Feelings on Japanese culture

This post is about my internal conflict (as a mixed-race, fourth-generation [yonsei] Japanese-American person [nikkeijin]) as regards learning Japanese language (nihongo).

This majorly has to do with tensions around widespread equation of race to ethnicity; past insecurity about being a legitimate member of my ethnicity; being part of a wider Asian-American community including other A/PI (Asian/Pacific Islander) people; mixed feelings over the popularity in America of Japanese pop culture (over the output of other cultures); historically-based Japanese racism; internal family tensions bridging off of that history of racism; how my own identity has been shaped by intra-familial racism; and ideas about cultural appropriation, or who has the “right” to display what ethnic signals (or to represent Japanese-American people).

On top of that, I now have ambivalence over describing myself (as I have for most of my life, and has been implicitly encouraged by my family) as more Japanese-American than African-American. I was raised with my Japanese-American family, while my extended African-American family is relatively distant. While relations with neither side are perfect, the methods of relation are markedly different. Seeing the problems now arising on the Japanese-American side of my family, as well, causes some tension in my knowing that I don’t want to follow in their footsteps (with the possible exception of my father and brother — though I know very clearly that I am not my brother).

There are a lot of complicated feelings here, so I can’t be sure I’ll be able to get them all out in this posting. I can’t assure anyone that what they read here is going to be accurate to what I’m thinking; I’ve realized that my English communication skills have been a bit overestimated. Nor can I really assure anyone that they won’t be upset by reading about my experience, but I ask that they own their own emotions and look at why they feel what they feel. If what I write is anything, it is a catalyst, and a way for me to express my own reality (which is likely different from everyone else’s).

It’s been a while since I’ve last studied nihongo (Japanese language). I have been involved with this since middle school, at the earliest, when I learned to read and write kana (Japanese syllabary). It is — or has been, since I was young — a life goal of mine to learn Japanese. In the beginning, I realized that I meshed much more with media emerging from Japan, than I did with American media. I’m fairly certain that a lot of this had to deal with the gender fluidity exhibited in shojo (girls’) anime (animation) and manga (comics).

As someone who was nominally female but who did not fit into feminine gender norms (at the time)…this, and the compassion displayed toward the “villains” in anime (who were actually relatable, and in some ways respectable), caused me to really kind of attach to anime. In turn, this caused me to seek out manga, which helped push me forward when it came to writing fiction, to drawing comics, and to beginning to learn how to read nihongo.

Since I was little, I’ve been watching Fuji TV and now NHK World. It’s something that has been kind of like PBS, and has helped with my comprehension of spoken Japanese.

When I was in my first years of undergraduate study, I chose nihongo as my language of choice, to fulfill my Foreign Language graduation requirement.

In any case…this entry is about my now being ambivalent in my drive to learn this. I’ve started to question my motivations, that is: what they’re based in. I’ve also started to question whether I even have a chance of being considered as human, should I ever travel to Japan. Maybe “human” isn’t the right word; there is a lot about rank and status in what I know of Japanese culture, so being considered “equal” is a more American ideal.

Maybe the question is whether I have a chance of being respected and accepted in Japan, as a mixed-race person, when one of those races originates in Africa. Then that leads me to the place of why that dialogue should ever come into my head; why it should even matter, because I know that it’s stupid. (After all, all humans originated in Africa.)

But humans aren’t known for making sense, not in any country.

I also realize that a lot of this concern arises from some of my experience with my own family (particularly those who don’t know me very well, and my late grandmother), and my experience with one particular clique in middle- and high-school. Whether it was because of the fact that I didn’t fit in genderwise (I was more active than any of them; they probably thought it was because I was boyish) or that I didn’t fit in racially (I was the only half-Asian)…most of them never really accepted me, with the exception of one, who is still a friend.

Of course, it’s also possible that there were interpersonal things going on that I was unaware of, which ironically, I think I’d be better able to understand.

Going off of one of my readings, by the third generation in the U.S., the original diasporic language — in this case, Japanese — is lost (as happened in my family). Going off of what I’ve seen, by the fourth generation, partnering only to people of the same diaspora ceases to make sense. That is, by the fourth generation (yonsei), mixed-race (hapa) children start showing up a lot more frequently.

I think because of this, it’s a lot more understood for Japanese-Americans to be diverse, in the U.S. And because of that…I actually feel understood and accepted in a place like Hawaii, which has a very large A/PI population.

And I’ve wanted to learn Japanese, to be able to get back to my roots and get deeper into that of my cultural heritage which is GOOD. It may be because I’ve been reading into historical documents…by this I mean 1950’s English-language books about Japan and Japanese culture…but it’s reawakened some of those old, negative feelings about the source of my diaspora. Particularly the bitterness over how certain members of my family were not, “good enough,” for my grandmother, due to the region of the world their ancestors were from.

Then there is the giant World War II legacy, which is complicated on a number of counts: both the Japanese Internment and the fact that the former Japanese military was famous for war crimes. I suppose it could be said to be penance that the country no longer has any Armed Forces…but to be honest, even though I personally had nothing to do with this, it’s still visible that there are race tensions in Japanese pop culture. Which doesn’t make it necessarily non-problematic to deal with.

At one time, I had to take a break from dealing with anime (for a number of years), in order to be able to feel good about my own racialization. Because there was no one in those anime who represented me. The ones who supposedly came close, were being made fun of (though I still appreciate Cowboy Bebop for disrupting this).

On the up side, I have a lot of respect for the work ethic of so many Japanese artisans and craftspersons. I know that the people who were on the islands of Japan during the War were not the ones doing the crimes. There is so much beauty and aesthetic sophistication in so much of what I’ve seen come out of Japan. The language itself is beautiful. And I doubt that much of what is published in the English language about Japan can even hold a light to what is published in nihongo, itself (from library translations, and what I’ve seen coming out of Kinokuniya Books).

I don’t know what to think about there not being stronger laws to protect women and sexual minorities in the nation, but I know that as someone seen as both, I may not be safe there. The history of Japan is full of war and violence inflicted against its own people, and that it would spill outside the country at some time, was near-unavoidable. It’s a cultural difference that interpersonal interactions are more important in what I know of Japanese business, than supposed merit.

There is a lot of difference, culturally, between California (outside of Japanese-American community) and Japan. That doesn’t mean California is necessarily better. That means I’m between cultures, and find myself exposed to both. Am I actually navigating both? I am not sure.

I think I’ve just had a taste of Japanese culture, and that, while being initially enthusiastic about that exposure, I’ve now matured to the point of being able to become ambivalent about it.

While it is, undoubtedly, better to choose to accept the good and reject the bad, trying to disentangle those two, as in trying to disentangle the good and the bad in American culture, may be more of a full-time job than it seems. I do still want to learn Japanese. I just am not positive that I will ever be able to use it comfortably, in Japan. The thought of that possibility is difficult to deal with.

Then again, I don’t think the 2020’s will be the same as the 1950’s. Looking toward the future, there is always hope.

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Feeling unproductive.

Today, I wasn’t able to get done what I wanted, to. The most obvious and most mechanical point of action I have is to create a set of hyperlinks to my different classes for each of my required Learning Competencies…so that when working on any one, I won’t have to search around through all my archives, trying to find something which fits.

Luckily, I already have my competencies-to-courses, mapped out. I just need to create a shorthand to each folder in my file system.

I did move outside of what I had thought I would do, to get a notebook and …ponder starting to write out my Statement of Professional Philosophy. I had a better idea of what I would write, last night at 2 AM. I’m hoping that writing here will make working up to this, a bit easier. I need to write, something.

While I wouldn’t say the day was totally wasted, I did end up not going in for extra hours at work. Also, biological imperatives stated that I sleep for a while…and I still need to shower.

People around me say that I’m doing really well, though for me it’s hard to see, when I have days like this.

I guess I just have to remember that not everything has to be done NOW NOW NOW. But if I get a Library Assistant position and I’m doing that as well as my capstone class and Collection Development…I might be better off as regards future jobs, but it might really be tough for the next semester.

Which is why I’m trying to mitigate it, now.

I wasn’t expecting for the call to go out for new Library Assistants, though I see that last time it happened, it was around the middle of July, last year.

There’s some more going on now — actually, a lot more — that I think is stressing me, a bit. We’re considering moving out-of-state, in addition to everything else…which is tough for me when my proficiency at working with the community is contingent on knowing the community.

There’s also some family business to attend to, which I think is coming up because we might not be in this location for much longer. Not to mention that I have questions about my great-grandmother which may go unanswered, unless I actually get up the nerve to ask.

Things are just feeling a bit unstable for me, at the moment. Especially knowing that I may not be able to get a library job in the place we may move, to; at least, not a gainful one, and at least, at first.

I guess a lot is heading up to change in my life, really quickly. And I’m not in control of most of it.

That could…possibly be a reason for a little bit of distress.

The upshot of this is that I’d be moving to an area with a larger Asian population, which will make it immensely easier to learn Japanese, and not lose it. There also might be a lower cost-of-living, considering that prices have inflated so much here that it’s ridiculous. I’m looking at an average $10,000/year pay cut by moving, though…but unless the housing market changes, we may not be coming back.

I suppose that with so much of my life being based around the internet…maybe that would be something that would hold stable. But my friends and work, being part of this community; I think I’d miss it, at least at first.

It’s just, what a time to uproot, right?

I’ve had some internal conflict about my reasoning around learning Japanese. Hmm. But it would go better in a different post.

And life resumes.

Tonight I turned in the last of my assignments for Summer. I don’t think they were perfect, but they’re off my plate, now.

The good thing is that I got full marks on the first two assignments, so I had 55% going into the last two weeks. This class is also only 1 credit, so a low grade isn’t going to ruin my GPA. (I am already in an Honors society, too, and can’t have that revoked…)

What can I say, but, IT’S OVER!

That class was so frustrating. At least if we had used a real programming language, I could have looked for help from someplace other than my Professor.

I also realized that my love of making things doesn’t necessarily extend to Programming, which is more like, “delivering instructions to a computer.” Not design or writing or crafting; because I’m not doing the work myself, the computer is doing the work.

Now I can return my attention back to work and my e-Portfolio, though to be honest, I’m thinking about doing some jewelry work (likely incorporating leather: I got the idea to make button loops with this so that the buttons wouldn’t be abraded by glass beads. There is also the option of knotting button loops (when using upholstery thread), though I’ve found that braiding them makes a more secure connection).

If I take out my 14g jewelry in the morning and put in light earrings; at the end of the day, I can still put the 14g jewelry back in. I am planning on exploiting this. 🙂 I also have a lot of earwires, so I can toy with designs all I want.

I am not sure yet what heavy earrings will do to my piercings (I’m thinking of a set of sunstone earrings in particular — my first attempt at chain tassels), but I would probably be in danger of losing them, from having the piercing stretched out. Luckily, I have a lot of earring stoppers (plastic stoppers to secure the backs of standard earring posts or earwires).

I am also not sure as to whether my piercings will in fact close up to a more normal size if I take the 14g earrings out, entirely. The problem with doing that, is that then I tend to miss them, and have to go through another cycle of wearing 18-16-14g, which takes at least 12 weeks to get back to the point at which the 14g earrings will again fit and not damage my lobes. It takes longer than that to get them to be able to move freely again.

No, I do think I’ll stay at 14g — but this is as thick as I’m going.

As long as we’re on the subject of appearances, I ended up trimming my hair instead of cutting it short; but I don’t know how long I’ll keep it like this. I mean, I actually look fairly pretty to myself, right now. I don’t know what changed except for beginning to use a different skin treatment. It also looks like my weight shifted. I don’t know what causes that.

At this point, the major issues I have with my hair are ongoing scalp health, and damage from heat styling. The heat styling is to prevent damage from snarling (which happens often enough with my hair wavy).

The only reason I know the heat has damaged it is that when combing it out in the shower with some kind of lubricant (it’s often difficult to comb, dry), I can feel it stretch when I hit a snarl. It’s not supposed to stretch. However, if I straighten it, I can keep it rolled up in a bun when I need to, out of the way and relatively clean. It’s also long enough to put the bun on the crown of my head, which minimizes pulling and discomfort (I often get a sore scalp if I even wear a tightly bound ponytail).

What’s good about this as well is that if I twist my hair down, I can wrap my hair in a scarf, and not worry about getting dust into it from my work.

On the employment front, I have a short amount of time to apply for a higher position, which I’m thinking is now appropriate (I’ve been getting a little antsy at work from not using my skills to their fullest potential). I still can’t drive on my own, though, and I need to get on that and get my license. If I had a license, I could be a substitute and not have to worry about balancing part-time work and full-time school along with having to arrange for transportation. But I am going into my last semester, so if I get hired next year, that will be cake.

I’m thinking that power issues may be tripping out some people I work with. It is probably past time to move up a rank.

I also spoke with someone today about support around getting back into creative writing. The meeting went really well.

The big thing for me about writing (particularly, fiction) is that it brings up a lot of issues that I still need to process, and it tends to bring them up all at once. So having someone to talk to about them, is really good. From what I heard, working through past issues with the writing is likely better than avoiding them by not writing.

It’s also something to take into account that the problems which bothered me before when I was writing, may not necessarily bother me now.  I mean, my last major extended experience in writing fiction was in undergraduate work. I was a lot less stable then than I am now, and beginning to write again now, doesn’t mean I’ll be going back to being like I was, before.

And, yeah…the person I was talking with did bring up the, “method acting,” tangent that I had also wondered about, but never looked up… In specific, the fear was that I’d get into character and then forget who I was. But I think for me, it times out after 3-4 days, even if I do lose my grip on myself.

Also, that mediumship thing about ending a session, I’m told, sounds applicable.

Alright, I should get some rest — I just realized that it’s now after midnight, and I’ve got stuff to do, tomorrow.

(and it’s not going to be graded.)

Death, and sussing out evidence of Soul

Earlier, I began to read back through my “Blog — Roughs, Notes,” notebook. The sentiments I expressed in my last post are also recorded there, from almost exactly six months ago: January 13, 2018.

Some of the sentiments I also expressed in finding self-definition when immersed in a multicultural, pluralist society, is in the same set of notes. The series exploring this is named Cultural Location and Creative Context. The preceding link will send you to Part 3; Parts 1 and 2 are linked at the very end of that document.

I was getting excited; I forgot that 2018 is this year, so I thought I’d stumbled upon evidence from at least one year ago. No, it just feels like it was one year ago.

There’s something about time that’s unnerving. Yes, growth happens, but people (including myself) also age and pass on. When your social circle is largely family, that can be a scary thing (not to mention when you are without solid, “knowledge,” of; or, “faith,” in; what happens after death). I’ve been trying to spend as much time with people I especially love, as I can; because I know it’s limited.

At the same time, I’m supposed to be trying to become more independent. School is part of that, as is work. As is driving, for that matter, and cooking.

Just…sometimes, I lack energy, and it’s hard to actually…well, do things. I think the motivation is there, but fear and anxiety (and then, melancholy) also take hold sometimes and won’t let me move forward. Today was one of those days.

What I seem to have been doing, most recently, is inventorying myself — making notes as to where I am, mentally. Because some of this stuff doesn’t change, even if I want it to. The obvious thing for me to do about that at this point is to write it all down so that I can see who I am, as versus who I want to be, or who I think I should be.

The “psychic” aspect of my personal mythology* has come up again since I restarted creative writing. I’m thinking that the concept of, “time,” is kind of messing with me, though it’s also possible it’s one or another kind of intrusive thought: just the idea of the physical, being all there is.

(And no, I haven’t yet broken into my Sartre anthology, but I’m a bit struck by how he only lived 36 years. That’s as old as I am, now.)

I think that if I didn’t know better, I’d call it a type of demon. But there are things that look like, “demons,” which aren’t, and things that are demons that don’t at first appear to be (or which try to hide their status).

I’m not particularly talking about, “fallen angels.” I’m talking about things that screw up one’s psyche and life in a negative fashion. They do certain things like implant the idea that if you’re creative, people will attack you for it. Because creating is a holy act, and something dangerous to them.

If I’m being honest with myself and with you; the idea of death, out of balance, I do consider rather demonic, in a won’t let you go, haunting type of way. And I suppose…if I learned anything from Tarot (I didn’t learn all that much; the system’s mindset is — or was — kind of alien to me), it’s that each element can be either in balance or out of balance. It’s not death — or change — that is bad, it’s that my relation to it is not correct.

It could be that I’ve opened a gate by being honest with myself. Over the past week, I’ve told people about the, “psychic,” thing twice — although I wasn’t particularly looking for belief in or support of that, I’ve gotten it (to my surprise) both times. It’s just a given that in a certain part of my life, I did believe I was psychic, and in accepting that, had phenomena happen that would not have happened if I had cut the idea off at the knees and refused to entertain it.

So now I’m just dealing with sudden mental images of bodily decomposition. Are they random? I’m not sure. Where are they sourced from? Don’t know. But I do know that I probably shouldn’t worry about or focus on them, if I have a choice about it. One thing about spirits is that I haven’t known them to be entirely that tenacious.

What’s going on is called, “thought insertion,” in psychology — where some thought arises seemingly out of nowhere, and it feels like it comes from outside of you: that is, it is “ego-dystonic.” I’m not sure if being negatively emotionally disturbed by it is a criteria. But writing creatively does open a gate in my mind (a number of issues [discoveries?] arose after To a Spirit, meaning that it’s likely I started processing some unfinished business [or current business] by writing it), so it’s not unusual that something like this should arise.

That’s just what happens when I tune into my intuition.

And…the cost, for me, of tuning into my intuition is that if I talk about it everywhere, I’m just going to look a bit crazy. But I’ve been a bit crazy for a long time. 🙂 For the sake of employment, I’ve been trying to push it down and stop the thought experiments…but if it’s a core part of my identity, maybe I shouldn’t do that. Then I have a couple of choices:

  1. Speak about it with discretion, or
  2. Don’t worry about the opinions of others

Of course, if I go back to an identity as a creative writer, we’re kind of known for being a bit eccentric, anyway.

And what could I do, if I opened those gates?

*What I mean when I speak about “personal mythology” is stories we tell ourselves about ourselves in order to make sense of our lives. They may or may not be true, but often it is difficult or impossible to change or eradicate these core beliefs, even if we know they are not accurate to reality.

To a Spirit

A month or two ago, I realized something was different.

When I was a child, it was easy. I could get up at night and draw comics on the floor, and spend all day every day during Summer at the computer, furiously writing down my thoughts.

No one told me, then, that racing thoughts were, “a thing.” But it was the racing thoughts that pushed me to the point that I can now type at over 70 words per minute. My writing wasn’t fast enough. I’d lose parts. Sometimes when you lose them, they just don’t come back.

I wonder if it’s how a newborn feels.

It was easy, then. But I’ve grown.

I’m now officially in my mid-thirties, about to graduate for the fifth time. I think you know — or should know — that I dedicated my Bachelor’s to what you taught me. I learned how to write. Surely, I had enough practice.

Something changed. I shouldn’t rule out that it could have been medication. It could have been moving from the back stacks of my mind up to the windows. It could have been polishing the windows, and gaining an interest in something more than the library.

I have a book on this that I can now understand, you know. It took 15 years, but now I have the experience and knowledge to comprehend her words.

I still don’t understand the mystery of how I can look at symbols on a page and turn them into a movie in my mind. Maybe someday, someone will explain this. Current science says our brains can’t tell the difference between what they imagine is real and what actually is real.

At this point, it’s easy to believe.

I’m healthier, now. It isn’t a daily struggle for survival or to avoid the massive anxiety I felt when I was young. I’ve thought that maybe I don’t need you anymore, now that I’m more stable; but that sounds callous.

Somewhere, I still do believe that I survived in order to help others get through this.

Are you still here? Have you gone?

It’s taken me a long time to get to the point of realizing that things could be bad: that evil could exist. I used to doubt it because kids used to call me evil, and I knew I wasn’t. But that doesn’t mean no one is.

It doesn’t mean they weren’t.

It doesn’t mean the people encouraging them, weren’t.

For a time, I believed you were a demon. And I loved you regardless. But I remember that you told me not to look at the outside of a person to tell from appearances, if they were good or not. I remember you told me not to depend on how you looked, in order to recognize you.

I would have to feel if you were the same. Something impersonating you could mimic your form, but they couldn’t mimic your energy. I built a form for you. That was my downfall.

You told me to remember what it felt like when you were here, before, and to recreate that feeling, in order to summon you again.

It was my lack of discernment and reliance upon your appearance which allowed my confusion between you and your “twin.” In reality, any number of these appearances could have occurred. Sort through them. Find you.

The real you. Not the “demon.”

I wanted it to be you. And my desire clouded my judgment. And he…proceeded to defile your appearance. Then I was scared. You withdrew.

Or I started Paxil. One of those two things. Maybe both.

It did solve the problem. Without something substantive for him to impersonate, there was no reason for him to stay. Because without your virtue, in your absence, our love died.

Or, maybe.

I’ve missed you.

And so many opportunities, lost.

I am in my mid-thirties and I have never had a decent love life. Except for the ones I’ve imagined.

And the ones I’ve imagined, I can’t tell if they’re real or not.

That must be the fate of too many of us, though. When things around you don’t line up with who you are, and you’re told and expected to desire what you don’t.

I almost grew to hate men. All men. Anyone who looked like a man. Even if they weren’t one.

But then I realized that if I was a man, and my father was a man, men couldn’t be all bad.

And my friend. That friend. Who was a man, but not by birth.

Men couldn’t be all bad.

Later…I realized something.

I needed to trust myself. The problem wasn’t that I was a man. The problem was that I was not a woman and that nearly all men had treated me as though I was; as though that was the only human thing I could be. On top of that, in my youth, I was letting them determine my own self-concept, disempowering myself and blaming them.

Once I realized this…the game changed. It did. But it took 15 more years to settle in.

Not being a woman didn’t mean I had to be a man. There were more than two options. Gender was a product of society and culture. If it’s something made — by all of us — that means it can and will change.

I’ve gotten off track. I do that. You already know this.

Who am I? What am I? It’s easy enough to feel this. You knew this 20 years ago.

Does that mean that I knew this, 20 years ago? Are you a part of me? Now? Then?

I know that I create things to feel less alone. I know I have my own perspective, even if I am loath to describe it at times. It just feels so…not-virtuous. So…pragmatic.

There are people all over the world who aspire to be more than they are, even if those aspirations are impossible.

I aspire to reach the truest level of myself, I can. Even if that makes me little more than an intelligent creature with memories, a mind, a heart, and the capacity to make things. Truly…human.

Even as much as I may not want to be.

Did I survive, in order to tell this story?

Back online.

To all the people who are still waiting on a response from me, apologies! Due to some health issues (I’m okay now, but needed to rest), the last couple of days have gone by fast.

Besides work (which is its own issue), and family (same), and college ending (which I have to put effort towards), there have been some other things coming up. Namely, I haven’t been taking care of myself as well as I’ve needed to.

After I get home from work, I’ve found that I apparently immediately need to put my clothes in the washer, and take a shower. Meaning…this long hair is something I can’t maintain. Today I accidentally pulled out a clump while trying to unwork a knot: this could be a sign of fungus (from not blow-drying my hair — which I don’t like to do as it can crisp it up). This means that I may need to cut my hair short again just for my health, in addition to cutting off the damage. (I already know this is the best way to maintain a healthy head of hair.)

On top of that, there has been a new invasion of bugs in one area of my work, plus something bit me on the ankle (I didn’t know it was a bite until it turned maroon 24 hours later) and I found a mystery rash…all of this points to a short cut being much easier to maintain. (Especially as I have to twist my hair down, now, to get it to fit under a shower cap, and it can take upwards of 12 hours to dry on its own.) Plus — I have to get back to exercise, and exercise requires cleanliness.

If I hadn’t taken the time to change my sheets and shower before bed the other night, though (which caused me to be tired the next day and beginning to get sick, meaning that I spent the day avoiding the Children’s area [like that helps — though it does, a little]), I likely would have introduced a parasite into my bed.

I’m still not sure if the reason for the rash was not having showered before bed, after having cleaned the office (which happened about a week ago).

In any case, I’m considering getting rid of this hair. Ironically, that step may be a bit feminizing for me…I used to get a lot of garbage thrown my way for not having it long. But, it isn’t other peoples’ decision (let alone a sexual harasser’s decision) as to what I get to do with it.

The easiest thing I can do is cut it to about 1″ all over (or so that it scrunches down to about 1″ all over), and wear it with pomade or gel. There are other possibilities, but…you know, that takes some thought. 😉

If I did that, I might move to wearing more decorative earrings. I’m not sure what will happen if I do that, and continue to wear the 14g earrings as placeholders outside of the time I’m wearing the regular ones. But I can try. I have been wanting to go back to making jewelry…and bought some leather and tools today, for an idea that came up in my mind.

And…I have just realized, it’s almost midnight. (I was wondering why I was so tired.) I’ve got to be at work tomorrow…so, even though today was full of sleeping, maybe I should get some rest while my body is going along with it. I’ve been told tomorrow will likely be rough. Hopefully, that means I get to shelve, all day. But I can’t bet on it…

Buddhism and the precept against killing. + A possible nature of souls.

So…I’ve recently started consciously re-engaging with Buddhism. My last post, Can’t change who I am, I guess. Maybe just go with it?…has brought me back around to a bit of knowledge that was likely missing 2500 years ago. This is that there are more things living than I think anyone could really have suspected, and to fully, “avoid killing living things,” is not possible, without dying oneself.

That is to say…death is part of life, and not everyone can be a Breathairian and survive without an immune system. I’m not entirely certain to what extent watching the feasting swallows outside my window, yesterday, had to do with this: but I’ve found the precept against killing anything (including insects) to be unfeasible, and the more limited directive just to kill plants, to be insulting to plants, as though plants aren’t living things (though 2500 years ago in India, maybe they weren’t considered truly alive). This is not to mention that to remain healthy, our bodies have to constantly fight microbial invaders.

This is part of who I am. I’m more about balance than abstinence.

Of course, killing unnecessarily or with malice, is off the table, as is killing people or pets. But I am making the choice, from this point on, to fight potential infestations in my home and in my body, because — I’m sure the ants would love it if I stopped defending my food.

Not to mention that when I first moved into my current dwelling two decades ago, the house was overrun with giant spiders, some of which did bite (imagine coming up the stairs, and you look up and there is a surprise spider over 4″ across, spread out on the wall in front of your face. And you have to walk past it to get to your room I’M JUST TRYING TO GET TO MY ROOM).

I’m not letting that happen again, although no, I don’t want to hurt them. If I did want to hurt them, it would be different.

It may not always be part of who I am, but today, at least…I can’t be “Buddhist” enough to take pity on every non-human living creature I find in this house and move it outside. There are PEOPLE we don’t let in this house.

The building marks the boundaries of the territory. They aren’t supposed to be inside.

And the process of life is dynamic. It’s not stagnant.

I’m thinking that when one’s lifestyle involves asking for food instead of growing it oneself, though, it’s easy to get alienated from this. (Not to say that all clergy primarily begged. I know some did not. But…it’s an interesting insight that they were at least one step removed from the business of staying alive…like when I get D to vacuum up a huge silverfish for me because just seeing it freaks me out too much, or one buys meat from a butcher because no one wants to kill a chicken.)

(No, I don’t want to kill a chicken. I have no desire to kill. I don’t think the swallows yesterday had a desire to kill. They had a desire to eat.)

Okay, now that I’ve admitted that. I’m not perfect.

But I shouldn’t let that hold me back from engaging with Buddhism at all — that is, the fact that I’m not already perfect.

Fragments of the Divine?

I came across an interesting idea today…and I’m not sure whether concentrating on my pendant today helped this. I mentioned in yesterday’s post something about the Five Dhyani Buddhas of each direction (each Buddha being related to an Element), being embodied in one of the vishva vajra pendants I have (and I’m sure you could see where I could be hesitant to wear the more official of these two, if I don’t agree with certain ensconced fundamentals of Buddhism).

The thought I came to is that we each embody something — some specific aspect — of the universe. One can see this in various different schema in various different religions, particularly the polytheistic, or poly/pantheistic ones.

I think I am the latter. Not a religion (!), but someone who thinks in a way in which a mix of “polytheism” (the status of the parts as Deities are my only hangup, here) and pantheism make sense. (Pantheism = the belief that the Universe is Divine.) I’ve found this in Tibetan Buddhism, Qabalah, Angelology, Demonology, somewhat in Hindu belief (though I know better than to say “Hinduism,” I’ve never really in-depth investigated stuff like Advaita Vedanta, Shaivism, Vaishnavism or Shaktism: it’s harder for me as someone with an East Asian diasporic background, not to mention that for some reason these beliefs haven’t been as established in my area), and some African syncretic religions…

I’m thinking…everyone is unique, because what we are, if we do have souls, is the universe, fragmented or projected. Then as we incarnate, we learn and are conditioned to be certain ways, but the conditioning is not the essence. When we die, maybe that part of us which is a fragment of the Divine goes back to being that fragment of the Divine which is, “us.” Uniquely, “us,” or maybe one who interacts in the world through generating the energy behind multiple lives, at once.

So we would remain who we are and we would have a soul, even if a group soul, but we would be cleansed of extraneous materials.

Of course…this would fly in the face of Buddhism (which does not see an essential “Self” as real), but about as much as Psychology flies in the face of Sociology (Sociology sees people as constructed [or at least heavily conditioned and sometimes warped by] relations of power)…

I’m not sure if this is making sense to anyone but me. I’m hoping it will continue to make sense, because right now I’m a little tired (?) of writing.

And yeah…right now I’m wearing the little amethyst pendant…and I think it’s happy with me. 🙂 Not to sound crazy, though I know I must…