Who couldn't sleep a wink that night?

Saturday, April 25 2015 @ 12:42 PM JST

Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto



Frank Sinatra

   I couldn't sleep a wink last night
   because we had that silly fight
   I thought my heart would break
   the whole night through
   I knew that you'd be sorry,
   and I'm sorry, too


      From a song Frank Sinatra sang several weeks before he actually
      had a sleepless night over how to cheat the conscription doctor.


Only with a few exceptions, my most recent post got good reviews locally including the one from Mr. Hiroaki Koide himself. The scientist and anti-nuclear power activist didn't seem to fully agree with me, but I refrained from further argument because I thought it would be counterproductive to point out to someone who doesn't specialize in neuroscience that his view of man's aging was unscientific.

Especially heartening to me was the offline feedback from Lara, Chen Tien-shi (photo.)

In the postscript of the piece, I'd written to the effect that if we want our society to go on evolving, we should hand down to our children and grandchildren un-sanitized, unstandardized accounts in first-person singular of how each of us lived out our part of history.

In response, Lara sent me a pleasant mail scattered with smile-inducing pictograms. She wrote:


"I also enjoyed discussing the issue with mature people like you. (*^_^*) In recent years I've found myself going through a transformation from a researcher and activist to an educator. Maybe that's simply because I've been a faculty member of the university for a couple of years by now. Or I may have learned my limitations as a researcher and activist. f^_^;."

It seems we are exactly on the same page now despite the fact that we are almost two generations apart.

In her 2005 book titled Stateless, she talked about how precisely the 1972 normalization of Sino-Japanese relations, which coincided with the breakup of the relations between the Republic of China and Japan, affected her own life, and immediate family's.

The most impressive among many other episodes is the one in which the author, then a guest researcher at Harvard, experienced in 1998 when she sent an application to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. After a 4-hour bus ride from Boston to Manhattan, she was shocked because the interviewer at the UNHCR flatly turned it down just because the applicant didn't have a nationality at that time.

From the way she depicted the traumatic episode without ideologizing it too much, it's evident that she had fully internalized the fallout of the series of geopolitical events of the 1970s.

I don't believe that with her unparalleled talent, the up-and-coming anthropologist can have hit her limit so soon. She has just reached another turning point in the ceaseless process toward a higher level of maturity as an individual human being. I'm also inclined to attribute her growth to her experience as a mother.

On the contrary, self-styled historians and the truth-seeking conspiracy maniacs in the U.S. didn't like my post for an obvious reason. Like sufferers of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, they invariably talk nonstop about history as if it were something undo-able or redoable by doing so.

In fact, history can hand down itself to the future without the help from those who are caught in pathological fixation to the past.

As to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, one American gentleman wrote to us:

"I understand how resentful you are about the nuclear blasts at the end of the war. Indeed there might have been an easier way to handle the problems at the time. I can tell you also that things were very bad for our people at the time. We were very afraid that we would all be enslaved or murdered if we lost the war."

Of course "we" are not resentful about the blasts which was ordered by Harry S. Truman in a total departure from the textbook tactic of decapitation - or any other thing the United States did to our country. But his revealing story about America's seven-decade-old paranoia somehow reminded me of a 1943 song: "I couldn't sleep a wink last night."

Because of, rather than despite its cheap sentimentalism, I used to love this ballad. What made it even more impressive was the fact that Frank Sinatra sang it a cappella. Were the studio musicians all too busy getting prepared for the possible invasion of the Japanese troops?

That wasn't the case, of course. I still remember hearing a disc jockey of an FEN program called "Big Band Countdown" explaining the reason: they were on strike for a pay raise when Sinatra was crooning the lovely tune. No one in his right mind didn't believe he might be "enslaved or murdered" as the physically- and perhaps mentally-disabled president FDR may have propagated.

I still didn't know Sinatra actually had a sleepless night or two over how to get classified "4-F" (unfit for service) by the conscription doctor several weeks after he recorded that song. Although you can't sing the way he sang it in November 1943 (watch the video embedded at the bottom of this post) if your eardrum is perforated, that was found to be the case the day he showed up at the conscription office in December.

Many people hate Sinatra; they say he was an egomaniac, a sex addict and had a close Mafia connection. But actually they hate him because he was honest even when he cheated the inscription doctor. I still think Sinatra was one of the most remarkable American individuals of the 20th century because the guy fully lived it out in the days just before nation's overripe culture was about to start irreversibly decomposing.

Now let's stop substituting someone else's history for our own. Instead we should intensively talk about sleepless nights we have actually experienced in our lifetime without letting our self-censorship mechanism fabricate or sanitize them too much.


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