Peter A Goldsbury
... I suggest that the transformation is evident, not just among the students, but among those who teach them, especially in Japan's high schools. The 'cultural intensity' began much earlier that World War II and is the result of a large number of factors. I think that hikikomori, parasaito shinguru and otaku are different manifestations of a certain cultural mania, as are bosozoku, kyouiku mama, ijime, and study groups that teach earnest participants how to sing karaoke songs correctly.
They are trying to find something they have lost and do not even know, really, how to identify so as to know when they have found it. They are trying to rebuild something they have never actually seen.
Ise-Jinja is rebuilt every twenty years for more than one reason. It is not merely the renewing of the structure, but the renewing and evolution of the process and the mentality that generates the structure from the foundation up. Saotome, I think, understands this. Saito understood it. While different, they seem to have the same essential purpose -- to oppose the determinant of truth as pretense (whether as hierarchical validation, feel-goodism or many, many others, East and West) and keep the sense of real instantaneous encounter in the art.
Whether, overgeneralizing, the art as a physical form is taught as form-preserves-principle (Saito) or principle-generates-form (Saotome) the intensity that drives a true encounter must be present or nothing will be gained in those -- or any other -- training paradigm. It is that aspect, more so than any "lost" quantum of "art," that is the problem. It is the engine that both preserves and generates anew. Musubi, I think, is the correct word here.
The clarity of true encounter is unmistakable -- and it is the antidote. It does not require the competitive contest, although I understand why those who seek it verge into that territory. It is the reason for training, in my opinion.
I will not try to hold forth on my own technical art, as I well know its flaws, and its place. But I know when I feel a true encounter. I know when it is absent, and I know that even the most meager art in that true spirit will defeat the false one, however technically "advanced." When my art fails me, it is generally because I first failed the art, and this is why.
It will not be regained in Japan the manner that it was created. Though not wholly different, they are also not the same. It will not be regained here in the same manner as it was gained there, because we are also not the same. The forms are there. The principles are there. They work. I see them, and make them steadily work better in my own practice. For this I deeply thank my teachers, of every lineage. But what has extended my art, and built upon their foundation of both form and principle has been attending to them in true encounters in practice. Without that it is just dead repetition -- with it, everything is both tantalizingly new and yet increasingly familiar.
We rebuild the shrine. We remake, in every life and every generation, something both continuous and yet new with only pieces of what preceded. It is true in every katachi, in the instant of one cut and in the passing of generations. We always build new with broken or raw parts. It is the way our bodies re-structure and restore themselves -- it is the way we stay in dynamic balance -- always one step from falling down. And when we stop building new, we die, literally and figuratively, whether in the instant of attack or in the history of an art.
Very few, East or West are comfortable with this precarious perch we all occupy. Far more are comforted by carefully maintained illusions of security or "unbroken" continuity, whether social or individual. The breaking of these illusions is a cause for anger, despair or hope, depending on one's approach. The radical reality and immediacy of the true encounter -- what Levinas described as the irreducible Other -- is a thing of awe, and awe is a source of both wonder and fear. Little in modern society prepares us to meet it, and much that did prepare us has in varying degrees been discarded, abused or perverted.
We cannot usefully mourn "lost" master carpenters (though they well deserve our remembrance), or their sketch notes, who did the rebuilding twenty years ago. They, like us started where we are. They, like us all, turned out to be ultimately frail, and notes fade and rot. We cannot pack up their knowledge complete and unpack it again, every twenty years. The most we can hope is to keep seeds, sprout them new again, and give faithful tending.
Responding to awe in wonder and invitation, radically accepting the Other is Aikido. Refusing true encounter, or accepting it in less than complete terms, leads to many pathologies, some we have mentioned, and many others besides, individually and collectively. And none of us are immune to that, at any moment, except through diligently developed habits of better response. That is not lost, but each of us can lose it.