May

23

Policing manners

“No one subject is of more importance to people than a knowledge of the rules, usages and ceremonies of good society. To acquire a thorough knowledge of these matters and to put that knowledge into practice with perfect ease and self-complacency is what people call good breeding. To display an ignorance of them is to […]

4 Comments

Apr

01

Dog on Zen

Meet Conan, a male chihuahua from Naha, Japan, who’s renounced more traditional doggy pursuits for Dogen—a formative style of Zen from the 13th century that equates meditation and enlightenment as one and the same—chasing after the ever-spinning shiny wheel of rebirth before he’s even taken human birth. Buddhist priest Joei Yoshikuni (pictured) of the Jigenin […]

2 Comments

Mar

22

The poetry of death

Mostly unheard of in Western culture, where the document most commonly associated with death is a will—a binding legal document descriptive of property but little poetry, jisei, or death poetry, is a poem completed near the time of death; a profound, personal epitaph for a once in a lifetime event—suitably fitting farewell to one’s life. […]

16 Comments

Mar

08

Beautiful Moments in Film #2: Charlie Wilson’s War

Charlie Wilson’s War (2007) by Mike Nichols CIA Agent Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman): Listen, not for nothing, but do you know the story about the Zen master and the little boy? Representative Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks): Oh is this something from Nitsa the Greek witch of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania?1 Gust: Yeah as a matter of […]

2 Comments

Feb

21

Search Engine Haiku

Found poetry is the rearrangement of words, phrases, and sometimes whole passages that are taken from other sources and reframed as poetry by changes in spacing and/or lines (and consequently meaning), or by altering the text by additions and/or deletions. The resulting poem can be defined as “treated” (changed in a profound and systematic manner) […]

2 Comments

Dec

18

The day the gods go on holiday

In the Indian spiritual tradition, mahasamadhi is the state of leaving one’s body consciously—a willful, self-caused death that is not really a death, but a permanent union with the limitless consciousness realised while inside the body. One can only enter mahasamadhi it is said, if the non-dual state of nirvikalpa samadhi has been attained, a […]

7 Comments

May

29

Kokoro No Tomo (bosom friend)

Eighty-five years old next week, Donald Keene is a man described as having done more for Japanese literature and culture than anybody in the world. A former wartime translator, author of 25 books in English and 30 books in Japanese, he is Professor Emeritus of Japanese Literature at Columbia University and holder of eight honorary […]

9 Comments

May

19

Smiling with my eyes

Crazy-eyed or slack-jawed? If you’ve ever struggled to differentiate between the two you’re not alone, as according to a Japanese behavioural scientist, culture is a determining factor as to whether one looks to the eyes or the mouth to interpret facial expressions. According to a recently conducted study, Masaki Yuki of Hokkaido University has confirmed […]

2 Comments

Mar

07

The selfish, selfless Yukio Mishima

I’ve been going through something of a Yukio Mishima phase again recently. I did once before, many years ago, until a cursory read of his biography saw me dismiss him as deeply flawed, and in his fascination with violence, perhaps more ugly than beautiful. But I am having second thoughts. I don’t think I will […]

6 Comments

Mar

06

Memoirs of a Gaijin

I’ve been enjoying reading several blogs from Japan recently, written by foreigners living there, or“gaijin” as they are known to the Japanese. I’m sure there are countless Japanese bloggers out there who write in English, and one day I’ll hunt them down as well, but as one who was actually in Japan only six months […]

2 Comments