Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Carry On

Sea of Trees

It's dirt in my mouth.
So tired, I had to let my head fall
To the floor. The dark hairline
On the back of your neck
Is my new horizon.

Viewing the leaves, the blossoms, the rocks
And the waterfalls--all beautiful, but
The innkeeper knows why lovers like us
Come to a place this remote. He doesn't look
Directly at us. The ones who bring the wine
Stand a little apart, a little in awe
As if we're from the stage, and we've come down
To walk among them a little while.
It's true. We have come down.

How many robes have been dropped
In this forest, how much skin
Dropped from bones, how many bones
Among the roots, how many instruments
Rusting in the leaves.

I have enough left to find a patch of sky.
The clouds are horses,
Tired and old. I don't believe
They could tote even another feather.
I like to think I'm a merciful person.
I won't ask them to carry me.

The theme of the love-suicide was wildly popular in Japan for centuries, and hit a height in the early 18th century. Many immediately see this as some sort of pathology, and these are sometimes the same who have no trouble with Shakespeare or Verdi. The most hopeful and exciting article I've read in a while was about a monk working to help suicidal people near the Sea of Trees, Aokigahara near Mount Fuji, a popular place for people to come to die. It's really beautifully written. Here's something he learned:

"Lying in the hospital, he spent a week crying. He had spent seven years sacrificing himself, driving himself to the point of breakdown, nearly to death, trying to help these people, and they didn’t care about him at all. What was the point? He knew that if you were suicidal it was difficult to understand other people’s problems, but still—he had been talking to some of these people for years, and now here he was dying and nobody cared.

"For a long time, his thoughts were too dark and agitated to sort out, but slowly the darkness receded, and what remained with him was a strong sense that he wanted to do the work anyway. He realized that, even if the people he spoke to felt nothing for him, he still wanted something from them. There was the intellectual excitement he felt when he succeeded in analyzing some problem a person had been stuck on. He wanted to know truths that ordinary people did not know, and in suffering it felt as though he were finding those truths. And then there was something harder to define, a kind of spiritual thrill in what felt to him, when it worked, like a bumping of souls. If this was what he was after, he would have to stop thinking of his work as something morally obligatory and freighted with significance. Helping people should be nothing special, like eating, he thought—just something that he did in the course of his life."

If you have come to this page through a search keyword and need help, please hit this link immediately, or call this number: 1-800-273-8255. Someone will be there to help you.

Today's judge is a lot more fun than this day's subject! But Justin Marks does have a poem called "Visit Me In My Grave," which begins: "My fear of being an asshole / leads me to / being an asshole..." Enjoy!

Image: Utamaro, from The Courier of Hell.

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