Wednesday, April 5, 2017

My Asian thing.

If you know me personally, you probably know that I like Asian stuff, particularly from Japan. You may wonder about why, and let me assure you, so do I.

I have never been anywhere in Asia, so what I know of Asia is completely limited to the Asian things and people which make it to the US, but I'm as confident as I can be that if I can ever realize my dream of travelling there, I'm going to enjoy the visit.  People who know me who are also familiar with the region make the same assurances.  There's no long-lost part of my life that I need to rediscover there, I don't harbor such romanticism, but I do think I'd really like it.

It's also not quite correct to say that I like everything Asian, there are a number of things I find more in Asian culture which I can do without: the emphasis on youth in sexual attractiveness, brand-conscious consumerism, over-work, etc.  It's more accurate to say that many of the things in my American life which I decidedly prefer are often of Asian origin or derived from Asian sources.  I like the sushi, sumi-e painting, green tea, wood-block prints, bamboo furniture, zen Buddhist philosophy, meditation and yoga practice, haiku, calligraphy, pottery, rice, acupuncture, noodles, minimalist gardens, futons, and shakuhachi flute music which I have been able to enjoy in the Unites States.

I highly value the training in personal etiquette I received as an American zen student, which is largely derived from Japanese (and earlier, Chinese) influences.  I am most comfortable around people who pay attention to what's around them, are mindful of their role as a group member, do not solicit personal attention, and draw inspiration from emptiness.  Of course, there are people with these qualities from all backgrounds.

This Asian preference directly conflicts with my self-image as a rational being with a reason for everything.  I have tried to explain why for years,  I've been fiercely honest with myself, I have questioned every assumption I can uncover, but to no avail.  I realized, in the end, like the mountains and rivers, it's just there.  There's no why.  I don't even know why this inability to explain myself to myself bothers me, but it does.

I'd like to understand my Asian preferences with a little personal fable like I was from Asia in a former life, or I have some future destiny there for which I now unknowingly prepare, but the truth is this is conditioned existence.  It's best to abandon the search for cause.  Ultimately this search for a rational root cause represents an unwise investment in an illusory self, it's really a kind of closeted arrogance.  Why should I know so much?

There's no directly observable evidence for a separately-existing, individually-identifiable self in spite of the fact that almost everyone believes in it.  It would have to be this perhaps illusory self that would have to possess this preference, and if it doesn't exist, does the preference exist?

So, it is what it is.  In Japanese I believe the phrase is "so desu ne."