For years now there has existed a kind of silent clawing at the air in my breast, the kind that led Henry Thoreau to remark upon when he penned the words, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”, in his most famous book, “Walden”.
Back in 1994 I had to visit a country hospital in a small town west of Tokyo where I used to live. I was having probelms with a pain in my abdomen. The doctor poked around with his fingers for about 5 minutes then announced, “You have cancer of the pancreas. You have about a month to live.” I was, naturally, speechless. (what exactly do you say when someone you hope knows what they’re doing, tells you that you are going to die?).
Lately I’ve been wondering a lot about the direction I’ve taken in my life. Here I am living in a city (Tokyo) that, while safe and stimulating and quite airy and quiet compared to, let’s say New York, or Boston, or London, still strays about as far from the kind of environment that I thrive in as I could have chosen.
Gathering around the water hole to share each other’s thirst must be as old as time itself; nearly all communal creatures do it, from willows crowding the river’s edge, to ants at a strip of spilled water on a baking pavement, giraffes and elephants stepping to the swamp’s edge, to moose at the forest boundary and brown bears swiping for salmon. Water is life and water is the common denominator. We humans have perfected the art of carrying the water off and slaking our thirst in relative safety.