Hi! Kohaku here. I hope everyone had a great week. Have you taken care of yourselves? There were many tragedies both natural and man-made… To all those around the world suffering from the effects of hurricanes/typhoons, our hearts and minds are with you. Everyone please stay updated on these events and make a donation to those currently in need. And to those on the front lines protesting for democracy and justice, stay strong. The world is watching.
I said last week that I’m working on some poetry compilations. They’re turning out really well! Better than I expected, at least. But right now I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to publish them. They’re essentially two paired compilations where each poem in one is coupled with a poem from the other, which makes the presentation more difficult. Well, I’ll think about it. More on that next week.
In the meantime, maybe I’ll tell you a little of what the poems are going to be about. Have you heard of the 四象 (Four Symbols)? These are four creatures that appeared originally in Chinese myth and were picked up into other cultures and philosophies, such as Japanese mythology and Taoism. Each of the creatures is associated with certain colors, weather events, cardinal directions, seasons, elements, virtues, and has their own set of legends and folktales.
My two upcoming poetry compilations are based on two of the four symbols. You really don’t need to know anything about them to read and enjoy the poems, but knowing a little about the symbols will increase your depth of understanding. So if you haven’t heard of them, I encourage you to look them up and do some basic research. They appear all over the place in a lot of aspects of Asian cultures, even in things such as video games, so you might have run into them already without realizing it!
Anyway, this week I’ve run into a little problem. I need to figure out how to balance taking in inspiration with putting out creative works. What I mean is, some days I’m spending hours reading and watching and learning about art and artists that inspire me, and I end up with no time to do any writing or music myself. It’s a little bit of a problem. I have to learn to balance these kinds of things. I’ll keep working on it.
I wanted to talk about something that happened to one of my dear friends recently. My friend D was learning how to drive, and on her first day, something incredibly cruel happened. She was at an intersection waiting to make a left turn, and because it was her first day and she hadn’t done this many times before, she was waiting a long time to ensure that all of the oncoming cars passed before she made the turn. But, there was a car behind her that also needed to make a left turn there, and the driver of that car got fed up. They pulled up their car next to D’s and started angrily calling her names and using a slew of wild insults.
Now, of course the pissed off driver didn’t know this, but D has anxiety. She can be really self-deprecating and loses self-confidence very quickly. At experiencing this road rage incident on her very first day, she broke down and cried right there. She almost didn’t want to drive ever again. I was really sad…
First of all, I don’t think road rage or any kind of cruelty or hatred like this is a reasonable first response to a stranger’s actions, especially if they aren’t directly harming you or anyone else. But there’s more to it than that.
I don’t think I’ve said this before, but I really believe that the majority of our societal problems arise as a result of people lacking imagination. Let me use what happened to D as an example.
There are many layers to it, but one meaning of “lacking imagination” is that people aren’t able to put themselves in others’ shoes and envision the situation from their perspective.
In this incident, the driver didn’t imagine the situation from D’s perspective. They didn’t think, “Maybe there is a reason they’re waiting so long. Maybe they are a new driver, or an elderly driver, or a disabled driver. Maybe they just want to be safe.” They also didn’t imagine how D would feel in response to their verbal assault. They didn’t explore the possibilities of, “What if my words really hurt them? What if they have depression or anxiety or something and I make them feel absolutely terrible? What if someone yelled at me – how would I feel?”
“Imagination” means giving people the benefit of the doubt. The road rage driver gets this, too, and this is key. Maybe they just got fired from their job. Maybe they just lost a loved one. Maybe they’re in a really big hurry to get to somewhere really important. So, “imagination” means not jumping on the rage train. The world is full enough of hatred as it is. I’m not angry with the driver who hurt D. I just want to talk with them, to ask them to please use their imagination the next time around.
I understand that it’s really easy to get frustrated and impatient while driving, especially in a heavily populated area. It’s also really easy to get angry at someone who just hurt you, and to hurt them in return. It’s easy to get angry at people in general – humans are just like that. But, just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s the right way to go.
Everyone, don’t take the easy way out. Use your brain – think, feel, imagine. Then the world will become a nicer place.
Of course, giving people the benefit of the doubt has its limits, too. Trusting in the innate goodness of people can come off as naive. But to me, imagination is not naive – rather, it’s a solution. It’s a practical solution, and one of the most effective ones to combat so many of the problems we now have. Yes, it might fail, it might backfire, you might get hurt. But if the alternative is a guaranteed life of cold-hearted selfishness and hatred, isn’t imagination the better option?
I’ve written something similar before… Check out Zuihitsu #10 in Life = Suffering + Love if you’re interested.
This week, think about what “imagination” means. There’s more to it than what I’ve written here, right? Explore it and come up with your own personal interpretations. That’s important, because “lacking imagination” also means “unable to think for yourself.” There are too many people like that, and it’s causing a lot of societal problems. Please seriously think about “imagination” and practice it. Let’s make our world a better place!
Take care of yourself ~