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Cherry Blossoms Bloom

Posted January 8th, 2011 at 10:47 AM by chas
Cherry Blossoms bloom
Bring us joy under the sun
Cherry Blossoms fall
--A Haiku For You, Today

I was only in Japan for a few hours, at Narita airport while changing flights for China long ago. I watched some surrealistic Sumo wrestling on the TV monitor. My Dad had made it most of the way years before me, although they were trying to kill him at the time--nothing personal, just World War II.

Japan is the only major non-Christian nation to have great economic and cultural influence over us here in New York City up to recent times, (although China is now in some ways taking its place). We use their technology, eat their food, practice their martial arts, watch their movies, exhibit their art, and study their history. There is a Cherry Blossom Festival held at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens every year, and I've attended twice, to experience a bit of Nipponese magic. I saw an artist build up a beautiful drawing out of a few simple lines in an amazing demonstration of visual and spiritual facility right before my eyes. I heard huge pagan drums thundering out the triumph of nature. I saw some lovely bonsai on display--nature trimmed to beauty. I walked under the Cherry Trees, who are their own explanation. And I screened some Anime.

I love a great Anime. (Please DON'T call them 'cartoons,' because that denies the inherent possibilities they can move you on a deep, adult level). The best of them get to the kind of Knowing that comes from great inner peace and self knowledge. Some are based on ancient Chinese or Japanese legends, which I really like. In one series, (Love Hina) the modern teenage characters perform Journey To The West on the beach in their coffeehouse theater for the local children. Of course, if one knows the original story, its easier to get the jokes when their production goes totally wrong in the mischievous way that makes Monkey a god in the metaphorical sense of being both the most clever and the best beloved of all!

If you have the patience to watch a successful long series, say perhaps the length of six or more DVDs, you can revel in the slow buildup of nuances of character and relationship that blossom only toward the climax. Seeing it again, you can appreciate many things you missed to first time in visuals, plot, and characterization. The best ones continue to repay repeated viewings. I especially like one which explores the relation of young and old in building a future, such as Shingu, which values compassion and growth over violence and anger, as well of a loving acceptance of the hierarchy and inevitability of age.

The Land of the Rising Sun was a well ordered feudal dictatorship, somewhat less bloodthirsty than it had been due to Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, who know how to follow up a military victory by restructuring the entire society. He took all the noble families hostage and removed their independent power--a feat far greater than any fleeting battlefield victory. Things were finally getting restive as his order began to break down hundreds of years later, when Commodore Perry showed up and gave the the Japanese the choice of either trading with us or having their major cities blown to smithereens by the big guns of his fleet. Later on, this resulted in Pearl Harbor. Karma.

There are many references to World War II in the anime and manga (comics), although the island nation has yet to come to grips with it on a level of closure such as Germany has achieved. In the animations however, old men cower in fear when an airplane roars overhead. Weird aliens invade with unstoppable technology, and drop really big bombs.

Although youth centered, many of the older directors of anime come up with wonderful tales, on a level with the best of Western live action cinematic art (let alone cartoons). Many of the positive values of a different view of the Universe come out in the most evolved of these stories, as well as a different Taoist/Buddhist/Shinto Way of Seeing. The immortal King of En in The Twelve Kingdoms reaches out to walk the path of the Perfect Ruler, while instructing the heroine on her duty to accept the rulership of the neighboring kingdom despite her hesitations. They pass through failure and self-doubt to the wisdom of self-examination and honesty. So the bad things of the world teach us, and keep us straight, if we remain observant through the pain. That doesn't mean we don't have to go through both our own personal hells and a societal one.

As a staff trainer, I called my workshop 'Cultural Diversity' rather than 'Multiculturalism.' The latter has too much emphasis on political correctness and relativism. The former is about the joy in diverse voices we can acquire, while having a healthy respect for our own roots. Our love/hate relationship to "alien" cultures here on Earth can help prepare us to meet people from Outer Space, if they ever do show up. If they come here to New York City, I hope someone tells them about the parking problem...
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Taeblewalker's Avatar
Great read!
Posted May 11th, 2021 at 05:56 AM by Taeblewalker Taeblewalker is offline
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