Hiking Japan: Living Journal Nature Tokyo Walking

Walking in the Snow

Takao snow tunnel
End of the trail on Mount Takao just outside Tokyo proper. First snowfall of the winter on New Year’s Eve. A delightful good bye to a heavy year

I hadn’t expected to walk in the snow, but already the first flurries batted at the nylon face of my jacket when I stepped out of the train station. I had left my house in a rush, deciding on the spur of the moment to just get out and try to clear my head. I had had an argument with someone close the night before and hadn’t slept, still clenched tight with conflicting thoughts, and still resentful for all the days of arguing having eaten away the bulk of my ten-day winter vacation. Now the last few days of the vacation left me with few alternatives but jaunts into neighboring, uninspiring molehills. I didn’t expect Takao to offer much more than an exercise routine.

Few other people headed up the road toward the base of the mountain, where Takao Temple and the cable car awaited thousands of weekend daytrippers from the city. It being December 31st the whole country was in hometown migration mode, everyone getting ready for the solemn New Year’s celebration with family and friends. An old man in black tights and cross-country running shoes jogged past, just down from the mountain. Several other hikers in traditional heavy leather boots, spats, and Gore-tex rain jackets came lumbering past, looking beat. I strode past lightly in my own black tights, approach shoes, and daypack, still groggy, though, and a bit woozy in the head from lack of sleep. My digital camera was out, ready for shots, but images didn’t form in my eyes as I scanned the trail ahead. Voices continued to whisper at the verges of awareness, like birds flicking out of sight in the bushes.

And birds there were, mostly just heard, but occasionally giving themselves away when they tossed forest duff aside in their search for insects. They were hardy little fists of gray and russet feathers called Gray Buntings that forayed in hunting parties through the underbrush and dashed through old leaves like adzes. Here and there their fluting calls echoed through the ravine and the fluting mingled with the chuckle and gurgling of the creek running through the growing blanket of snow. Besides the water and bird calls the only sounds I could hear were the creaking of my shoe soles on the dry snow and the brush of snow falling against my jacket.

My eyes only held fleeting moments of potential contemplation before the thoughts slipped away again and the acuity of vision blurred into dark thoughts inside. Part of it was the hurried breakfast this morning, with too much sugar railroading through my arteries up into my eyes, the diabetic poison dulling perception of the world around me. It was like pushing through cotton and no amount of waving my hands could clear the cobwebs that stretched across my face with each step I took. Trapped in ambiguity I struggled for breath, to feel in focus with the trees and biting air and blue scent of snow. The anger nearly ripped out of me again when I tripped over a a root.

I put my hand out to stop my fall and felt dry bark. I looked up and saw the tree, a huge, heavy-footed, giant of a cedar, descending from the white sky down to the black earth in one, leathery, ponderous boot of trunk, like a pole of heaven. Without a sound it boomed down at me, a lord to a paean, admonishing without spelling out a single word of disapproval. It just simply stood there, not even swaying up there in the air. And for some reason I woke, right then and there. All the anxiety of the past few days washed away, my heartbeat slipped into the background, and it was just me and my breath, spilling unclothed into the air.

I took a deep breath and started walking again. Photographs rearranged themselves in my head and soon I couldn’t get enough out of each step, picture after picture crowding the rooms until soon I was barely crawling up the mountainside, camera in hand, and light and shadows reforming into ever more enticing compositions.

I was deep into trying to find the right angle and exposure for one picture of snow balanced on some branches when a soft, male voice greeted me from behind.

“Good afternoon! It really feels good, doesn’t it?”

I turned and faced a suntanned man about my age, smiling as if he had just conversed with the face of the sublime. I smiled back. His voice was just the timbre for this silent place and moment.

“Yes, it certainly does. It’s so quiet,” I responded.

He laughed. “Ah, yes, a rare moment on Takao. I’m so happy I came today.”

“Are you going to the top?”

“Yes.” He paused to contemplate the scene of which I was taking the photograph. “Please enjoy your walk. And please take care in the snow.”

“You, too.”

And he was off, crunching up the trail, snow enveloping him in its veils.

Though I was out of shape the walking felt more like a distant decision between two lovers, an effortless sliding between covers. I took the stairs that I usually hated climbing so much as a simple spell of slides in a visual display. The white of the snow obscured all the familiar landmarks and muffled the usual hard edges between remnants of wilderness and human superabundance. For these few hours the edge of Tokyo was untamed and remote, a familiar world made lost and irrelevant.

As mountains go, Takao is but a pimple among rashes, and so reaching the top as I have so many times would normally elicit no fanfare, but today it was different. The trail left off on an asphalt road which came to a stop in the open stillness of the summit. The snow had discourage the crowds and now the open top lay white and pristine. A natural history museum, several restaurants, and some temporary booths set up for tomorrow’s New Year sunrise celebration all sat in silence today, waiting. I kicked through the shin deep snow cover to one of the covered sitting areas, donned one more jacket to keep in the warmth as I sat down, and prepared to eat lunch. Three other people huddled on the other benches, a Chinese couple heating up instant ramen over a cartridge stove and a lone man eating his lunch out of a thermos. I ripped open the curry rice package and, with bared fingers, shoveled the near-frozen food into my mouth. I took sips of hot milk tea from my thermos, but it was hard to hold the stainless steel cup in the frigid air. Most of the meal consisted of a series of stops and goes as I took bites of the curry then slipped my hands into my gloves to warm them up again.

In spite of this a light had gone on inside me and I kept turning around in my seat eager to look at the new things the snow was trying to show me. A bench on the windward side of the shelter had upheld a bank of snow that almost blocked the view north. The oak trees surrounding the clearing kept dumping sprays of powder snow that drifted across the open space, like smoke. The cold seemed to hold everything in a breathless trance, as if all the plants and wood and rocks were somehow surprised by this unusual display.

Eager to be off I packed away the garbage, drank a last sip of the tea, and set off through the untouched snow going south. A rope had been suspended between the trees at the head of the south trail going back to the bottom of the mountain, in an effort to control the hordes of people preparing to come tomorrow.”Danger! Be careful of the steep slope!” the sign read. I had to laugh. For someone who had walked the Takao trail twice at night because it was so easy to follow, the warning was a joke. Most people who came to Takao for New Years had never climbed alpine mountains or gone snowshoeing among the snowdrifts so the precaution made sense, but I had followed this trail more than twenty times and it certainly posed no risk, even with the low cut shoes I wore. Another set of tracks passed through the rope barrier and I followed them down the slope.

From here it was like dancing. My camera was out at every step, it seemed. Bamboograss bending under loads of snow. Cypress needles variegated with textures of snow trim. Slivers of grass slicing through the whiteness like green knives. Small icicles dripping from the biceps of beech trees. Intricate webs of snow-crusted twigs interlacing all around the trail, diverting the light like a single-hued kaleidoscope, all the while tinkling and sprinkling with a myriad of dry snowflakes. I pranced through this like a five year old boy, singing as I went along and not caring that I almost couldn’t feel my fingers as I snapped shot after shot after shot.

Halfway down the trail, after having been showered by a whole load of snow suddenly released from above, I came across a single, bright, lime green speck amidst all the white of the branches. Almost at eye level I discovered a moth’s crysalis, in which a relative of the giant American Cecropia moth slept. It’s green was like the promise of new leaves in spring and completely out of place amidst the snow. Without eyes, it seemed more like an aberrant leaf than a silk sleeping bag, but the pupa lay within, mixing primordial ingredients. I snapped pictures of this, too, holding my breath as long as I could to keep from disturbing the fragile life within.

I danced further down the mountain. What normally would take only about two hours to walk, took me over six hours as I skipped back and forth, kneeling in the snow, peering under dried out ferns, nosing into the crooks of tree trunks. And I came to the viewing point which looked out over Tokyo which, on moonlit nights, lets you gaze out over the entire vast brooch of Tokyo, its lights glistening as far as you can see. Today there was a white curtain in place, no horizon in evidence, not even the base of the mountain visible. The snow fell here as a single, slowly descending waterfall of white noise, blocking all recognition of earlier passages. I stood a long time at the lip of the cliff, brooding. The head of a foothill across the ravine kept slipping in and out of view, like woman behind a fan. I could almost hear the Snow Queen tittering.

Darkness bled the scenery of white and blue seeped into everything. Trees turned aquamarine, then indigo, holding very still as the night undressed them. It was like wandering through a backstage dressing room, frills and petticoats and white dresses falling away to reveal the black tights beneath. I passed a tiny shine protected by two stone fox deities, behind which a blonde-haired North American woman (North American because she was wearing L.L. Bean duck boots) laughed to herself as she built a life-sized snowman with long, lithe limbs. I passed another little old woman, puffing up the final steps, probably preparing for a New Year’s Eve night hike, taking a step ahead of the coming crowds.

I reached the bottom of the mountain and found a different town from the one I had ascended from earlier in the day. It was like something out of the north, old tiled roofs laden with snow, lanterns glowing under the ancient cedars, smoke from the restaurants billowing above the streets. Not like a tourist town at all. The air seemed to taste blue with evening. And the warm gold in the windows welcomed those out in the cold to step in for a cup of tea. I lingered here until the darkness swallowed all that was visible away from the lanterns. Then it was time to snap out of the spell and blink again under the fluorescent lights of the train station.

I stomped the snow off my shoes and pants and, dripping, made my way up to the waiting train. For a moment the mountains behind the town stood above the scene, indifferent. Then the train doors hissed shut and with a jerk I was carried away from what must surely have been a reverie. I held on to the trails of bitter air and light that clung to my jacket, all the way home. And I promised myself mountains for the year ahead.

Iraq War Japan: Society Journal Society

Remorse, Heroism, and Shame

Last night, while taking a break from design work, I turned on the TV to watch the news. Japan’s prime minister Koizumi had just stepped into a press conference to make a statement about the recently returned hostages. In essence this is what he said:

“Well, it’s good to know that they have returned home safely. Now I think they should take the time to reflect on the great effort that went into [saving] them.”

It is a seemingly innocent statement, but according to the mores of Japanese understatement Koizumi was actually publicly reprimanding the hostages for causing both “meiwaku” (being inconsiderate of others… something that carries great weight in Japan) and “haji” (shame, loss of face) to the world. That he took the time to actually say this on TV means great humiliation for the hostages, both publicly and privately. For three individuals to have caused an entire nation unused to public displays of emotion to stumble into a heated debate about the legitimacy of the present government’s policies and actions, nearly toppling Koizumi from power, leaves a bitter aftertaste for many people here, and the consequences for the hostages has been harsh. According to the therapist who examined them upon return, their stress levels now are higher than when they were being threatened with death in Iraq. In addition, each hostage must pay ¥600,000 (nearly $6,000) in reparations to the government.

Koizumi wasn’t going to let go of this opportunity to punish those who nearly cost him his leadership of the country.

I’ve been fuming about the backlash against the hostages since I first started hearing the news bash them. (I first got wind of this news through Setsunai’s post at On Gaien Higashi Dori) But since it was only on the news that I heard all this, I decided to wait and talk to some people. In my English class this evening I asked my group of four students what they thought. I was shocked that basically they all agreed with Koizumi and the press, saying that all the hostages had been warned before they left for Iraq that Iraq was dangerous. The students felt that the hostages had only thought about themselves and had disregarded the feelings of their families, the awkward positions that they had put Japanese diplomats and politicians in, and the reasons why the Self Defense Force had been sent to Iraq in the first place. Most of them agreed that the intentions of the hostages were in themselves good, but misguided.

I pointed out to them that Koizumi was the one who had put Japanese people in Iraq in danger by presuming to send the Self Defense Force in the first place (against the wishes of nearly 90% of the populace) and thus angering the Iraqi people. I reasoned that the one who had been inconsiderate and caused loss of face for the Japanese people was therefore Koizumi, not the hostages.

My students met me halfway and I tried to meet them halfway, too, but I still cannot quite fathom the reasoning. I feel it reflects much of the Japanese reluctance to truly take responsibility for anything or any one other than themselves, often in public here, and more than often on the international stage. To me the shame they profess reflects a kind of selfishness stoked by a constant desire to always look good in the eyes of others, lashing out when their image is distorted. It is the same thing that caused the Japanese government to refuse the entry of the Doctors Without Frontiers rescue organization during the Kobe earthquake and the help of the American air force when a commercial jet crashed in a remote area of the mountains about ten years ago.

Susan of A Line Cast, A Hope Followed wrote me this e-mail:

I wanted to ask you to help me understand and be more compassionate about something going on in Japan right now.  I don’t see how it really is, I just read a news story here and there, and have no perspective, but it really disturbs me.
It sounds like the Japanese captives in Iraq who were released and returned home are the victims of terrible scorn there.  To an American pacifist, it appears that their very compassionate and courageous actions are viewed as a huge disgrace to Japanese people and that they’ve been accused of being selfish and disrespectful.  I guess that to me, the basic human desire to help those in need seems totally the opposite.  On the other hand, I was the first to condemn the young Seattle father who died some years back on Everest, putting his own needs over those of his family.  I guess in general, I’m perplexed and worried, that those four people have been through hell, and yet seem to be returning to a hell worse than the one they left. 
Do you have any thoughts you can share that would put this into a different light for me?  Am I on the right track with the climber analogy?  What will happen over time with these folks?  Will they be ostracized?  Eventually reintegrated?  Or is this another media exaggeration?
Thanks so much. 
Your fellow former Eugenian, Susan-san

It seems the news of the treatment of the hostages has gone worldwide. And without understanding how Japanese society works their treatment must seem bizarre and cruel. I’m not sure it is out of cruelty that the Japanese are reacting this way… in great part it is a reaction to having been exposed so starkly in the international media (Japanese are a people who in general shun the limelight) and to the sense of anger that people anywhere often feel after having been greatly frightened. If the hostages had actually been killed, I don’t know what would have happened in Japan. Something unspoken would have snapped.

I’m sure the hostages will be fine, especially after the ravenous Japanese media settles down.

There have been other reactions to the wars right now that have bothered me, too. Denny, from Book of Life and Beth at Cassandra Pages, both of whom I respect deeply and whose blogs I read religiously every day, recently wrote about the death of the American soldier Pat Tilman. I very much sympathize with and understand the sorrow and pain people feel over his death. Like Beth I protest against war not because of the ridiculous politics involved but because people are killed. Whether those people are soldiers or little children or arrogant leaders, every death that war brings is a sorrow that cannot be unmade. And Pat Tilman’s death is an utter tragedy.

But so many of the stories from the news are cloaked, as always, in the myths of “heroism” and “doing great deeds for country” and the “selflessness of the young men and women who serve our country”. I’ve read and reread the words over and over again, trying to find in myself the empathy for such abstract and fervent emotions, but, perhaps because I am not an American citizen (though culturally, family-wise, and in spirit I am in great part American), I just can’t look at the photo of Pat Tilman and feel that he is anything other than a young man whose death will cause suffering for those who knew him and further paints the picture of the war in Afghanistan as nothing more than an arrogant and empty fiasco that the American government has all but forgotten. I cannot find it in myself to see him as a hero. I cannot see it in myself to see anyone as a “hero”.

Why do we never see photos of the selfless deeds of volunteers who risk their lives to save victims in wars, without weapons? Why do we not see photos and hear grief and praise for Palestinians who blow themselves up in the name of saving their land from invaders? After all, their slogans and songs of patriotism sound exactly like the support for Pat Tilman from above. Both are a little blind, both see violence and revenge and bloodshed as legitimate means to righting a wrong. And neither is aware of how one-sided their dogma appears to those who stand outside their sphere of dialogue.

This Iraq war is going to get worse, much worse, though I wish to mercy that I am wrong. If we don’t all start to introspect and rearrange our views of both ourselves and those with whom we share this one little world, learn to stop going blind at our borders, one day the whole stack of blocks will lose equilibrium. There are those who would say I am an alarmist, that the world is still going in spite of doom sayers, but already we have had two world wars. I listened to the stories my German grandfather and grandmother told me of what happened. Who’s to say it couldn’t happen again? The resemblance to the rising of the Nazis is chilling. But no, WE aren’t like that. WE would never do anything so evil. NEVER.

Update: The Independant: Japan’s hostages tell how they came home to scorn and shame. It’s a well-written article, though, with its comparison to American nationalism, I think it doesn’t portray the general atmosphere here. Few Japanese are speaking in terms of “support our boys”. They want the troops to come home.

Journal Musings

North Window

Ice Pickets
Ice formations along the banks of the Charles River, Boston, U.S.A., 1988


For the past three days, just as Beth expressed in her New Year’s Day post, I have been filled with a mingled deep calm and radiating joy that seemed to flow in when I opened the living room window on the morning of the 1st. A shock of cold air greeted my nose, but there was also a dalliance of sunlight that glinted off everything, but most especially from the branches of the magnolia tree where lately the white-eyes gather in their frenetic rest stops. I stepped out into the garden, with its dried leaves and clenched soil, and just stood there breathing deeply for about five minutes. Then I stepped back inside and swept about the apartment, throwing open all the windows, letting the morning breeze in, with its bite, and busying myself with dusting the corners. When all was done I settled by the north window in my bedroom and sat still.

It was something new, because just days before, after creating three days of window rattling racket, the neighbor right outside had demolished his work shed and moved out of the house. For the first time in three years the north was quiet, without a soul moving in the small garden that never received full sunlight. I read a bit of Thich Nhat Hahn’s book, “Anger”, which makes you stop often to ponder and to let things sink in. A jungle crow barked from a distant rooftop, its voice echoing through the morning. I took to peering at everything there, in the runners of the window sill, in the crannies of the lattice panel I had put over the window to block some of the sudden openness to prying eyes, in the sky, and just in my room. The sky was filled with hazy cumulonimbus clouds without definite form, glowing pink from the warming sun. Dozens of star-shaped spider webs dotted the lattice panel, hiding the eggcases beneath. A sweet- bitter smell of decaying leaves wafted in through from the living room, stirring up pangs of hunger. My breath dispelled before my face in shreds of white tissue, disappearing into thin air. Dew clung to the window pane like a silver constellation in reverse, the slate in white instead of black. A male gnat, with feathered antennae, crouched in the nook of the lattice wood, pinched close to the corner, hiding, waiting for the hand of winter to pass. And my tea and buttered toast smoked with warmth, fingering the moment as I sipped and chewed, simple sustenance. I closed my eyes for a moment and just let the stillness wash through, feeling the cleanliness of a hungry stomach and a mind cleared of noise. Here I am, I thought. Here I am.

This slow burning away of anticipation and anxiety, of just smiling without rancor or expectation, is exactly how I wanted this new year to begin. And how this greeting of myself, as the mirror swivels, would allow me to nod and remember what last year wrought from my heart. It is not anger or fists that I want or even need. It is this calm acceptance. Somewhere in the great mechanism a gear has shifted. And I would walk from such a dawn into the open, to find a tree somewhere and sit, waiting. To not disturb the surface with a flurry of excuses, no hand-tossed crumbs of complaint or outrage. Sit still, waiting. And let the trees teach me a thing or two about peace.

America: Society Iraq War Japan: Living Journal

Japan Joins the Insanity

Add another madman to the soup: Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan is now close to having his way of sending troops to Iraq, in spite of almost all Japanese citizens being against the move. If the Japanese think that the distant news of war is scary now, just wait until the troops start coming home in bodybags. The people’s silence until now will be too late then.

Kenzaburo Oe, the Nobel Prize winner for literature, writes: “I am an Angry Man”.

The Iraqi response to the Japanese government’s announcement about sending troops: Stay out!

Will this anger that I feel never lose nourishment? Why must there be a new source of stupidity and foolishness crawling out of the woodwork each and every day? Are there no leaders with wisdom and courage? Will there ever be a sense of people not letting things get so completely out of control?

Perhaps we all deserve this. When there is such a discrepancy between the haves and the have-nots, really we shouldn’t expect anything less than what is happening today. Serves us all right.

America: Society Iraq War Journal Musings

Moment of Silence

Nova Scotia Skiff
Moored skiff in a cove near Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, 1990.

I came across a post by Thomas of Pacific Tides about the state of the world today. While there have been thousands of posts concerning the war and the dying, something about Thomas’ post left me numb and so grieved that I almost broke down weeping. He sums up in such succinct and simple words the stupidity, futility, and sorrow of all that is going on that I couldn’t help but feel the weight of the last two years bearing down upon me. Thomas links to the Washington Post’s photo catalogue of American soldiers who have so far died in the ongoing war (what crassness to announce the war is over!). I took some time to gaze at a few close-ups of those mostly young faces and for many moments I felt lost and overwhelmed. Looking at them up close, with their smiles or brave seriousness, all the possibilities and reasons for being alive swept through my heart. They will never come back. They will never again feel the kisses of their loved ones. They will never more know the wind on their faces or the taste of a peach. They will never more hear their mother or father laugh, never sing a song or lie on a beach watching the stars. And what for? What for? There were Bush and Blair laughing ( laughing! ) while soldiers and civilians are dying. What the ……. for?

I put on David Wilcox’s Frozen In the Snow to try and ease the pain in my heart. Like waves on a quiet shore, the song rolling back over and over again, the sad words repeating. The memories of those I have never known bobbing like flowers in the wind. A lullaby to the dying and the dead.

I have always been fundamentally against militaries of any sort, anywhere. They represent to me the worst of human endeavors and the epitome of failed communication and thoughtlessness. People talk of violence and injustice toward women, but why do they turn away from the violence and injustice toward (mostly) young men? Why is it all right that young men are recruited, taught how to murder, and then sent out to be anonymously slaughtered? If, in the course of the nightmare, they come to feel that they must take their lives into their own hands and attempt to leave, they are chastised for being “cowards” and “dishonorable”. The law is set up to punish them, often with death. What is the difference from slavery? Always there is talk of “patriotism” and “for the homeland”, accompanied by strong emotions about who they are and what they are defending. And when they come home in body bags empty phrases repeated without any way to truly compensate for the loss. Mothers nodding to themselves that their sons died valorous in battle. Valorous.

And what of the “Enemy”? The countless thousands, who are painted as non-entities, mere shadows to release your weapons at. Where are the photo galleries of the Iraqis murdered? Will anyone ever take a moment for them? Give them faces? Comfort their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters?

They will never come back. Let us take a moment to let that sink in.

America: Society Iraq War Journal

Renewed Roar

Coup de Vent of London and the North will be attending a women’s silent vigil tomorrow night, in protest of Bush’s visit to Britain. After several months of disorientation and almost despair, the widening of the cracks in the American government’s confidence and the vindication of all the warnings and opposition to what Bush tried to force feed the world, it is both heartening and relieving to see. Those of us who argued against going to war, spelling out that what is happening now would happen, can really do nothing but shake our heads and mourn the loss of all those lives. In the case of Bush (and Blair) I hope world anger will rise like a tidal wave and utterly demolish him as a citizen anywhere. The world needs legitimacy and strength for the International Court… where, it would be hoped, Bush will be tried for crimes against humanity (but I have little hope of that).

For now, my heart and hopes hover among the people of Britain who oppose the war. They have, in spite of the waste and ludicrousness of Bush’s visit ( Privaleges and Priorities ) this unprecedented opportunity to finally help drive a stake into the heart of the awful state of affairs of these last three years. The anti-war voices may finally be rising above the noise. And there is no more need to scrape for the right words to counter those who frothed on about the need for war. The truth dragon wants out and there is no denying it when it shakes the earth.

May peace find its way into all our hearts and dwell in the very air we all breathe. Good will and good medicine.

Journal People

Piece of Cake

Sometimes I wonder about people’s ability to really empathize and understand other people, especially those whom they dislike or are fighting with. I read this article earlier ( Time To Do Away with the PA ) and, though it did make me angry, mainly it just made me shake my head. Is it really possible that this Mr. Levy can not see the lopsidedness of his view of the situation?

I wrote a letter back to him:

Dear Mr. Levy,

Perhaps you are right about the Palestinian, as you say, “Authority” needing to be done away with. But while the parties concerned are at it, why not also do away with the present Israeli “leadership”? That self-respect, personal sacrifice, and political audacity that you say would so become the Palestinians if they would only adopt it would work wonders on the other side, too.People who support Israel and attempt to include Palestinians in the equation so often use the argument that everyone would be better off if the Israelis were to take the reins. It completely ignores the very basis of the whole conflict: that both sides want to be recognized for their existence and for their legitimacy in the area. It is actually a completely silly conflict, just a bunch of hard-headed people refusing to simply accept one another.

I have another proposal, one which neither side would really like:

Why not get rid of both the Israeli and Palestinian states and create one new state, which is neither Israel nor Palestine but both, something new? Then neither side can claim to be fighting for or defending against some ideological fantasy. “Israel” and “Palestine” are just names. Are all those lives worth losing for the sake of these endlessly repeated names?

But of course, I’m just going to be declared “simple minded” and “naive”. Fighting over a who’s right or wrong, or whether my piece of the cake is bigger than yours never has been my forte. I always thought the cake was for everyone to share. That’s what always made the parties fun.

Miguel Arboleda
Tokyo, Japan

The thing to say here, every time is, “If only life were so simple.” Perhaps people should say, “If only we could see that life is so simple.” Really, what is so hard about the problem, other than enormous resentments and egos?

America: Society Iraq War Journal

Root Causes

What a bizarre little story (US military takes tough line against soldiers who wed Iraqis), and so telling of the very attitudes that would make two peoples take up arms against one another. Why not get married? What better ambassadors would either side have? (taking into account that such hasty marriages might be ill-advised from personal standpoints.) What could possibly show more humanity between two people than the possibility of their falling in love with each other? What could show more clearly that perhaps there really isn’t anything to all the claims on both sides that the other isn’t human?

A possible solution to all the strife between peoples around the world: mix up the cards till you can’t tell up from down, left from right. Blend the paints till there is nothing but uniform, well-baked brown. Lace the languages till tongues intertwine, slip into babble, and emerge a new, all-inclusive lingo. We will all be mutts, with one blue eye and one green.