The Irony of Intolerant Tolerance

 

 

 

 

 

So I just ate a bag of chocolate–ok, not the whole bag, but I definitely just ate a whole bunch of chocolate, and it was delicious.  And it kind of went like this, minus the throwing-up-on-the-carpet-part:

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I really just wanted to share that picture with you all.

Anyhow!  Good evening and Weirdmaste to all!  A friend posted a “weirdmaste” image on Facebook recently and I thought that it was pretty spectacular, because I am all about honoring the weird here at KP.  I mean, one of my childhood heroes was Weird Al Yankovic.  Let’s be honest—UHF should have won an Academy Award for awesome (and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it).

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It’s time to spin the Wheel of Fiiiiissshhhhh!!!!

But I digress.  Actually, I wanted to touch on a more serious topic tonight; Facebook is an interesting animal.  Most of us use it to showcase the positive aspects of our lives: travel, engagements, weddings, children, pets, how we didn’t get fat after high school, how awesome and perfect our lives are–spoiler: they’re usually not as exciting and perfect as we try to make them out to be…and maybe we only take carefully angled pictures and use Instagram to filter out the wrinkles (and adult acne, for some of us).

Facebook-Honesty

But we can also use Facebook to spread information.  This can be a good or a bad thing, depending on the information itself.  In certain areas of the world where information is limited to the general public by government, the advent of social media has proved to be a highly effective way for connecting and furthering causes, such as the push for civil rights in Middle Eastern countries.

Facebook also allows us to see many different opinions, and this is where the topic for tonight’s entry comes into play; the irony of intolerant tolerance.  I claim to be a highly tolerant person; I think all humans deserve to be treated with equal respect, regardless of gender identity, race, age, nationality, body type, etc.  However, I still find myself critical of others at times, and I know part of learning to be tolerant is allowing others to be who they are, even if I don’t agree (although some people…just, no):

 

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Give me back my rainbow, damnit!!

I’ll never forget, I knew two people who had a very tumultuous relationship because one was Catholic and the other was Protestant.  As someone who doesn’t follow any set religion, I didn’t understand why the two had such a difficult time, because I thought it was silly to be so divided on what I considered “trivial” issues.  One day, while on my soap-box of “How-I-am-right-and-you-are-silly-and-your -problems-are-silly-because-I-don’t-understand-you,” the girl looked at me and said, “You know what I really dislike?  Non-religious people telling religious people how they should think or feel.”  And she had every right to say that.  I had no right to lecture her on my beliefs.  People are entitled to believe what they want, and as long as we are not harming others or supporting causes that harm others, etc, we should be free to our own beliefs.

100% absolute tolerance might not be a completely achievable goal, but as long as we are actively working toward a greater understanding of others, we will progress as a human society.  We can practice tolerance by stepping outside ourselves and trying to see things from another’s point of view.

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Thoughts?

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Danse Macabre

Sitting in my apartment, listening to the winds howling outside in the super-typhoon that’s currently hitting Japan.  The wind is actually shakinf the apartment building (and I live 10 floors up!).  Camille Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre couldn’t be a more aptly fitting piece right now for such a dark and stormy night; actually, I’m currently obsessed with it.  It’s a very interesting composition, based off much of the mythology and folklore that surround the character and concept of “Death” as pertains to French superstition.  The piece is based off the poem by Henri Cazalis and translated into English, reads:

Zig, zig, zig, Death in cadence,
Striking a tomb with his heel,
Death at midnight plays a dance-tune,
Zig, zig, zag, on his violin.
The winter wind blows, and the night is dark;
Moans are heard in the linden trees.
White skeletons pass through the gloom,
Running and leaping in their shrouds.
Zig, zig, zig, each one is frisking,
You can hear the cracking of the bones of the dancers.
A lustful couple sits on the moss
So as to taste long lost delights.
Zig zig, zig, Death continues
The unending scraping on his instrument.
A veil has fallen! The dancer is naked.
Her partner grasps her amorously.
The lady, it’s said, is a marchioness or baroness
And her green gallant, a poor cartwright.
Horror! Look how she gives herself to him,
Like the rustic was a baron.
Zig, zig, zig. What a saraband!
They all hold hands and dance in circles.
Zig, zig, zag. You can see in the crowd
The king dancing among the peasants.
But hist! All of a sudden, they leave the dance,
They push forward, they fly; the cock has crowed.
Oh what a beautiful night for the poor world!
Long live death and equality!

You can listen to the piece and read more about the significance of the music on Youtube:

I have had a long-time love of the violin and have been listening to some more modern violin pieces.  The violin is actually considered the “Devil’s Instrument” because of its connection to dance (and the subsequent outrage of the Church at dance).  If you enjoy listening to violin pieces I recommend Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35, and for more modern tastes aka “Street Violin”, you can check out Black Violin or Josh Vietti.

The photo was taken by me in Prague at the Saint Vitus Cathedral.  Nothing like some terrifying Gothic architecture to set the mood.

Revisiting Kamakura

We’ve been having a recent string of fantastic weather during the weekends, so it’s been quite conducive to travel.  The lighting has also been lovely as well–the only problem is that once the sun begins to set it turns chilly very quickly.

A local favorite spot of ours is Kamakura, which is littered with shrines and temples.  During the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), it was the former de facto capital of Japan, and the seat of the Shogunate and of the Regency.  The center of the city is the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine, but there are a smattering of other spiritual landmarks.  Plum blossom season is upon us here in Japan, but it’s still a bit early to see fully blossomed trees.  The buds are still in their early stages, but most likely within a few weeks we’ll see some beautiful pinks and reds filling the grounds of these complexes.

The first stop on our “Temple Tour” as we dubbed it (there was a senior citizen walking tour we inadvertently ended up joining at one point), was Egara Tenjin-sha.  One of Japan’s three famous shrines dedicated to the deified spirit of Sugawara Michizane, god of scholarship.  In 1104 legend has it that this shrine was built because a picture of the Tenjin god, or the deified spirit of Sugawara Michizane, fell to this place from the sky during a rain storm.  As a result, much like Yushima Tenjin in Tokyo, students from all around flock to pray for success on their school examinations, as hundreds of wooden ema hang with wishes inscribed on them.

Omikuji, “fortunes,” tied and offered up

 

I can’t wait until the trees are filled with these.  Following the Egara Tenjin-sha we made stop number two, at another small shrine, although I can not remember the name.  But pictures to follow:

We made our way towards Zuisen-ji Temple, which was the site we had ultimately been going to see.  Because it is so early, the plum blossoms were still just buds, so we need to come back in a few weeks, but a few flowers had already bloomed.

Our friend M. looking very thoughtful

Our final stop brought us to a temple up a considerable amount of stairs.  Again I will have to look up the name of the temple, but we had a clear view of Mount Fuji at the top.  This was yet another temple dedicated to the goddess Kannon.

The goddess, Kannon

Sensoji Temple + Asakasa

In Asakasa, Tokyo, looms an intimidating red gate; known as the “Kaminarimon,” or “Thunder Gate.”  It is the symbol for the city of Asakasa, and quite easily one of the most iconic places in Japan.

On the eastern side of the gate sits Fujin, the Shinto god of wind, and on the western side sits Raijin, the god of thunder.  Although Sensoji is a Buddhist temple, like most religious sites in Japan, it is its own unique blend of both Buddhism and Shinto  Once through the Kaminarimon, you come to the Nakamisedoori, which is a long straightaway stretch to the main hall.  The Nakamisedoori is lined with nearly 100 small shops, selling souvenirs, traditional sweets, toys, Buddhist mementos, you name it.

At the end of the Nakamisedoori, there is another gate; the Hozomon Gate, or “Treasure House Gate.”  Inside this gate are housed the temple’s most treasured sutras, including the lotus sutra.

The red chochin (collapsible lantern) above me weighs 400kg

Facing back toward the Hozomon Gate; cleansing incense visible rising.  Thousands of people flood this complex to pray for mercy from the Bodhisattva Guanyin, or in Japanese, pronounced “Kannon.”  Legend has it that in 628, two fishermen found a statue of Kannon in the Sumida River.  After returning to their village, the two fishermen brought it to their chief, and he, upon recognizing it immediately as the goddess, enshrined the statue.  The first temple was built in 645 by the Tokugawa Shogunate.

The temple is a symbol of rebirth and peace to the Japanese people; the original was destroyed in an air raid during World War II.

Kannon painted on the ceiling of the main hall

Street vendors outside the temple.

 

And just for fun from Asakasa…

The Asahi Beer headquarters, known for its iconic “golden poo.”  It is supposedly meant to represent both the ‘burning heart of Asahi beer’ and a frothy head.

Lanterns from the city.

Reflection on New Year’s 2006

Six years ago I lived in Fujieda city in Shizuoka prefecture.  I was an exchange student (for the 2nd time) and I was living with my host family.  On New Year’s Eve we stayed up late and watched 紅白歌合戦, Kohaku Uta Gassen (Red and White Song Battle) an annual music program which is always broadcast before midnight.  Many popular artists come together and are divided up by female and male participants into the red team and the white team, respectively.  I remember Kobukuro sang “Sakura,” AIKO sang, “Star,” and Ishikawa Sayuri sang “Amagiegoe.”  There were many others, but those are the songs that I remember.  I could have sworn Ketsumeishi was also there singing “Sakura,” but I believe they appeared on television at a later point.

We woke up before sunrise the next morning, I don’t remember what time–maybe about 4 AM.  My host parents, my two host brothers, and myself all piled into our white van and we headed to Shizunami Beach to view the “Hatsu hi” or the “First day’s sunrise.”  We stopped at a convenient store to pick up some snacks and I remember seeing a group of young “yankii” guys hanging out (“Yankii” are usually young, Yakuza-hopefuls).  They all had the trademark blonde hair, mopeds, and piercings.  Moving on, we made our way down to the beach.  It was still dark when we arrived, and still quite cold.  Many others had come as well, some people had started their own fires to keep wam.  A martial arts instructor led the way for his young class, singing cadences.  They commenced their morning exercises clad only in the thin, white gis; it must have been only 35 degrees outside.

It was cloudy but the sky was starting to lighten, and in between the clouds you could see the hues beginning to change.  Twilight beginning to turn into the warm orange of the approaching sun, and then suddenly it came over the horizon, and it was day.

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At shrines people often purchase little mementoes to write down the wishes they ask of the gods.  In Kamakura, at Tsurugaoka Hachiman-guu shrine, I saw one that read, “Maybe the past has not been so memorable, but life from here on out is abundant.” I try to carry this with me for 2012.

Night photography in Kamakura and Kurihama

Just a few more days before I am off on holiday back to the states for a week and a half.  Tonight we decided to ride the train into Kamakura looking for last minute goodies for the families; naturally we made our way over to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū (鶴岡八幡宮).  This is a large Shinto shrine (note: shrines are Shinto, temples are Buddhist), and arguably Kamakura’s most important shrine.  However, this shrine is notable because it was ORIGINALLY started as a Buddhist temple and stayed as such until 1868 when it was converted to a shrine.  In Japan Buddhism and Shinto have a very unique way of mixing together, such that if one were to visit either temple or shrine there would be elements of both in each.  There is a saying in Japan, “Born Shinto, die Buddhist,” and it truly embodies just how intertwined both are in the lives of the Japanese.  Unlike in the West, religion is not inflexible; rather, is it fluid, flowing with the harmony of society.

 

Afterwards we headed back for a well-deserved meal of hot udon, considering we couldn’t feel our hands at one point.

We made one final stop in Kurihama before heading into our nice, warm apartment.  There is a small shrine dedicated to safe birth for expecting mothers, and it has lanterns leading all the way up.