Sunday, May 24, 2015

Many excerpts from: A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki




Hi!

My name is Nao, and I am a time being. Do you know what a time being is? Well, if you give me a moment, I will tell you,

A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of s who is, or was, or ever will be. As for me, right now I am sitting in a French maid cafe in Akiba Electricity Town, listening to a sad chanson that is playing sometime in your past, which is also me present, writing this and wondering about you, somewhere in my future. And if you're reading this, then maybe by now you're wondering about me, too.

You wonder about me.

I wonder about you.

...

And if you decide not to read any more, hey, no problem, because you're not the one I was waiting for anyway. But if you do decide to read on, then guess what? You're my kind of time being and together we'll make magic!


...


Assumptions suck. They're like expectations. Assumptions and expectations will kill any relationship, so let's you and me not go there, okay?

The truth is that very soon I'm going to graduate from time, or maybe I shouldn't say graduate because that makes it sound as if I've actually met my goals and deserve to move on, when the fact is that I just turned sixteen and I've accomplished nothing at all. Zilch. Nada. Do I sound pathetic? I don't mean to. I just want to be accurate. Maybe instead of graduate, I should say I'm going to drop out of time. Drop out. Time out. Exit my existence. I'm counting the moments.
One...
Two...
Three...
Four...
Hey, I know! Let's count the moments together!

...

Print is predictable and impersonal, conveying information in a mechanical transaction with the reader's eye.

Handwriting, by contrast, resists the eye, reveals its meaning slowly, and is as intimate as skin.

...

It made me sad when I caught myself pretending that everybody out there in cyberspace cared about what I thought, when really nobody gives a shit. And when I multiplied that sad feeling by all the millions of people in their lonely little rooms, furiously writing and posting to their lonely little pages that nobody has time to read because they're all so busy writing and posting, it kind of broke my heart.


...


It's the opposite of a blog. It's an antiblog, because it's meant for only one special person, and that person is you. And if you've read this far, you probably understand what I mean. Do you understand? Do you feel special yet?


...


There were so many other more pressing things she would have preferred to discuss, and she was about to say so, when the slight hesitation in his words made her pause; he was aware that his responses were often irregular, and she knew this worried him. He wasn't trying to annoy her, quite the opposite, She took a deep breath.

...


Because, you see, this feeling of alive is not so easy to experience. Even although life is a thing tht seems to have some kind of weight and shape, this is only an illusion. Our feeling of alive has no real edge or boundary. So we Japanese people say that our life sometimes feels unreal, just like a dream.

 Death is certain. Life is always changing, like a puff of wind in the air, or a wave in the sea, or even a thought in the mind. So making a suicide is finding the edge of life. It stops life in time, so we can grasp what shape it is and feel it is real, at least just for a moment. It is trying to make some real solid thing from the flow of life that is always changing.

Nowadays, in modern technological culture, sometimes we hear people complain that nothing feels real anymore. Everything in the modern world is plastic or digital or virtual. But I say, that was always life! That is life itself!

...Maybe you would like to ask me how does suicide make life feel real?

Well, by cutting into illusions. By cutting into pixels and finding blood. By entering the cave of the mind and walking into the fire. By making shadows bleed. You can feel life completely by taking it away....

But of course this is all just delusion, too! Suicide is just part of life, so it is part of the delusion.

...


If you've ever tried to keep a diary, then you'll know that the problem of trying to write about the past really starts in the present: No matter how fast you write, you're always stuck in the then and you can never catch up to what's happening now, which means that now is pretty much doomed to extinction. It's hopeless, really.

...in the time it takes to say now, now is already over. It's already then.

Then is the opposite of now. So saying now obliterates its meaning, turning it into exactly what it isn't. It;s like the word is committing suicide or something.

...

What is the half-life of information? Does its rate of decay correlate with the medium that conveys it? Pixels need power. Paper is unstable in fire and flood. Letters carved in stone are more durable, although not so easily distributed, but inertia can be a good thing. In towns up and down the coast of Japan, stone markers were found on hillsides, engraved with ancient warnings:

Do not build your homes below this point!

Some of the warning stones were more than six centuries old. A few had been shifted by the tsunami, but most had remained safely out of it's reach.

"They're the voices of our ancestors," said the mayor of a town, destroyed by the wave. "They were speaking to us across time, but we didn't listen."

Does the half-life of information correlate with the decay of our attention? Is the Internet a kind of temporal gyre, sucking up stories, like geodrift, into its orbit? What is its gyre memory? How do we measure the half-life of its drift?

The tidal wave, observed, collapses into tiny particles, each one containing a story

...


Information is a lot like water; it's hard to hold on to, and hard to keep from leaking away.

...

When you're beating a drum, you can hear when the BOOM comes the teeniest bit too late or the teeniest bit too early, because your whole attention is focused on the razor edge between silence and noise. Finally I achieved my goal and resolved my childhood obsession with now because that's what a drum does. When you beat a drum, you create NOW, when silence becomes a sound so enormous and alive it feels like you're breathing in the clouds and the sky, and your heart is the rain and thunder.

...


We were soldiers, but even before they showed us how to kill our enemies, they taught us how to kill ourselves.... They gave us rifles. They showed us how to use our big toe to pull the trigger. How to lodge the tip of the barrel in the V of our jawbone so it wouldn't slip....

That's right. We were supposed to kill ourselves rather than allow ourselves to be taken prisoner by the Meriken.

...

I should only make myself ridiculous in my own eyes if I clung to life and hugged it when it has no more to offer....

I should only make myself ridiculous in the eyes of others if I clung to life and hugged it when I have no more to offer.

...

But the fact is, you're a lie. You're just another stupid story I made up out of thin air because I was lonely and needed someone to spill my guts to. I wasn't ready to die yet and needed a raison d'être. I shouldn't be mad at you, but I am! Because now you're letting me down, too.

The fact is, I'm all alone.


...

I guess this is it. This is what now feels like.


...


Dōgen also wrote that a single moment is all we need to establish our human will and attain truth. I never understood this before, because me understanding of time was murky and imprecise, but now that my death is imminent, I can appreciate his meaning. Both life and death manifest in every moment of our existence. Our human body appears and disappears moment by moment, without cease, and this ceaseless arising and passing away is what we experience as time and being. They are not separate. They are one thing, and in even a fraction of a second, we have the opportunity to choose, and to turn to the course of our action either toward the attainment of truth or away from it. Each instant is utterly critical to the whole world.


...

Where do words come from? They come from the dead. We inherit them. Borrow them. Use them for a time to bring the dead to life.... The ancient Greeks believed that when you read aloud, it was actually the dead, borrowing your tongue, in order to speak again.


...

In your diary, you quoted old Jiko saying something about not-knowing, how not-knowing is the most intimate way, or did I just dream that? Anyway, I've been thinking about this a lot, and I think maybe it's true, even though I don't really like uncertainty. I'd much rather know, but then again, not-knowing keeps all the possibilities open. It keeps all the worlds alive.


  -- Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being

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