'm pulled back home. I want to better know those places I left behind.

I know that those places resonate with me deeply. We ultimately figure out where the best places for us are.

ted said...

Too true...