It has been two months since I wrote. I’ve been back in Japan for two weeks and having a difficult time finding my ground. I’ve actually been home in Kyoto for the past week, and feeling unclear. Today the fog lifted a bit…
Near my host family’s home in Kyoto is a famous Shinto Shrine – Fushimi Inari. Although it is close by, I’ve not been there since the mid-nineties. Today it called me. A long path leads up to the top of the shrine’s mountain; literally thousands of red tori frame visitors’ steps.
I was called to Fushimi-Inari and offered a prayer at the base of the mountain. Asking for clarity. Asking for guidance. I don’t often pray, but today I felt moved to do so. And as I started to climb the mountain, with each step, my own way forward became a bit more clear. Half way up the mountain a noticed a small stump by a side trail which, while a bit small for my bottom, looked as if it would hold me in a meditation posture. I began to meditate. Many things happened in that session, and one was that the words 世界人が平和であいますうに — seikaijin ga heiwa de aimasuyoonni — may the people of the world meet together in peace — began to flow through me.
In some ways, no mystery here. Those words have been with me since I visited Hiroshima in 1971. The are on a small sign on my front door in Spokane which Susan received when she visited Hiroshima separately in 1971. Being in Hiroshima was deeply moving for me and those words have been part of the center of my being. Only earlier this year did I learn they were first spoken by Goi Sensei as his invitation to the world to find its way to peace after the devastation of World War II. His work continues today through the efforts of http://www.worldpeace.org and http://www.goipeace.or.jp/. Goi Peace Foundation has provided guidance for some of my work in Japan this year. Today’s clarity was about some work we might do together in the future.
But let me back up a bit. Why am I here? Why have I been called so strongly to Japan? There are many reasons, of course. But I think I am here because Japan may play a pivotal role in creating the new world so many of us yearn for, and I think I can help. We may learn, finally, what it means to meet together in peace, supporting each other in honest lives that honor each other and this remarkable planet.
It’s happening everywhere and we all know it: the world is shaking. The triple disasters of 3.11 in Japan were one powerful manifestation of the unsuitable and unsustainable ways in which we’re living on the planet. But in many places — Greece, the US, the Middle East, Europe — the world is shaking. And I don’t expect 2012 to be calmer.
A couple of nights ago my 83 year old Japanese host father was in a thoughtful mood. We were watching a documentary on early Christian worship caves in Ethiopia and he asked me why the US was so adamantly opposed to Palestine becoming part of UNESCO. That conversation quickly turned to the protests and revolts in many parts of the world. Then there was a pause and he said I think the age of mono — things — is over. He went on to talk about how the production and acquisition of mono has been the dominant feature of daily life in Japan since the end of World War II. He went on to say that he thought it was time to begin the age of relationship and happiness. These ideas aren’t particularly new or earth shattering (at least in concept) for many of us. But there was something powerful about hearing them be voiced by an 83 year old physician who has lived a mostly normal middle class life. The age of mono is over.
But what is the new age and how does it get created? All around the world people are engaging in the activities that may create that new age. They are mostly invisible, seen by only a few. They certainly don’t have the media attraction of protests or revolts or revolutions. They are just people going about building lives that work a little better for them and their neighbors.
This work is coming to a new scale in Japan as ordinary people like my host father start asking for something new. Futurist Willis Harman many years ago said the world changes when large numbers of people change the way they think a little bit. That is what is happening now in Japan. It’s easy to miss. Most of the country wants to just get back to normal. Outside of Tohoku, people in Japan would like to not think about Tohoku. But seeds have been planted. It is time to nurture them!
I think one of the reasons it’s been hard for me to get traction this time is because what’s happening now is more subtle. Next week when I have the first of three visits to Tohoku I’ll have more of a sense from inside the region where I think more is happening — it has to: people have communities to rebuild. I believe the quiet, mostly invisible rebuilding and recreating that will go on here needs to become visible to itself, needs to be connected, needs to be nourished and needs to be illuminated to Japan and the world. At Berkana we speak of this as NAME. CONNECT, NOURISH and ILLUMINATE. It’s needed now. It will change Japan and it will offer a vision of new possibilities to the world.
It is going to continue to be a challenging time. Everywhere. Recently one of my friends here, Tamio Nakano, introduced me to some work he had witnessed in Fukushima. One of Tamio’s colleagues had invited him to a community workshop that used the concept of Jubun-ko which literally means the child of myself. In the workshop participants were invited to draw a line-figure of themselves on a large piece of paper and then begin to draw inside the figure the many children that live within. Tamio showed me the pictures: faces crying, angry faces, sad faces, faces with a glimmer of hope, faces sparkling. I could tell just from the pictures that Tamio had taken that the process had been a powerful one. People were able to point to the parts of themselves on the paper outside and express their many and varied feelings. It was, I could tell, a safe way to speak the truth.
I’m aware of how many Jubun-ko are inside of me. I want normal. I want complete change. I am angry. I cry. I want financial security. I want true community. I want have a more sustainable lifestyle. I am afraid. I want to thrive. So many children inside of me. And I suspect within many of you.
By the time I climbed down from the mountain top of Fushimi-Inari, darkness had claimed the light. There was an embracing beauty there as well