Japanese: Off The Rails

This has not been an easy week for me. The combination of over a day of no power, several days of no water, being stuck in with literally nowhere to go and nowhere to get there even if I wanted to, because of six to nine inches of snow – gives me a lot of time to think. Or try to avoid thinking.

This blog has gone off the rails. I’m not apologizing for it because it’s my blog and if I want it to go off the rails I’m perfectly well within my rights to do so. I appreciate everyone who reads this blog, but I owe them absolutely nothing. I write because I want to, you read because you want to, you either comment or you don’t, you follow or you don’t, and at the end of the day that’s just how it works.

But it’s still gone off the rails. Truth be told, I’ve been avoiding Japanese. I’ve been avoiding studying it, I’ve been avoiding thinking about it, I’ve mostly been avoiding practicing it. I couldn’t even have told you why. As I mentioned, I understand far more about why I started to learn it, but I couldn’t tell you so much about why I have been continuing to try to learn it.

Today my Japanese teacher, very nicely, fired me, at least for the short term.

Oh, I’m not offended, and I’m not complaining. Sensei believes that they are not the right teacher for me, and while I’m not sure I agree, I see the point. Sensei teaches out of yookoso and the kanken books, and those are completely useless to me. I’ve been trying to make it work, and quite frankly, it hasn’t been working. Sensei is perhaps wiser than I in opening the conversation where I would have kept pushing.

But why isn’t it working? I think it’s because I’ve been learning words, and grammar points, and all sorts of interesting ways to put different Japanese things together – but I don’t understand how it works, and sensei is absolutely right that they are not the right person to do a deep dive into that. I want to understand why the rules are what they are, how they came to be what they are, to take Japanese down to its component parts and put it back together again. Almost everything that’s really useful I have not learned from sensei. It’s not sensei’s fault! It’s just that there’s a way one teaches, and a way one learns, and sometimes they don’t match.

For example, I found a book today called “unlocking Japanese”, and it taught me far more than I’ve learned before, because of two things. First, it went into the “why”, and second and far more important, it went into how thinking about Japanese from an English perspective doesn’t really work. Oh, sure, you gotta bootstrap into it, but you can’t think in Japanese when you don’t even have the right words for the functioning of parts of speech!

For example, it taught me what the function of “ga” is, and why it is the most important particle – and the particle without which any sentence cannot exist, even if it’s not actually in the sentence. Who would have taught me that? No one has, I guess. Not anyone’s fault. It’s just, this is how I learn.

So I need to rethink whether I want to continue with Japanese. I think the answer is yes. But I also think I want to dig deep and figure out why things are the way they are. Why are kanji structured like they are? Why do some adjectives have the sounds that they have? So many questions that no one has yet answered.

Will this blog go back on the rails? I dunno. Maybe. Maybe not. But I will post about interesting things I find. About Japanese, and otherwise.

Guilt

Somewhere around 25 years ago, in a college somewhere in the American Midwest, I sat on a hideously yellow or orange sofa in the middle of a Performing Arts building. I was approached by an American Indian/Native American/First Nation/Whatever They Call Themselves Now person asking me to donate to some cause for American Indian rights, or some such. He tried to play the guilt card, about how his people have historically been oppressed.

Let me stop right here and say: they have. That’s really not in doubt, and not going to be the point of this post. I’m going somewhere else with this.

I told him, basically, “So what am I supposed to do about it? I didn’t do anything to you!”

He was pretty clearly offended by that, but I didn’t care. Both statements were true. His people have been historically oppressed, and I didn’t do it.

Now, 25 years later, they would probably call that “white privilege” or something else nonsensical and try to make me feel guilty. I’d certainly have been called to task by a “Bias Response Team” and forced to write a “sincere” apology. Which, of course, I wouldn’t do.

But I don’t. I don’t at all feel guilty. I’m not actively oppressing anyone, I have no desire to actively oppress anyone, and I utterly refuse to allow someone to make me feel guilty for something I haven’t done. I understand that some people will say “but you’re an oppressor just for being <insert race/religion/sexual orientation/planetary citizenship here>” – I reject that, and that’s all there is to say about that.

The Japanese people have done some really horrid things in their recent past. You’ve got the conquering of Korea, the Nanjing Massacre, the War of the Pacific, Pearl Harbor, etc. The Imperial army was feared for their cruelty.

And they no longer exist. They haven’t for years. Nearly all of them are dead. Their children have no memory of those days. Anyone who does is at least seventy years old.

Should they feel guilty?

I can’t answer that. I’m not Japanese. But I don’t think I would. After all, I had nothing to do with it, and I’m not responsible for what my ancestors did. At some point you just have to kind of let it go, accept that where things are is where things are, and move forward without either guilt or recrimination. Forgiveness is one thing when it’s directed at someone who did something to you. But it costs little to nothing if it’s directed at someone who didn’t.

Speaking Ill of the Dead

Today, a broadcasting great, Rush Limbaugh, has died at 70 of Lung cancer.

Plenty will have been said of Mr. Limbaugh’s accomplishments, and they are many. Whether or not you agree with them, it’s impossible to overstate his achievements in the shaping of conservative thought over forty years. I agreed on some things, disagreed on others. But I think I will let others write an obituary. There will be many who will do a better job than I.

I want to, instead, call out the atrocious behavior of people who think they are “woke”.

Now, personally, I think it is one thing to think that the world is better off without someone. I feel this way about most of our political “leaders” in office right now, and quite a few “world leaders” too. If they were to be “removed from the playing field”, shall we say, I would not shed a tear. I would think “well, the world is, frankly, better off”, think about how their absence would change the playing field, and otherwise spare no thought to them. That, I think, is healthy, or at least, not particularly toxic. If someone thinks the world is better off without Limbaugh, I disagree vehemently, but I can’t argue, because I understand the sentiment about others. I don’t celebrate death, even the death of my “enemies,” but I can acknowledge how I feel about them.

But people are celebrating.

The celebration of the death of anyone is evil.

I don’t care what you think Mr. Limbaugh did or stood for (you’re likely wrong, but don’t let facts get in the way, lefties!). I don’t even care what damage you think was caused to the world. If you can’t come up with enough human decency to recognize that a man died, then you’re at least the scum you think you’re celebrating.

If you are celebrating his death- or the death of anyone else, shut the hell up, go sit in a corner, and think about what kind of person you’ve become. Don’t call yourself “woke”, don’t call yourself “enlightened”, don’t think you’re better than anyone else, because the truth is, what you are, is so blinded by your own hate you can even see how blind you are. There’s a reason, in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the townspeople were blinded, and they never even noticed.

When you cannot notice your own blindness, that’s when destruction is rained down from the heavens. And you won’t see it coming.

Don’t celebrate death. It’s beneath you, its bad form, and worse, it’s just evil.

Texas: Living in the Third World

Over the past few days, Texas has encountered a cold snap the likes of which we haven’t seen in a century. Last night we got down to 2 degrees, the all time record in Austin is -2. The roads are pretty much impassable, and everything has been shut down for a couple of days.

Power here has been nonexistent. For some reason the power grid has pretty much collapsed. I have been without power for 18 hours now and some for much longer. In fact, four million people are currently without power and that number is growing. This is because the generators couldn’t handle the cold and tripped off, wind generators froze, solar panels were covered with snow… all things that could have at last partly been addressed with preventative maintenance and even a minimum of disaster planning.

And yet we didn’t. Texas is a third world state, and I cannot begin to express how annoyed and disappointed in our “leaders” I am that this was not planned for. Just because something happens rarely doesn’t mean it won’t at some future time. This has happened before, there were recommendations made, and they weren’t followed.

If heads don’t roll and the state doesn’t take steps immediately to make sure this never happens again, I am going to be very angry, and I will make that anger known in every political way I possibly can until their feet are held to the fire and something gets done. I don’t ever want to experience anything like this again.

If Texas doesn’t want to be thought of as a third world country maybe they shouldn’t behave like one.

My Experience with Past-Life Regression

So, in the vein of what I had written earlier, I decided that I was going to try a past-life regression.

I found a practitioner here in Austin (who shall remain anonymous), and come the appointed day and time, I went to the office. I was sat down and started the process to get me in a hypnotic trance.

Honestly, It really didn’t work.

I could visualize what she was saying, but I never actually fully relaxed, my conscious mind never disengaged. Finally, though, we started on the actual regression.

In the beginning, I saw nothing. She started by asking me what the area around me looked like. I couldn’t see it, but I felt like there was an appropriate answer, and I gave it to her. It wasn’t fully formed – it built itself up into a rather interesting story. I was a native American girl in the 1850s or so that lost a child.

Even as we were going through the process – which was actually emotional at times – I wasn’t entirely sure if I was making it up or not. Some answers seemed more right than others, and we went with that, and slowly the narrative built.

After we were done, I had much to think about. My therapist assured me that it seemed to be legit, but I’m still not entirely sure about that. I’m not sure it wasn’t, but I’m not sure it was, either.

The first thing to think about is – it really is a mind-f**k to even contemplate the idea that I, as a soul, was actually at one time a bona fide woman. It’s like it’s another part of me that, while it isn’t a part of me, kind of is, and it really messes with the head. It really is interesting to ponder.

The second thing to think about is – I’m still not sure if it’s legitimate or not. I felt more like my brain was building a scenario that it needed to build – and it was actually a useful scenario to work things through emotionally, so I’m not saying it was wasted – but it didn’t feel natural. It felt like a construct.

The third thing to think about is – whether my mind constructed the scenario or it was an actual past life, it was the absolute last thing I would have come up with. If I were to actually have constructed something consciously, it probably would have been Japan or something else really cool. Just an everyday native American girl undergoing a traumatic experience would not have been my first, second, third, or fifteenth choice.

So my verdict is: the meditations are real. The process is a gateway to allowing the mind to either construct or experience scenarios that help in healing. But which was it? Right now, I have no idea. I’ll have to try again another time, and hope to get a bit more useful data.

Why I’m learning Japanese

I have mentioned several times on this blog that Ihave no idea why I’m studying Japanese. Well, dear reader, I’ve figured it out. And I may quit.

My mother tells me that from a very early age I loved learning. And Iguess that’s true. But there’s something else I’ve also loved, and that’s collecting. I don’t know why, but from a very early age, I’ve liked collecting things. I never had anything good to collect, so I just ended up collecting random, stupid things. Things that a child with little money might collect.

But as I grew older, I began to collect knowledge. Not knowledge I could use, but knowledge for the sake of knowledge. I learned the periodic table at age 9, but for no real reason, just to say I knew it. I learned about electronics, whatever. If there was something that I could know, then I learned it. Because I could.

This got me through school, actually, but it blew apart in college, because my choice of major was stupid. I tried to study music. And the simple fact is, you cannot collect knowledge in music and succeed. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there’s much to learn about music, and much knowledge to collect, but you can’t really do much with it. It is an experiential thing, and all the knowledge that one can collect means little in the face of even a little experience. Or lack thereof.

So here are the facts: I started learning Japanese for no reason I could figure out. I have little interest in conversing with Japanese people. I have little interest in Japanese media or culture. I have little interest in travelling to Japan. I would say that I was learning Japanese because I could.

But that’s not quite right. I found some knowledge I didn’t have to collect, and I started collecting it. And that is the sole reason I have been learning Japanese.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. There have been a few minor benefits. I can understand some Japanese things I couldn’t before. I’ve grown to like some Japanese food I didn’t think I would like. I can consume the small amount of Japanese language media I like without needing a translation. All of these things are good.

But they’re not why I started learning. They’re not why I continue learning. And quite frankly, they’re not a good reason to continue. It is no more healthy to be a knowledge hoarder than it is to hoard more material things, for it’s pretty much the same compulsion, after all.

I haven’t decided what to do. But I very well may end up making this blog “Gaijin Who Tried to Learn Japanese – and Failed.”

But. I will say so if I do. Not giving up quite yet.

Metablogging

There are times when I hate writing this blog.

No, I like to write, that’s not the problem. In fact, I have probably a half dozen drafts sitting in the “draft” section that may never see the light of day. Some are pretty deep, some are pretty personal, some just aren’t the kind of quality I want. I write them, then I look at them, I click the “save draft” button, and you’ll probably never see them.

The honest truth is, I want to share them. I really do. I started writing a post this morning on a pretty deep philosophical subject, and I, at least, find it interesting. But who else does, really? In fact, all it dose it cause strife. I posted a metaphysical, philosophical thought to my Facebook page, and someone I know got offended at what I was writing because they missed the point. It triggered some kind of emotional reaction, and at that point, I promised myself and my Facebook friends they would never see another metaphysical post from me. And they haven’t. Now it’s pictures of food, pictures of my cat, funny things that happened to me, and it’s… cheaper, now. I’ve been censored, even if it’s just me censoring myself, because my thoughts are too weird, too strange, too different, too deep for people whom I otherwise consider friends to understand.

I want to share it. I want to tell y’all how I feel about some pretty deep topics, some that might make you uncomfortable, some that might even hurt. But why do that, when experience tells me very few will even understand, or not see the heart beyond what I’m saying, not see the hope I’m trying, and failing, to offer?

No, better posting about some obscure aspect of Japanese culture that is only marginally interesting to me but that others eat up.

I did this to myself. I always do this to myself. I try to create a themed blog that talks about a specific topic, and I never want to keep to that topic, because that topic starts out interesting and leads to other topics, that leads to other topics, and then I’m talking about metaphysical stuff that I find fascinating and others… well, it’s like that scene from “Back to the Future” where Marty’s shredding on the guitar and all the 1950s teens are just staring at him like he grew a second head. “Your kids are gonna LOVE this”. I can’t keep a themed blog. I just can’t. I’ve tried, but I can’t. My thoughts are too varied.

I don’t know what to do. I really don’t. I know this is my blog, I know I can post what I want, and I know I can pull the trigger on several drafts and let the chips fall where they may. But what’s the point, if all it ever does is cause consternation?

You know the worst part? I’m going to tag this “blogging” and probably get ten new followers. And the way WordPress works, I have no idea if they’ve even read it. Maybe I’ll just write a book and say screw this.

Biden: My President, Not My Leader

As you know, sometimes I post about political things on this blog. I do not make a habit of it, as it is generally not an appropriate topic. However, it’s my blog, and I try to bring the “whole person” here, so if you don’t like it, please, skip this entry with my blessing. It will be the last one for a while, because after tomorrow, I plan on pretty much ignoring it all until midterms.

So, as I posted earlier, I voted for Donald Trump. Let’s discuss the elephant in the room first. No, I don’t condone what happened on Jan. 6. Yes, I understand the frustration that boiled over on Jan. 6. No, I do not believe Trump incited the events of Jan. 6. I want to make these three statements to get it out of the way – this has nothing to do with Jan. 6., and I plan to make the rest of this post as if it had not happened.

I voted for Donald Trump. I was sad that he lost. I do not believe he lost fairly, but so much was stacked against him from so many different sources that the outcome was pretty much foregone. I do not believe he is perfect, and in fact, I believe he made a critical error, one that cost him the election. He has so much hubris that he just walks into traps over and over again and then wonders what happens when they (figuratively, of course) blow up in his face. This is a serious character flaw, and has actually cost him any future vote from me. I’m saying this because there is a certain brand of “Trump Supporter” out there who treats him very much like the second coming of Jesus, and I want to make clear that that is not me.

Now that we have all this out of the way, I want to speak about Biden. Biden is, in my opinion, wholly unfit for office. He has shown signs of dementia, and dementia only gets worse. He managed to use COVID in order to basically hide in a basement and let Trump shoot himself in the foot (which he, unfortunately, did repeatedly). His Vice President, Kamala Harris, is one of the most dangerous people who could ever hold high office – she is inexperienced, radical left, and kind of “got in through the back door” (And I’m not talking about Willie Brown).

But, as much as I don’t like these people, they were, fairly or unfairly, elected, and they will take the oath of office tomorrow. That, unfortunately, makes them my President and Vice President. I am not going to be one of those people who says “Not My President” – as long as I am a citizen of the US, whomever is elected will be my President. I pray they make good choices, though I fear they will make the opposite of good choices. In fact, that appears to be a foregone conclusion. Nonetheless, out of respect for my country, I hope for the best.

That said, though, neither of them will ever be my leader.

See, I don’t really get to choose who is elected. I mean, I kind of do, as I have a vote, and that is a way of adding my voice to the choice of who is elected, but I really don’t. But I do get to choose whom I follow. And there is absolutely nothing Biden can say or do that will ever convince me that he is a leader worthy of following. I am absolutely unconcerned about what he tells me I need to do, think, say, feel, etc. If a law is passed and he signs it, well, that I have to respect, but anything else, well, I’m just going to do my own thing, completely unconcerned with his opinions. If it has no force of law, I don’t care. At all. As far as I’m concerned, he’s utterly useless as a leader, and, well, there’s no point in trying to squeeze blood from a turnip.

He is not my leader, and I will not follow.

Now, let me soften this just a little bit – I kind of felt the same about Donald Trump. But at least he was intelligent and had good policies. Biden doesn’t even have that.

Let us hope, in four years, that we’ve figured out our voting issues (of which we have yet to truly understand exactly what happened, and apparently deliberately so) and we can vote in someone who I will be willing to call “leader”. Or at least not call “Dementia-Patient-In-Chief” and “Henchwoman”.

And that is my last political post, hopefully for the next two years or so. I can’t think of anything that will happen between now and than that will be worthy to post about. Democrats do stupid stuff. Republicans bow and scrape, country gets more divided and more authoritarian, yadda yadda yadda. It’s all predictable, and there’s really no point in trying to be a pundit about it.

Now back to our regularly scheduled ramblings about things that aren’t politics.

This post may be removed. May not, but who knows. If so, I will have this entire blog back online on a self-hosted site very quickly. So I’m really not concerned by that. But who knows anymore.

Is My Past Life Japanese?

I feel like I should post something – it’s not a pressure, really, but just a kind of nudge. But I don’t know what. So I’m just going to write a stream of consciousness post tonight and see what comes out of it. Maybe it’ll even be good.

I am… not sure what I believe on many different topics. I am a Christian in the sense that I believe Jesus died and rose from the dead and is now King – I’ve seen too much firsthand evidence to doubt that. But there are many other things that come with that, that I’m far less sure of. Many Christians are very sure of many doctrinal things – such as hell – that I’m far, far less sure of. For the most part, I feel that believing that Jesus died, rose from the dead, and lives now as King is sufficient, and the rest of it is just stuff that can be explored.

Many Christians will tell you that they do not believe in reincarnation. I am really not so sure of that. In fact, I’m kind of thinking that there is reincarnation. And I think, in my last past life, I was Japanese.

The thing about life is this: If there is no reincarnation, then life is stupid. I mean, some people are born into great circumstances and have a wonderful life with loving parents and much success. And others are born into squalor, with abusive parents, etc. And some are even aborted. What of the aborted children? Is that the only life they get, and they’re not even allowed to make it out of the womb? What kind of unfairness is that? About the only thing that could be said to be good about that is that at least the aborted babies haven’t had a chance to sin, per standard Christian doctrine. Though given “original sin”, I guess that matters. Either way, it’s a really bum deal.

(And if you want to start arguing with me about abortion, spare me. Number one, that’s not the point, and number two, I don’t want to hear it.)

I’m also told that I was born with some very specific personality characteristics, as well. My mother tells me that from birth, I loved to learn and I had a very strong will. These things haven’t really changed. So to me, this is a kind of evidence that I had characteristics that kind of predated this body – they didn’t develop but were already extant.

So this would explain some things that have been really kind of confusing me. Why do I seem to have such an attraction to Japanese language and culture? Why does Japan seem so much like home, even though it really isn’t? And what about me is me and what about me is my body? Because if I were to accept the thesis of reincarnation, I must also accept the thesis that there are two separate parts of me – one being my body, and one being… something else.

My body is… a rather basic thing, to be honest. It doesn’t really want a whole lot. It wants food, water, shelter, to be somewhat comfortable… it wants to be exercised, and it wants a female. That’s really all my body, such as it is, really wants.

The funny thing is, my body and I actually fight. It wants to be exercised and I hate exercising. It wants a female and I really want nothing to do with providing it with one (it’s just too much trouble). It wants food that tastes good, and I… well, we’re kind of in agreement there, honestly. But the point is that my body has its own desires, that don’t always meet up with my desires. They’re sometimes – often – quite different. In order to interact with this world in any meaningful way, I need my body, but when all is said and done, it’s disposable. I get a say in how long it lasts, but at the end of the day, it will die.

But will I?

Assuming my suspicions are correct, I left my previous life behind when I died the last time. There may be a grave somewhere in Japan, with my previous body. Did I have a family that loved me? Did I have a family that I loved? What was my life like? Was I a survivor of the atomic bombs in Nagasaki or Hiroshima? Many questions that, frankly, really aren’t all that worth pursuing. After all, there’s a reason we forget and start over, right?

But something made me how I am. And I don’t think it was entirely in this life.

Regardless, it is a really… odd… feeling. To identify with something so closely when there’s no rational reason to and when any ties that I might have had to it are, for all intents and purposes, entirely severed. But apparently not. Because something seems to have survived. After all, my previous body is in a grave and I have no more claim to it, or the life that was left behind.

But no other country calls to me in the same way. It’s disconcerting. I wish I understood.

Jealousy

I think in this world we have a kind of mental illness – or at least a misunderstanding about how it works to be a human. We find ourselves wanting to be something, and rather than trying to understand why it is we want to be that thing in the first pace, we just immediately try to become it, thinking that’ll make us happy. Honestly, I suspect most of the time it won’t, especially when it’s something that’s not fully (or even a little bit, in some cases) achievable.

This is, in my opinion, at the root of most of the western tendency to become “weeaboo”, which is a generically derisive term for someone who is unhealthily in love with all things Japanese. And as derisive as I am to the concept, it’s something I entirely understand. Because, while I am careful to keep these tendencies in their proper place, I most certainly share them to some degree.

I’m going to tell you something that may make you laugh at me. But hear me out.

I’m a middle aged guy living in Texas, and I’m very jealous of female Japanese idols. If I were to come back in another life, I wish I could be one.

This isn’t because I have any particular confusion about my gender – I don’t. I am what I am and I’m okay with that. To be quite frank, even if I did have some confusion about my gender, I wouldn’t do anything about it. My chromosomes are what they are, and trying to fight against that would be more trouble than it was worth. I’d just try to come to come to peace with it with a lot of therapy and move on. If you think that’s anything-phobic, that’s your problem. That’s how I choose to live my life, and if you don’t like it, there’s the door.

No, I’m jealous of them because they seem to have so much fun.

I’m a realistic person. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know this about me. I know very well that when the cameras come off, they have the same kinds of problems as everyone else. They work hard, many of them aren’t paid all that well, and I’m only seeing a curated view of what their life is like.

But they seem to, pardon the expression, have life by the balls. They are always so happy and cheerful, they seem to always wear fashionable clothes and are happy wandering around Tokyo, etc., doing fun things and eating good food. They really do seem to thrive.

And that’s really what I’m jealous of.

I remember being a child. For a while, I had that “have life by the balls” kind of attitude, whether I did or not, and then in my early teenage years that was all ripped from me. They really, genuinely, don’t seem to have a care in the world. And I wish someday, somehow, I could find a way to get that back.

But innocence, once taken, can never be given back.

Sometimes I watch the DVD disk 2 of Morning Musume visiting Houston. I don’t understand everything they’re saying – in fact, I understand little of it, though that’s growing. But what I am always struck by is how much fun they’re having. The first ten minutes of the video, they’re just saying, over and over, “Houston! Houston! Houston!” in different tones of voice. One says “I want to be an American!” They go shopping and have a smashing time. They go to a fair and have a smashing time. They eat dinner and have a smashing time. They go to the space museum and have a smashing time.

And I… well, my life is pretty much the exact opposite of that, and has been since I was twelve.

I’m jealous of teenage female Japanese idols, and there’s no way that can be a healthy thing. I guess it’s one of those things I have to figure out.