revision 1

I know that I’m supposed to be writing more upbeat material here; I’m looking around at what people are posting, and even when it’s about mental illness, it’s still pretty perky.  But the tone that’s wanting to find voice through my fingertips right now, after a few hurricanes and a bunch of wildfires near my home is not as jaunty as the tone I normally aim for.  Frankly, I think I might be experiencing a little depression.  Add to the natural disasters the fact that my partner is going through the first anniversary of some serious emotional upheaval, and I’m not so surprised that it’s hard to get up in the morning.

I’ve been thinking today about how art and catastrophe come together.  This came into my mind when I heard a piece on the radio about how museums and artists in the areas where the fires have been are coming together to have benefits to raise money for those displaced by the fires. As I keep thinking about all of the fires that have been burning across the state, it’s been reminding me of some classical Japanese literature I read quite a while ago about a period when the capitol of Japan, Edo, kept being burned down. I remember having it explained to me when I was first studying the period that the fires were caused by dry winds and wooden architecture.  When I was reading about them today, though, they were also explained in terms of the resentment of the lower classes who turned to arson to express their anger over being powerless to better their place in society.

One piece that I read when I imagined that I would become a teacher of English and Japanese literature, is about a man who retreats from Edo to a tiny hut in the mountains to escape both the fires and the human struggles of the city. Alone on the mountain, he hopes to come to terms with the transience of life.

Stalwort from the fields

Berries  from the hills

are all I need of sustenance.

Not mingling with society

my appearance does not matter.

My food being meager

tastes all the sweeter.

I do not speak

of these pleasures

to reproach the rich.

I just compare

my past life

with the present. Hojoki, 34.

At the time, I thought that I too would enjoy going out to some place of solitude and quieting my riotous thoughts.  It has been a long process for me to realize that this is my idyllic vision, but that I actually like to be around people in the city, even though I need my space to retreat at the end of the day.

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