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A spiritual homecoming in December

Flowers of camellia japonica are blooming
in my neighborhood with an air of Asian
When I defined my post-retirement project as a "taboo-free web journal," not a few people seemed impressed. They said it was cool. But none of them knew what was cool about breaking taboos. To begin with, they couldn't tell what taboos really are.

By definition, any issue you haven't addressed seriously before is taboo; and any conspiracy that's been "revealed" over and over by self-proclaimed truth-seekers is not.

I knew from the beginning that my blog would become one of the most unpleasant websites around because most taboo issues I would discuss there would be disheartening ones such as our mortality and the emptiness of our lives.

On the contrary, I wasn't really prepared for people's response when it came to potentially exhilarating subjects, such as my proposition about a new sociopolitical model. Only seven "specimens" gave me feedback, online or offline, direct or indirect, from the U.S., Japan and South Korea. I was really shocked to find that with a couple of exceptions, all they gave me were the same old non sequituri (the plural form of non sequitur) or casual by-the-ways. This is an unmistakable sign that in the U.S., and in other countries to a lesser degree, taboo-ridden people have armed themselves with fake ideologies out of fear of change.

Now I belatedly realized that I had been wasting the limited amount of time left for me with the wrong people. I'd intended to give a finishing touch to my entire life. But actually I was spoiling it altogether.

It took me a solid couple of weeks until the panic attack resulting from the nightmarish experience more or less subsided.

As I wrote in the post in question here, ideologies are nothing more than the cinders from the past revolution or war. In the last century, the American people and their government have been scavenging for reusable ideologies along with worn-out religious beliefs with which to conquer the rest of the world.

Guess what, Americans today know only two ideologies. One is to serve the purposes of busybodies as the pretext for intervention in the lives of their fellow citizens and the domestic affairs of foreign countries. The other one serves the purposes of crybabies as the alibi for their inaction against "morally obscene and financially unsustainable" interventionism on the part of their government. In short, these change-phobic people take it for granted that ideologies are the world currency.

Totally fed up with these warm-headed and cold-hearted prisoners of ideologies in the U.S., I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to keep my positive attitude toward life until I go to the other side of heaven, the only thing I would have to do was to get back in close touch with my fellow Northeast Asians. These earthly people may not be ideologically savvy by American standards, but most of them are still equipped with an unclouded wisdom inherent to this part of the world. Don't take me wrong, however. I'm not talking about these Oriental rubbish invented by Hollywood.

My utmost respect especially goes to the Chinese, who are flexible enough to mix up seemingly incongruous ideologies such as Maoism and capitalism, or the solar calendar with the lunar calendar or even the ancient Mayan Calendar. More importantly, they have kept their traditional principles intact all along, unlike the Japanese whose unprincipled way of importing foreign things and ideas has resulted in a "cultural salad" by now.

From my point of view, the beauty of mixing with Northeast Asians lies primarily with the fact that they don't have to be reminded of our mortality and the emptiness of our lives every time we discuss issues. As a result, I can pass as one of the most pleasant persons to be with even in this holiday season.

The Japanese are quite different from other tribes. This archipelago is the cultural crossroad where the East has met the West in the weirdest and the most unfortunate way. The Americans have always been able to expect them to remain the second-class citizens of their evil Empire.

This, however, is not to say the Japanese are all yellow Yankees. Some of them, if not many, still keep the traditional Asian virtues intact, especially in mountainous farmlands and remote islands. When American ideologues talk about the Japanese people, it's just a word that represents faceless vassals and serfs in their Far Eastern fiefdom. But to me, they are all faces I've known in the last 77 years.

Even as for the Japanese living in urban areas, I'm reasonably comfortable talking to them because most of the time we can resonate with each other much more congenially than when I discuss ideologies with the American people.

For one thing, these Manga-loving people never ridicule me as an opium addict when I talk about a brand new sociopolitical model, even though I can't expect them to grasp my argument either in political or technological context. They pay due respect for my proposition simply because they know nothing new comes out of the manifestation of delusions under the guise of an ideology.

They would say: "Maybe it's a pipe-dream. But what's wrong with dreaming? Is there anything more real and creative than wild imagination?"

Lara and part of me
at Bonenkai

My neighbor Lara, Chen Tien-shi is an ethnological researcher specializing in such issues as statelessness and the Chinese Diaspora. At the same time, she is a dedicated activist who has set up an NPO named "Stateless Network." Aside from the unparalleled intelligence that allows her to address these issues in all their complexity and subtlety, Lara has a very pleasant personality and an excellent eyesight.

One afternoon in early December, I walked past the Chinese restaurant owned by her parents. As usual she spotted me before I spotted her. She left her computer in the farthest corner of the shop, waving her hand at me as high as if she were a little girl who found her father in the crowd. She rushed out to say: "Can I expect you to attend the annual meeting of the Network?" I said, "I'm afraid not. I was just thinking about sending a proxy statement to the secretariat." "Then why don't you join us in our Bonenkai that follows the annual meeting?"

Bonenkai, literally translated as a forget-the-year party, actually refers to any get-together people have at this time of the year. I hesitated to answer in the affirmative because I wasn't sure if I could socialize nicely with other members of the group. Then I remembered I was badly in need of mixing with ordinary Asians even though most of them are typical Japanese.

Back home, I rehearsed myself for our empty conversation like this:

Me: "Ms. So-and-So, what do you do, I mean, for a living?"
Ms. So-and-So: "I'm a school teacher."
Me: "Oh, is that so?"
Ms. So-and-So: "What about you, Mister ...?"
Me: "Yamamoto is my name. I'm jobless."
Ms. So-and-So: "!!??"
Me: "By the way, this mapo tofu is very nice. Don't you think?"
Ms. So-and-So: "Indeed it is"

Now I was sure it would be a cinch to express my opinions on the matters that I can't really relate myself to if I didn't forget the killer phrase. In the past I've practiced a lot with my American audience on when to say, "By the way."

Actually at the Bonenkai, everyone was asked to introduce himself/herself.

When it was my turn to give a self-introduction, I said: "Actually all I have to tell you about myself is that I am the oldest member of the group." Lara quickly cut in. "You are wrong, Mr. Yamamoto." "Who is older than I?" She said, "My father is 90 although he had to skip this gathering for some reason." I said: "Thank you for correcting me, Lara. I'm the second oldest." I went on: "It seems to me there are at least 7 or 8 people among you guys who have Japanese nationality, either acquired or given at birth jus soli or jus sanguinis. Now I want to ask you a small question: 'Do you know what's going on here on this Sunday?'" Nobody but Lara could answer my question.

Lara grinned and said as if to cover for her stupid classmates: "GENERAL ELECTION!" "You bet it is. I just wanted to remind you that Article 15 of the Constitution guarantees 'universal adult suffrage.' You should never fail to cast your ballot. I hear the polling stations are open until 8 PM. For my part, the last time I exercised my voting right was soon after I reached my voting age 57 years ago. But it's a different story."

At that moment, Lara raised her hand to ask me something which sounded like a planted question: "Mr. Yamamoto, why don't you vote yourself?" "Thanks for asking. I don't vote because I'm a de facto stateless person."

NOTE: Later in the day, the election officials announced the voter turnout was a record low 59.32%.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees classifies the stateless into two categories, de jure and de facto, as if it were someone's responsibility to distinguish them from one group to the other. Based on the pointless definitions, UNHCR has been aiming at reducing the stateless population by promoting its 1967 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons as if they were pests.

Unlike their leader Lara, the predominantly Japanese members of Stateless Network are all gullible enough to blindly swallow UNHCR's dogmas which are, in fact, the worst possible combination of two ideologies, one for busybodies and the other for crybabies. They all believe they are supposed to carry out a lofty mission of helping the stateless persons around the world acquire second-class citizenship of the respective nation-states, as if nationalities were alms from heaven.

But thanks to my friend Lara, now I have learned that these local folks, who are cool-headed and warm-hearted relative to the Westerners I know, can help me avoid another midnight fright and recover some sense of reality.

Around the same time, I even resorted to temporarily un-disowning my elder son.

It was just an emergency measure. For 77 years by now, I've lived my life in my own way, always looking for something to live for. Some Americans seem to think I should suffer the consequence. I couldn't care less. But it's a different story when it comes to my own offspring. Who could accept it when your biological son thinks you deserve all this "punishment"?

I just said to him, "Why don't we have small talk over sukiyaki dinner?" He complied right away because there was no particular reason to decline. Since I took a precaution to avoid touchy topics, we just talked this and that about musical instruments (he is a baritone sax player) and the computer.

Earlier in the month, he had invited me to his concert that would be held at a decent hall located at the edge of Yokohama city. I would never have attended it if it hadn't been given jointly with a group of professional jazz musicians who call themselves "Glenn Miller Sound Orchestra."

True, it was fake, but since Japan's top-notch jazz men replicated the Glenn Miller Orchestra (1938-42) to every detail, not only repertory- and arrangement-wise but also presentation style-wise, e.g. two vocalists stayed sitting around on stage even when an instrumental number was being played, I found their performance even more impressive than the real one I can hear only on YouTube.

A schmaltzy old man though I may sound, I was deeply touched when the female singer started to sing:

Why do robins sing in December,
Long before the springtime is due?
And even though it's snowing,
Violets are growing,
I know why and so do you

These danceable tunes from the Big Band Era (1935-55) always bring back the memories of fine moments. One year after the Tokyo Olympics, I was briefly living with a former Miss Hokkaido as her live-in boyfriend in a fancy apartment located near the Olympic Stadium. To me she looked to be outshining Monica Vitti starring in the 1962 Italian film "The Eclipse." We spent a night at a Yokohama nightclub named "Moonlight." In the predawn hours. we were alone on the dance floor. Filipino musicians were playing Frankie Carle's "Sunrise Serenade" for us.

Whenever I recall those good old days, I say to myself: "Who could have asked for anything more?"

And also in December I didn't forget to ask for the company of DK, who helped me out of the first round of financial crisis when the tax-collectors at City Hall robbed me of 30% of my pension annuity. Without his aid which totaled 700K yen over the 9-month period from October 2011, I would have been sunk a long time ago. Since then I've been feeling as if I were a composer of classical music who failed to produce a masterpiece to reciprocate the patronage by a music-loving royalty. But he readily booked himself for a dinner together. He gave me a fine treat at a nearby Korean restaurant. Among other things, I loved the braised pork cheek meat served there.

DK isn't a college graduate, but unlike my uneducated sons, he can talk about a wide range of topics from languages, to religions, to literature and to technologies. As always he footed the bill knowing I'm now going through the second round of the constitutional/extralegal battle. When we left the Korean restaurant, he stopped a taxi for me at the sidewalk filled with December festivity and casually handed me two thousand-yen bills for the taxi fare.

Over the yearend, I also owed heartfelt thanks to two doctors, especially the selfless dentist. On New Year's Eve, my decayed tooth started aching intolerably. I knew that in this weird country, all doctors and dentists would close their clinics between December 28 or 29 through January 3 or 4, as if it's prohibited to fall ill during this period. So I sent a mail to the dental practitioner just to ask when he will resume his business. Quite unexpectedly his reply mail hit my in-box in the wee hours of January 1. It said, "I plan to resume business on the 4th, but I don't think you can wait that long. You can come to see me this afternoon." And the dentist in causal attire gave me an emergency treatment and prescription. When I said, "I want you to issue me a bill this time around," he said, "Oh, no, Mr. Yamamoto. It's a New Year's gift from me."

My physical and financial crisis is still far from over. But now that I resumed close contact with some local folks, I think I can prevent myself from being psychologically alienated any further from real life.

This is not to say, however, I have changed my plan to cross the Styx all by myself. ·

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A spiritual homecoming in December
Authored by: samwidge on Wednesday, January 02 2013 @ 09:29 PM JST

And I cannot always grasp your argument either. In fact, I think that you cannot always grasp mine.

You demonstrate extraordinary respect for some things and some people and then you demonstrate the opposite.

I cannot say that you are wrong in either direction though I note that you easily attract great affection toward yourself. You seem to get that affection in all situations.

None can ask more than that. You make people think and we owe you for that.

A spiritual homecoming in December
Authored by: Y.Yamamoto on Wednesday, January 02 2013 @ 11:07 PM JST

Although I can't figure out what you are getting at by your comment, I guess you are right when you write: "And I cannot always grasp your argument either. In fact, I think that you cannot always grasp mine." In my humble opinion, the reason behind our inability to communicate is because your argument tends to be too complex while mine is too simple.

I'm an extremely simple-minded person who loves cool-headed and warm-hearted people, and hates warm-headed and cold-hearted people. And among other things, ideological or theological dogmas always make me cry.

You also write: "You demonstrate extraordinary respect for some things and some people and then you demonstrate the opposite." You may not understand why, but I take this as an ultimate insult because in effect you are saying I am a liar, or a schizophrenic. I think you should give me a specific example to support your diagnosis.

Yu Yamamoto
A spiritual homecoming in December
Authored by: samwidge on Thursday, January 03 2013 @ 08:03 AM JST

We all make mistakes but, please, never make the mistake of being insulted by anything that I say. You are far too admired for me to ever want to offend you in any way whatever.

Your strength rests in your ability to make us all think deeply.

You are definitely not "simple-minded." The term means that a person has insufficient mental acuity or intelligence. Such people are incapable of addressing international relations and opening new avenues of thinking.

Having carefully examined the two books on your father's aviation activities, I can assure that you have the same high intelligence as he though your focus is on different areas. You contribute to the world's strengths in the same way that he did.

You may have a simple approach to logic and I am sure that this is what you intended. That much is correct though you tend to pack hundreds of thoughts into each post. Each idea is simple but the complexity of interaction between each of your ideas is vast.

You said, "I'd intended to give a finishing touch to my entire life. But actually I was spoiling it altogether." This is an example of taking both sides in answer to a question you pose for yourself.

Obviously, a life so complex, spent over so many years, benefiting so many people, earning so much respect is not spoiled by a statement of any kind. Even your conflicts with your eldest son leave both your sons in awe of you. You will be favorably remembered through subsequent generations. You leave a gift of strength and confidence for all your family.

You are no spoiler. You are a builder.

Thanks for building magnificent ideas and polemics.
A spiritual homecoming in December
Authored by: Y.Yamamoto on Thursday, January 03 2013 @ 12:11 PM JST

Thanks for the clarification.

Yu Yamamoto
A spiritual homecoming in December
Authored by: Diogenes on Friday, January 04 2013 @ 05:40 PM JST
If a way to the better there be, it lies in taking a full look at the worst.-- Thomas Hardy

From inside the U.S., where I reside, I don’t see ideologies, fake or otherwise, possessing anyone here. Even the idea of being a citizen is gone. Today, we seem to be living the definition of an imagined community as Benedict Anderson described it. He believes that a nation is a community socially constructed, imagined by the people who perceive themselves as part of that group.

The closest ideology that might be infecting people here is the Christian one. No historian alive during the time a person named Jesus is said to have lived ever mentioned this name; however, there are some references to the Christ, a kind of religious title. One contemporary researcher says there is clear evidence that this name, Jesus, was created by Constantine. I believe it was he that converted to Christianity as a means of subduing the tribes in the Middle East. And, according to this researcher, he needed to make himself be considered a god by these masses. In keeping with the Roman god tradition, a contraction of a name was created. Yaveh-Zeus, then Ya-Zeus, and finally evolving to Je-Zeus or Jesus. So people here are prisoners of this creation of a man, Jesus, that didn’t ever exist, and was meant to refer to a Roman emperor. To mention this is one of the biggest taboos for these change fearful people. It’s like they’ve stepped on a rusty nail, tetanus set in, and infected their minds with lock mind.

It’s no different with the Zen Buddhist “religion” as it’s practiced here. I was snared by this cult when I was decades younger, but stopped this activity when I saw myself involved with a cult. Every one of the “holy men” that has come to the U.S. has been some form of pervert, whether a sexual deviant, or alcoholic, or simply living a life of absolute luxury at the expense of others—the cult followers. Now we see this sordid tale unfolding in California.

I wrote to the webmaster a long email, outlining my experience and calling their organizations cults. Not a peep back or even acknowledgement that I sent it. Naturally, when you’re in a cult, you don’t believe yours is a cult. The wearing of robes; the bowing; the accepting the foreign name from a foreign man, which is a ritual threshold to cross over to be born into this tribe; shaving your head; holding the hands in a certain way (gassho); chanting in a foreign language with no translation—the equivalent to me of glossolalia; submitting by bowing with head touching the floor to a man that enters the temple and assumes the so-called high seat. I could go on, but if one looks up the definition or hints on cult characteristics, these foreigners and American followers fit the mold quite well.

What can explain it? Ernest Becker wrote his magnum opus in two volumes: The Denial of Death, and Escape from Evil. His explanation on the rise of the god figure is as follows, which fits both “religions” previously mentioned—Jesus as a living god, and Zen masters, who claim to be modern Buddhas or a reincarnation of a Southeast Asian god.

“Once men consented to live by the redistribution of life’s goods through a god figure who represented life, they had sealed their fate. There was no stopping the process of the monopolization of life in the king’s hands. It went like this: The king of ritual principle was in charge of the sacred objects of the group and had to hold the prescribed ceremonies by a strict observance of the customs of the ancestors. This made him a repository of custom, an authority of custom. “Custom” is a weak word in English to convey something momentous, as we saw; custom is the abstruse technical lore that runs the machinery for the renewal of nature. It is the physics, medicine, and mechanics of primitive society. Imagine our trying to fight a plague with faulty chemicals, and you can understand that custom equals life. The authority on custom, then, is the supreme regulator of certain departments of nature. But this regulation is so useful to the tribe—in fact it is life itself—that it naturally comes to be extended to all departments.”

Japan has an emperor, so Becker’s example might apply there, but what about the U.S., where we supposedly threw our king out? Well, not quite. The Christians worship this fictional king of Israel, a foreign land. The British had the Druids, a native religion, but that was essentially destroyed by the foreign invading religion. Still, we have the issue of the tetanus of the mind. Why this rigidity, this deathly fear? I live in a county where there is no cheer, meaning there is no alcohol sold—a dry county. Last year, the neighboring county voted to become wet, and now my neighbor is literally certain that Satan, Old Scratch, has taken possession of the place. What’s going on with this kind of insanity? We might get a hint from José Ortega y Gasset's famous quote from the “Revolt of the Masses.”

“Take stock of those around you and you will hear them talk in precise terms about themselves and their surroundings, which would seem to point to them having ideas on the matter. But start to analyze those ideas and you will find that they hardly reflect in any way the reality they appear to refer, and if you go deeper you will discover that there is not even an attempt to adjust the ideas to this reality. Quite the contrary: through these notions the individual is trying to cut off any personal vision of reality, of his own very life. For life is at the start a chaos in which one is lost. The individual suspects this, but he is frightened at finding himself face to face with this terrible reality, and tries to cover it over with a curtain of fantasy, where everything is clear. It does not worry him that his “ideas” are not true, he uses them as trenches for the defense of his existence, as scarecrows to frighten away reality.”

This is what we’re up against. This is why most Americans believe that there was a guy with a beard, living in a cave in Afghanistan, that ordered planes to attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. This is why they can’t see that, like Orwell’s 1984, they are forced to live with double-think. They are holding the idea that they are the freest and bravest people in the world, but they are also living in the biggest prison on the planet with the ever expanding Gestapo aka Homeland Security.

There is nothing to be done. We’ve been conquered. It’s a cancer that is not treatable, and it is going to consume the host. The best one can do is to live out your life with as much integrity and enjoyment as possible.
A spiritual homecoming in December
Authored by: Y.Yamamoto on Friday, January 04 2013 @ 10:30 PM JST

I really appreciate the time and effort you spent to reciprocate the time and effort I spent to write more than 11,000 letters in my post. If you had observed the 140-character limit, I would have felt insulted. This is not to say the greater the word-count involved in a message, the more effectively we can communicate. All I’m saying is that if we take each other real seriously, we never tweet in response to a fully spelled-out presentation of ideas.

Actually I have some problem with your basic premise that you “don’t see ideologies, fake or otherwise, possessing anyone” in the U.S. I’m not sure whether you mean nobody possesses any ideology or no ideology possesses anyone, but I don’t think we should go too semantic here. Any other word such as theology, dogma, superstition, delusion or whatever it is serves our purposes as long as we acknowledge a problem with people’s mental attitude and want to discuss it. Judging from your conclusion, you think the best word to describe it is "a cancer" that is not treatable.

As to your conclusion, most of us Northeast Asians agree to the statement that “there’s nothing to be done” because there’s nothing to be done for the conquered to change the attitudes of the conquerors, at least until the People’s Republic of China expels the worst rogue country in history from this part of the globe. But actually we are at a loss if the American conquerors say there’s nothing to be done. It’s like a robber saying to his victim, “Sorry, but I have no other option but to stick you up.”

Likewise, we Northeast Asians are not fully convinced by your suggestion that “the best one can do is to live out your life with as much integrity and enjoyment as possible.” The conquered will never restore their “integrity” as long as they remain conquered. By the same token, we can’t have any material or non-material “enjoyment” until we regain it from the evil American Empire.

And most important, I still keep blogging in the hope that we can heed your advice in the not-too-distant future. Maybe I’m too naïve. But I don’t care because I can’t help but stick to what most Americans dismiss as a “pipe dream” as our last straw.

Once again thank you so much for always taking me real seriously. For now, I can't ask for anything more.

Yu Yamamoto