Gaseous Clouds

Shirane Kusatsu Lake
Caldera lake of Shirane Volcano, Kusatsu, Japan, 2001


The window is open and through the screen drifts the music of various crickets all rehearsing for the Autumn Gala. The repetitious strokes of the Common Cricket, the melodious. liquid-like warble of Teleogryllus yemma, the slow-sawing buzz of Loxeblemmus doenitzi, the high-pitched, metallic twitter of Ornebius kanetataki, and, later this evening, the non-stop, ringing vibrato of the non-native tree cricket Calyptotrypus hibinonis, which fill the trees like the chorus from the Aida, a musical rhapsody just above your head.

The summer has just about spent itself. The light that bathed the rooftops, pavement, tree canopies, and exposed soil now filters through increasingly gathered ceilings of clouds, and shadows fail. The other night, while sitting in my classroom waiting for my students, a frightening thunderstorm hit central Tokyo, the rain lashing down in torrential sheets, and the thunder and lightning whiplashing across the night sky in a mad fury, the likes of which I had never experienced in all my life. It was so violent that it caused a blackout in part of the city and stopped the central Yamanote commuter line, the lifeline of the entire city, to stop dead for two and a half hours (I will not get into the implications of blackouts occurring in three major cities around the world within the space of one week, though I suspect that the American government is going to announce, in the near future, the imminent attack of aliens).

Perhaps the rain arrived to wash away the detritus of accumulated desires, and to make way for clear decisions. Certainly I’ve been debating with myself the purpose and merit of online journal writing and even the legitimacy of including computers in so much of my daily life. None of this is real. The connections are tentative. The rewards illusory. All of the hours that the computer screen demands of my attention and intelligence seeps away the undeniability of a real touch, where fingers bridge the space between souls. Once again it is on this side of the window that I sit, while the vitality that I love gives birth, eats, sleeps, and dies beyond the screen. Like a vacuum cleaner’s receptacle the material goods accumulate in the corners of my room, but it is never really satisfying. I yearn for authentic experiences of being alive.

Being in touch with a lot of wonderful and interesting people through this journal provides a connection with people that otherwise I would never have come to know gives some legitimacy to using the internet, and yet sometimes it seems I spend more time with these wraiths of distance than I do with real, live people. E-mail has supplanted hand-written letters and the synapse is instant, and yet during my letter-writing days I stayed in touch with more of my friends than I do now. My mailbox now sits empty and hollow day after day, with no one, including myself, making the effort and slow contemplation of writing a letter. I still much prefer a letter over an e-mail. There is something reassuring and warm about holding an evelope in your hand, ripping open the flap, and sitting down somewhere to rove your eyes over the ink scribbles. E-mail is perhaps so easy to dash out and the numbers of contacts in the address book so numerous that there just aren’t enough hours in a day to keep in touch with everyone, not to mention the build up of received messages too frequent to allow much time to deliberate the information and slacken the pace to the slow, amorphous revolutions of the heart.

Last week, in response to my last post, a good friend suggested that I need a child in my life. He is the third person to qualify this about the next step I should take. His words stopped me dead in my tracks. He had a point. In spite of recoiling from the dent such a step would make in my present circumstances, when I thought back on how I thought about children over the years, I realized that much of my time I spent “planning” for creating an environment for a growing child. When I ponder tossing out old books I stop myself, thinking that I need to have a library that would surround a child and open up the world that books gave me, as my mother and father provided for me as I grew up. When I think of nature or taking time in the mountains I often contemplate walking with a child and showing what I love so much about being out there. When I meet a young student at my school whose family has united in weekly outings and activities and who seems so uplifted by the companionship of her family members, I again think of the rewards of fatherhood.

But I resist. It seems my life is directed inward at a elusive destination where one of the dominant sensations is an indefineable hunger. I rove the internet seeking connection, but end up securing nothing but endless links. The computer screen swallows time and humanity like Fenris gobbling up the moon, always disguised by its never-fading illumination and dazzle of colors. I am a moth battering against a light bulb and if I continue much longer my wings will shred to tatters and the night will weaken before I can remember what moths flew at before artificial lights tricked them out of their freedom.

So what am I doing here? Can I use this medium to make a worthwhile difference, truly, non-selfishly, with honest intentions, non-self-congradulating, non-self-evading, meat-on-the-bones authenticity? Or is it just lather, a cover up of the stories that matter? At the end of my life will the time and energy that I spent here make any sort of difference? If not, why waste what little time I have on Earth playing with illusions?

The whole evening air is filled with the music of crickets. It will only last a snatch of the Autumn passage, but it is all in earnest, all directed toward the serious business of living to the fullest.


Fujiko Suda goes into this subject, too. Please refer to her post: How It Changed Our Lives So Far