Saturday, January 02, 2016

What Japanese Movies Taught Me About NOT Making Resolutions

This is the time of year I usually make and blog about my New Year resolutions.  But, I'm not going to do that this year.  
And it's because of a couple of Japanese movies I saw last night.  
I've been struggling with the idea of what resolutions I might make this year.  Mainly because the ones I wanted to make are pretty much the same ones I've made every year.  To go to Japan.  To get more published.  To find "someone."  
I burned myself a bit when I realized last week that I had not submitted a single story to a publisher last year.  Ouch.  Sure, I spent half a year working on my novel, then spent some time working on a spec-script, which I stopped after learning the producer was no longer accepting spec-scripts.  There were reasons.  But my resolution to get more published clearly had gone out the window.  
I will be going to Japan this year, but that was only prompted by the realization that returning "someday" meant never going there again, and that I couldn't depend on other people to give me a reason for going.  
This was the primer for the conclusion I came up with yesterday. Which started from a couple of lines of a poem featured in one of the movies I watched. 
It was called, "Oppai Volleyball," staring one of my favorite actresses, Haruka Ayase.  In case you don't know, the word, "oppai" in Japanese refers to female breast.  It is used in the same way "boob" or "tits" are used in English.  And if you don't know who Haruka Ayase is, let me assure you that, yes, she is curvaceous and often appears in comedies where her beauty is a factor, though I must also add that she IS a very talented actress with some serious dramatic chops as well.  
Ms. Haruka's character is a new teacher at a Jr. High School.  At her introduction ceremony, she is telling the students about the poem that inspired her to become a teacher.  As the movie goes on, we learn that she had been expelled from school for shoplifting, forced to attend class alone after everyone had left, and was given a series of books to read and write a report on.  She spent most of her time doodling in the margin of most of the books, but a collection of poems, and this poem in particular, caught her attention.
The poem is a real one, by a poet named Koutarou Takamura, and is called "Journey" (道程、どうてい in English, "doutei").
Here is the entire poem for reference: 
My translation: 
Before me, there is no road. 
Behind me, the road is made.
Ah!  It’s only natural.
It’s Dad.
The father, so vast above me, that made me stand on my own.
The one who watched me close, never taking his eye from me
And poured his vigor into me.
For this long journey. 
For this long journey.
It is the first two lines of the poem that make their appearance in the movie.  Ms. Haruka's character expresses her interpretation that there are no roads in life.  The future is uncharted territory for all of us.  Adding my own metaphors, it is like a jungle, dark and impenetrable, or a rock face deep in the earth.  The only road or tunnel that is made is the one we see behind us, marking the path we took to get to where we are right now.  
As it did Haruka's character, this idea struck me.  It was, "only natural" as the poem itself said.  None of us have been to the future.  So how can we find a path or way to go through it.  It is virgin territory, the future is.  A place none of us have been.  We create the path we take by making it.  It appears behind us with each step we take. 
This was part of the mindset I'm adopting.  The rest of it came from another movie I watched called, "100 Yen Love."  
This movie was different from most Japanese films I watch, which tend to be very imitative of Hollywood pictures, with attractive, or at least interesting and unique people, and neat story lines.  100 Yen Love had more of an independent film feel to it, with normal looking people leading messy lives going in odd directions.  
The film gets its name from the main character job.  The main character is a woman in her early 30's, still living at home, no job or prospects at the start of the film, who goes so far as to say she's "given up her femininity."  Her divorced sister returns to their parents' home with her son.  The two sisters fight all the time, forcing the protagonist to leave in a huff.  To survive, she takes a job at the 100 Yen store (similar to the American 99 Cents Store) where she buys her snacks.  
Along the way to the 100 Yen Store where she works is a boxing gym, where she sees an older boxer working out.  She is fascinated by his workouts and eventually a relationship starts up between them.
This is not a sweet little romance, though.  All sorts of crap happens to this woman, including being raped by a co-worker after work, and the relationship with the boxer doesn't go well.  Soon, the woman is training at the gym herself, trying to get her own bouts in the ring.  
There is something written on the outside wall of the gym, next to its entrance: 
With those fists punch through the world.  
The sentence is written as in imperative.  A "Just Do it!" sort of command.  The obstacle is there before you and you have to fight your way through it, and your tools are the two clenched fists by your side.  
This suited the woman's situation the first time she stepped through the gym and signed up for training.  And it's the attitude that informed her subsequent transformation.  
It also attached itself to the concept from the poem, "Journey."  There is no path before me.  Only the obstacle of time.  So...  I need to punch my way through.  Grab the future, the chunk ahead of me, my fist filled with the next moment, and pull it out of the way.  Step forward into the future.  There is only one way to go.  
I am not against the idea of goals.  I am not even saying resolutions are bad.  It is a good idea to express your desires, to say, "This is what I want out of life.  This is the direction I need to go."  It was Socrates, I believe, that said the, "Unexamined life is not worth living."  You have to look at where you are to know where you want to go.
But I think I've been missing the component of action too much.  Or maybe I've been thinking too far ahead.  I've been operating under the belief that by knowing my goals, whenever or wherever they might be, my subconscious would automatically direct me toward them.  
I am finding that to be lacking now.  I may want to go to Japan in April, but it's now that I have to buy tickets, make reservations, contact friends to see if they're available for a visit.  I may want to get my novel publish, and earn my living as a professional writer, but it's now that I have to come up with ideas, write them up, edit and polish and then send them out.  
Last night, after having the idea of making my own road come to me, I sat down at my computer to write.  It was late, about 7:30 PM.  I've always told myself I couldn't write at night.  Not unless I was someplace different, like the library or at a Starbucks.  My attention was too fractured.  I was too tired from the day.  Research was about the only thing I was good for then.  I wrote in the mornings, right when I got up.  
"This is the moment you have before you," I told myself.  "You didn't write today.  So make a road to writing now."  And, I did.  About 1,300 words on the story I was working on.  I even found myself liking them when I was done.  
As I write this blog entry, I can look over my shoulder at that strip of road behind me.  A step's worth.  
But as they say in China (or in Japanese movies), that's a start.  


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