My Autumn Hope

I haven’t written here in a while. I got busy over the summer but that’s not the real reason that I’ve neglected this blog. The truth is, I got sucked into a dark vortex. I have been spending my writing and contemplation elsewhere. Specifically, I have been spending considerable time adding my voice to millions of people who are angry and frustrated.

It’s too easy to forget why we are frustrated and angry, isn’t it? It isn’t actually the forces of ignorance and corruption that frustrate and anger us. Truly. We aren’t angry that there are destructive forces in society. It is that these forces of ignorance and corruption exist in contrast to something else that also exist nearby. Our anger and frustration comes from knowing that something else is not only possible but is within reach. If ignorance and corruption were the only options available to us as social animals, we would simply shrug and either learn how to adapt to it (as billions of humans do and have done over the centuries) or figure out a way to use it to our advantage (as millions of despots, cons, and dictators have done over the centuries)

But billions of people around the globe know that these are not the only options for human society. We can do better. And that’s where the anger really comes from. We don’t get angry about things we can’t do anything about. We had a historically massive earthquake here in Kumamoto and no one was mad about it because if you live in Japan earthquakes just are. We don’t try to prevent earthquakes, that’s just dumb. We try to stay safe, ride them out, and use technological knowhow to minimalize the damage. So, if you are angry about the ignorance and corruption that seems to have slithered out into the daylight in your society, it’s because you know that humanity can be something better.

 Even using the word “ignorance” holds a ray of hope, for it acknowledges that humans are capable of a different state of being. If we forget that, we only hold onto anger for its own sake. And if anger comes with no hope for change, if we think that humanity is only capable of bigotry and violence, we only poison ourselves and further empower the forces we strive against. We even poison the things that make fighting worthwhile, corrupting them as well.

And that’s what I wanted this blog to be about: a reminder to myself and anybody who reads it that this human life is beautiful and that though it is brief, it can be even greater.

 And so, I’ve come back to this space after not writing here for several months. A place to remind myself that anger comes from the adrenaline rush of trying to protect something. And that “something” is precious. I’ll come back to make sure that anger doesn’t become a self-perpetuating loop.

Autumn is here in Kuma County. It’s my favorite season for a lot of reasons. After a blistering summer, when the temperature drops we can pull the blankets a little closer and hug our children a little tighter. The trees change color and no picture I have ever taken even comes close to capturing the beauty of Kuma County in the fall.

The 100 yen shop near my house has started displaying Halloween décor. Is there a better holiday than Halloween? Nope. I love Christmas, I do. Maybe I can tolerate it because in Japan it’s mostly a romantic time like Valentine’s Day mixed in with World Peace and Happiness with all the trees and décor. There is no religious significance to it and none of the stress. But Japanese people love Halloween, even out here in rural Kumamoto. We started a neighborhood Trick or Treating squad and we’re all looking forward to that.

Another one of the reasons I love this season so much is chestnuts. My mother-in-law has about one hundred chestnut trees and we harvest mountains of chestnuts every year. This year, I couldn’t help out due to obligations elsewhere but my wife and son did. Chestnuts mixed with rice and a little salt is amazing. A lot of people think “autumn” with pumpkin spice lattes. I’ve never had one, sadly. The nearest Starbucks is about two hours from here. But for me, autumn means chestnuts and rice. “Kuri-gohan” in Japanese.

I will be completely sick of chestnuts by November. But until then, Yay!

One night, not that long ago, I was at my laptop computer watching American news. Because my son, who is eight years old, was working hard nearby on his Kanji, I had headphones on and kept my usual furious outbursts carefully stored deep down inside me where it will probably cause cancer. I went through the usual steps from “How are so many people this gullible?” through “Do people even care whether something is true or not?” and then turning off the news and writing something furious on Facebook. That’s the pattern.

My son suddenly jumped up and ran to the window. He yelled out, “Dad! Dad! Check this out!” He was so excited. I went and joined him by the window. The sun was setting and the sky blazed orange and yellow. The light refracted off the clouds, sending long beams of light to the surrounding mountains. It was glorious. My son said, “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

In fact, neither had I. Not in that perfect, specific way with such an amazing person next to me. We sat there for a while in silence. Then the sun went down. He went back to his studies and I went back to the news. The news was still infuriating but something had changed.  It had lost its edge, its terrifying urgency. Still important, still worth fighting against in whatever capacity we can. Still worth hating it, hating it hard.

But whatever evil is happening in the world, it’s not worth forgetting about the things that MAKE those agents of ignorance and corruption so infuriating. We need to take a second, every day, to slow down and remind ourselves of what we’re trying to preserve. Of what the other possibilities are.

I’ll try to visit this space more often. I hope you will too.

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