Thursday, 30 May 2013

you asked why there are so many frogs around

you asked why there are so many frogs around and the question struck me as essential. once we know why the frogs have multiplied so remarkably then we will uncover all sorts of other meanings.

every morning it is so hot that the pressure suffocates you. then it rains for about five minutes after lunch and there is a kind of relief. it is normally cloudy for several hours afterwards. around three or four o'clock the sun comes out all brilliant, at an angle that means you've either got it shining on your back or right in your face. i go of course all over the countryside at this time. there might be a few drops of rain coming down but it only very rarely turns into a proper downpour.

you also complained that the hundreds of mosquitoes were keeping you awake. there probably weren't hundreds in your room, though there may have been a lot. did they buzz around your ears? did you have to get up repeatedly. i have hit myself in the head trying to kill bothersome mosquitoes. luckily the apartment i am living in now has good screens on the windows. i almost never notice mosquitoes in here but when you go downstairs to hang out laundry you find that hundreds of them (perhaps not hundreds but certainly many) are buzzing around. they land on your legs and make a nuisance of themselves.

 Japan's Sakoku Period

during the 17th century the rulers of Japan decided to isolate the country from the rest of the world. for the next 200 years, which has become known as the Sakoku Period, foreigners caught entering the country were put to death, while Japanese folk were forbidden from leaving. an Italian missionary who snuck into the country was buried alive. in fact at one point an edict from the Tokugawa Shogunate, which was Japan's military government, forbade Japanese people living outside the country, such as in small colonies in South East Asia, from returning to the homeland. Japan's silver mines were a source of wealth at the time and trade was conducted with foreigners, but any visitors to Japan came under heavy restrictions. Dutch and Portuguese traders were forced to remain on a tiny island in the harbour at Nagasaki. foreign knowledge was still brought into the country, albeit through a very small gateway. interested Japanese citizens learnt a lot from books and pieces of technology that were brought into the country through Nagasaki. doctors and other foreign experts indirectly advanced Japanese society and the rapid development that ensued once Japan finally opened its borders to foreigners and allowed free trade can in part be explained by efforts made during the period of isolation. these efforts sought to find better methodologies. Chinese medicine was, for instance, abandoned in favour of proto-modern western methods which were observed in use among the foreign doctors who accompanied traders coming into Nagasaki. the aim of the restrictions imposed by the shogunate during the Sakoku Period was to protect Japanese culture and maintain peace in the country and the epoch only came to an end when foreigners, armed with big guns, forced those in power to ease restrictions and allow free trade to resume. i feel like i have accidentally isolated myself in a sort of mini, very localised Sakoku Period of my own. i need some outsider to come in, perhaps without big guns, and force me to interact. this is a tortured analogy. for now, i treat others with suspicion. i have become so used to being alone that i find the company of strangers challenging. this is a tortured analogy but i feel it works. i learn selectively from others while keeping them at arm's length. i care most about preserving myself and the peace i imagine i feel. i protect what is mine and visit awful hatred on anyone whom i perceive to be a threat. this is a lonely existence and i feel that i need my own new era of openness. i need someone to pass the time with. there must be exchanges. there must also be development. on like this i cannot go.

i feel i could agree with you about the mosquitoes but i'm not sure where the conversation would go after that. could we simply sit there in agreement? could we somehow just share the mutual knowledge that mosquitoes are indeed annoying? perhaps, like a tap, i could switch you on and you could talk and talk and talk and i would lie back listening and enjoying the relief around lunchtime, or the low sunshine in the late afternoon (we should meet at this time, somewhere shaded where we can drink ice tea, perhaps with cushions on the floor where i can lie down and you can sit comfortably while you explain why mosquitoes are annoying).

the fact is that this will probably not happen. you will sit at your computer and i will sit at your computer. we may as well be adjacent but we are not. we live in the same city (for all of a city it is) but on different streets, not even adjacent streets. i see you only online and perhaps you see me there too.

i feel i could love you, in a way that i should perhaps explain, since it wouldn't be fair to let you misunderstand me. i don't want you to expect anything from me and i don't want to look for anything from you. i could love you in the sense that we both are people with feelings and thoughts and if we somehow come to experience our shared humanity then we will both enhance each other's experience.

 The Ranch Davidians

once when the sun had already gone down and it was getting cooler but still warm enough to ride around in just a t-shirt and shorts, i was riding around in the country, where there are douits and plantations - i suppose they are irrigation canals rather than douits - in among the lanes that separate the plots of coconut and banana trees, most of which in that area are unfenced but still patrolled by dogs that bark at just about anything, a noise that gets my heart racing and makes me ride a little faster no matter how many times I hear it, i never see those dogs, well, there was one day when i happened to be riding near there and someone who was in charge of some wedding festivities set off a bunch of extremely loud fire crackers, then i saw the dog, it ran in a panic away from the road and disappeared among the trees, anyway, when i was riding in the early evening among those lanes there was an unexpectedly brightly lit and noisy shack, where a makeshift bar and barbecue had been set up. behind this arrangement of beer and meat and people was a man with a guitar, who made a point of being friendly to me, without ever really addressing me directly. he certainly didn't fuss over me. in the course of the next hour or two, which i spent eating and listening to songs, i heard him claim to be variously Isaiah, David and Christ, not Jesus, but a new Messiah. he quoted freely from scripture, some of which seemed make believe. only one line of what he spouted has stuck in my mind until now, he said "the fool has said there is no God", or something very similar to that, i don't particularly want to look it up, but he was shaking his head and speaking as if inspired by some higher power, while slapping on his guitar and captivating a lot of dummies who crowded around him and his pretty face. thinking about it now, I can recall that he used the phrase "children of men". he was paraphrasing one of the psalms, saying that since they did not believe in a god, the people of the world had become dirty and incapable of true goodness. he offered no clear way out of this predicament. as i ceased to look so impressed by what i'd initially thought to be a fortuitous find: a group of laid back people in among fields out in the country; since I ceased to look so interested in this bunch of hippies and their open grill and warm beer, he looked me in the eye and seemed to be trying to communicate something, as he whistled and hummed and drummed his fingers on his guitar. i drank some more beer and started to feel less and less responsible. eventually i left without saying goodbye to anyone, or at least tried to. when i went to urinate away from everyone else and then went directly to get my bike, some of them called out, though i didn't understand them. though i knew that i had nothing productive to say to them and they probably had nothing to say that would interest me very much, i still felt ashamed at sneaking away, and just like when the dogs barked from somewhere in the darkness and i feared they'd run out from among the trees and onto the road, my heart raced and i rode a quickly as i could until that odd little shack and its makeshift bar and guitar playing wannabe prophet were far behind me. i now sometimes wonder if i didn't imagine the whole thing. i don't want to look up the psalms because i'm not sure how else i'd know any part of them to put them into my imagination.

last week it rained for several days. it rained so heavily that you couldn't hear yourself think. it rained until the roads were all flooded. "flooding like typhoon season", you wrote. these statements you make are what i see of you shared online. it is perhaps awful that i notice every word and think of our shared experience. i see that it is flooding and you see that it is flooding and we both comment on the flooding. this is perhaps brilliant. or awful. we have either already attained that togetherness of shared experience, or we have alienated ourselves so well that despite having so much in common, and a willingness, on my part at least, to connect in some way, the most we can do is make unconnected assertions: "it rains"; "how hot i am"; "this new music bothers me"; "turn me over"; "i am without God".

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