October 14, 2016 § Leave a comment
I recently finished reading Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore. As with most of his novels, I am left dazed after the experience of having gone through an apparent literary lifetime with his characters. What separates his brand of fiction is that it isn’t the same as typical fiction novels which operate in the same laws as the real world albeit with details that never really happened. It doesn’t border on fantasy or sci-fi either because although supernatural things are a common content in his stories, there is no effort at all to explain their rationale and mechanism. Murakami often presents them as a matter-of-fact, which you are then expected to digest as acceptable if you’d like to see through the entire story. And interspersed through these fictional worlds that float in between reality and fantasy are strings of wisdom that are true in both sides. What’s even more interesting to me is how Murakami’s prose functions more like poetry in that the meaning is not straightforward either. They’re more like metaphors woven into a symbolic statement that may mean different things to different people. To both the author and the reader. Although quite a few lines struck me, I’ve elected to write only about those that gripped me.
In traveling, a companion, in life, compassion.
On a personal level, I do thrive from chance encounters with strangers who “accompany” you in life even for a while. It’s true that not everyone we meet, whether we’d like it or not, is intended to stay in our lives forever. Nevertheless, like compassion, when we find them, we’re grateful, and that’s what keeps us going. Initially I thought that if I wrote this line, I would have written “hope” rather than “compassion”. But looking back on the times that I felt hope, I realized they are indeed moments tied to compassion. It is compassion, through empathy, that we make real connections.
Closing your eyes isn’t going to change anything. Nothing’s going to disappear just because you can’t see what’s going on. In fact, things will be even worse the next time you open your eyes. That’s the kind of world we live in.
The context of this line was when Nakata was forced to watch the coldblooded murder of cats. Bringing this into the context of our times, murder is happening everywhere as well, and at a more heightened awareness for everyone who has internet access. A lot of us may be guilty turning a blind eye to all these atrocities, especially when we feel helpless in resolving them. But there is truth to the line that while we live in our own little box, the world may turn out worse the next time we do decide to see what’s going on. Just now, values and perspectives are changing. Morals as well. And perhaps the next best thing to do if at all we can’t really help directly is to stay informed about the world around us. To care a bit more, be more open to other perspectives and understand why people do such things. Not just by condemning seemingly straightforward evil, but trying to dig up the cause of such negativity. Just because we live a life where we see no reason to commit such sins means we are not capable of doing so should our situation change. And it is our responsibility to make sure that our morals stay intact then no matter the situation.
Artists are those who can evade the verbose…Most great poetry is like that. If the words can’t create a prophetic tunnel connecting them to the reader, then the whole thing no longer functions as a poem.
I guess this is just a realization for me why some lines strike me as poetry and some don’t. I felt this as I was reading some of the excerpts from Michael Faudet’s Dirty Little Things (it isn’t his fault, I now realize). Perhaps it’s not a matter of just the artist’s skill but as well as my own experience which allows or prevents me from experiencing their poem.
The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future. In truth, all sensation is already memory.
There’s so much bitter-sweetness in the fact that indeed all sensation is already a memory. And delving into it further, aren’t all our important memories sensations as well? There will always be feelings associated with them, and likewise it’s those feelings that make them precious. The memory of my mom calling me “Baby”, or the sensation of comfort that you get from a mother’s voice. They’re almost interchangeable. While it’s true that not all sensations are committed to memory, one can argue that the reason we don’t commit those other sensations as memory might be due to the fact that we’re not entirely feeling them. Either consciously or unconsciously, we pass off from those experiences.
Perhaps most people in the world aren’t trying to be free, Kafka. They just think they are. It’s all an illusion. If they really were set free, most people would be in a real bind. You’d better remember that. People actually prefer not being free…Rousseau defined civilization as when people build fences…The people who build high, strong fences are the ones who survive the best. You deny that reality only at the risk of being driven into the wilderness yourself.
I’m not sure how relevant this line is now given that globalization and migration promote lowering down these fences. And although they come with a lot of advantages, there are also a host of challenges such as terrorism, epidemics, resource prioritization and allocation, etc. Perhaps this is why some people still insist on keeping those fences high, because they’re acutely aware of the fear of living in an open society. They in fact don’t want to be free. They just want to be comfortable. And who doesn’t, really? We’re used to the security of our houses, our communities and our consciousness. Opening up demands more from us. Honestly, I also deal with the question of how to better equip myself in this borderless economy without losing my sanity. It is perhaps finding a balance of sort in positioning yourself out there without losing your own ground. It’s a continuous iteration of learning how to live.
Pointless thinking is worse than no thinking at all.
This is largely self-explanatory for pointless worries. Easier said than done though.
Symbols guide us to the roles we play.
This line was what actually triggered me to write a post. There are a lot of symbols in our lives, and they come in many forms. A diploma may guide you in your career choices, a ring may remind you of your role in a marriage, and the fact that you live in a mansion or a shanty elicits a certain behavior from you. But when I thought about symbols, the first thing that came to my mind is the gold bracelet I have on my wrist. It’s my great grandmother’s in fact, but I started wearing it when my mom passed away. In truth I didn’t attach any significant meaning to it aside from just wanting to mark the memory of her. It comforts me to know that I carry a reminder that I am her daughter and to some extent her legacy. I don’t see it as a talisman nor do I look at it when I need to make important decisions. It’s a symbol that means something relevant only to me, and what it symbolizes does guide me in playing my role in this world.
Every one of us is losing something precious to us…Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads – at least that’s where I imagine it – there’s a little room where we store those memories…you’ll live forever in your own private library.
I love it when cliche statements take an entirely new being when we take their converse. Just like the other day when I watched Boyhood and I heard the line “the moment seizes us” instead of the usual “seize the moment“. We’re constantly taught to acquire while we’re alive. Sure, perhaps you don’t subscribe to acquiring money, wealth and power. But we still strive to acquire memories, acquire experiences, acquire relationships, acquire wisdom, inner peace and the list goes on. So when I read how living is actually equated to a continuous loss, as opposed to the idea that we can only stop acquiring when we die, it made me pause and ponder. But Murakami added the important caveat that loss is just one part of it, leaving out (that we do gain otherwise) as something we should obviously know. But it is an important recognition that we should welcome loss. While it’s hard to not be unhappy about certain things we lose, it allows a more graceful acceptance to be keenly aware of the fact that it’s part of it. And that we can always take comfort in their memory should we need to.
This is probably why my greatest fear would be to lose all my memories.