Friday I went on a walk around the campus in the snow and was moved by the children sledding down the hill, so light in their play.
playing in each other’s belonging.
The wind freshens.
This week we focused on the rapid change Japan took into modernity. This is the first time I’ve seen symbolism and conceptualization so highlighted in this class. But I guess this is the way it happens as time unfolds. When I was a kid, I was care free; I was not embarrassed to do something strange and I didn’t pay any attention to what others thought of me or even what I thought of myself. But this all changed around probably the 4th or 5th grade, when I guess I began to pay attention to other people were doing and how they were doing it and thus became aware of myself. I could say I started to think of, or conceptualize, myself against them; this continued to sharpen as I grew older. This is what I feel Japan went through. The way I see it, animism provided them with child-like awareness of not knowing the difference between self and other. Buddhism introduced symbolic conceptualization; but this conceptualization was about what beyond this realm. During this shift into modernity, we see the conceptualization of the self. It was their encounter with the other that moved them to encapsulate themselves in symbols, to define in order to know and demarcate their place in this larger world. Nitobe was a writer who embarks to define the Japanese nation, making the argument that all Japanese are Samurai (Inuoye 3/6). He writes, “What Japan was she owed to the samurai. They were not only the flower of the nation, but its root as well”( Nitobe p.159). This is because Bushido had “ furnish[ed] a moral standard for the whole people” (Nitobe p.163). But what I find strange is that Nitobe wrote this devotion to morality for a foreign audience. In doing this, Japanese morality and therefore its identity is being shared and adopted by “the other”. I wonder what this does to the Japanese identity and how will it influence future Japanese identity. It feels that by the other becoming more like the self, the line between the two becomes blurred. Perhaps, in full circle, this means becoming once more like a child.