Zuihitsu #39

It is easy to become bitter, on this path.

It is easy to point fingers
to declare others hypocrites
to be angry at those who deny
   those who don’t care
   those who embrace ignorance
and to blame those who refuse to see,
   who are blind willinglyBut playing the blame game serves us nothing –
because we are all trying to do our best
and systems necessarily corrupt the people who live in them
the same way that people corrupt the systems they create –

there is no one to blame but an abstract “us”
but even then the achievement does nothing
except throw the problem back in our face;

So if it is useless, if it is divisive, if it is distracting –
then bitterness cannot be the way.
It must not be,
if we are to hold onto our hope.

Zuihitsu #38

It’s not about it being easy –
though I understand your feelings when you say that.
Solutions to this devastation we have wrought will not be easy.
Solutions to our new brand of tragedy will not be easy.
“Fixing” this is not supposed to be easy –
but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.

Every day we go about our lives
     searching for the familiar, simple routes
     taking the paths that will require the least energy
          and the least work…
Even when we try the other paths,
     we stop when we are “satisfied”
     whatever that means
     and why?
When it comes to many things,
     this way of life is fine…
But when it comes to this?
Is it acceptable?
Is anything short of everything acceptable?

We bear it on our shoulders, after all.
It was born out of our own selfish pursuit of “easy” –
wasn’t it?

Zuihitsu #37

Universal justice and one way of life –
Science as religion and personality traits as inherent.
When we believe in absolutes we become blind to reality.

We hold up our science as Truth –
     blind to the biases and corruption and conflicts of interest
     ignorant of other explanations, other ways of life
     refusing to notice the thousand side effects listed in small print
          like a commercial for Westernization – or Americanization –
          that plays endlessly on all available channels...

We herald universal Justice –
     when such a thing does not exist
     when such an ideal brings harm
          to those who do not live the same way
          to those who are victimized by our hate
          to ourselves, who claim the role of gods…

We were never gods, or spirits, either – collectively we do not deserve them.

And that, too, is a blind universal.

Zuihitsu #36

Every day I go back and forth between loving another and loving myself.
But it shouldn’t have to be this way, I think.
My justice, my truth, my health and well-being, should never have to be at the expense of someone else’s –
and their’s should never have to be at the expense of mine.
My love should never have to be at the expense of someone else’s –
and their’s should never have to be at the expense of mine.
We don’t know how to live together anymore.
Maybe we never did.
For all our wars, for all our silences, for all our one-sided relationships and marriages ended in divorce –
and I know I’m oversimplifying this –
It seems like we’ve forgotten how to love.
We’ve forgotten how to look out for each other.
We’ve forgotten how to imagine someone else’s life.
Maybe we never knew how to live together.
Maybe, this project was doomed from the start.

Zuihitsu #35

I didn’t want this to happen.
Probably, you didn’t, either, but it’s not fair for me to speculate on that.
I can’t make promises anymore.
Every time you stare at me with dull or burning eyes,
I will flee into the night,
Frustrated and abandoned –
Like I used to be.
We all have our baggage.
You carry yours, and I’ll carry mine.
I shouldn’t have to carry yours –
And you shouldn’t disregard mine.

If I have to withdraw to take care of myself,
I will –
because you are hurting me.
If you want this relationship to be sustainable,
you will have to stop hurting me.
I’ve hurt myself enough.

Zuihitsu #35

Isn’t there something wrong here?

Many things, actually. It’s not hard to see. There will always be things that are wrong – our lives will never be perfect. But that fact shouldn’t deter us from trying to fix the wrong things and make them right.

For one thing,
Aren’t people too impatient?
They are too easy to push to the edge
Too easy to get them yelling
honking
fighting
As if they have no time
As if they can’t conceive of the possibility
that those around them might be human…
But then,
is it so hard to realize a person’s humanity?
is it so hard to project into another person’s life?
And,
once we realize our inevitable deaths,
don’t we then really have all the time in the world?

Impatience is something I see no good use for.
And I don’t think it’s so very hard to overcome.
Just use that brain of yours,
breathe,
and go on living.

Zuihitsu #6

Humans, I think, seem to have an innate desire to simplify, and to simplify too much.

Liberal or conservative
Male or female
Black or white
Gay or straight
Catholic or atheist —
Good or bad
Worthy or unworthy
Happy or sad —
Love or hate.

There are too many to name.

We reduce immensely complex feelings and thoughts to only a few words
We push those words onto a categorical binary —
Then we worship it;
And condemn any who do not seem to fit,
Or who fall on the wrong side of the line.

My political views cannot be reduced to a word.
Not all liberals or conservatives think alike;
What is the purpose of this all?
For now we promote doctrines on shaky grounds,
Like a house without a foundation,
Rejecting one’s ideas simply because “You are not
In the same party as I” —
And to what end?
How are we to progress?

You may look at me and term me female,
And perhaps it is true that I am —
But since I was young,
I display “male-type behaviors”
And reject the female —
What say you now?
Stop and think.
My behaviors cannot be reduced to a word.
They cannot be categorized —
They do not dictate my gender or my sex —
So why do you care?
Why do I care?

And what of love?
You say I love you
To your father
To your sister
To your friend
To your lover —
Do you really presume to say
That every feeling is the same?
No;
Love is a category
Not any one feeling.
So why is it that you judge
When I turn to a friend and tell him I love him
Or to a cousin?

Why do you assume?
Why do you care, if it does not involve you?

A person cannot be reduced
To good or bad
To worthy or unworthy
To sinful or pure
To anything.
So why do we insist?
Can we not believe in each other
Simply as we are?

But that, too —
That is a form of simplification in its own right;
Is it yet impossible to break free?
Are humans innately unable to comprehend the world
Without reducing the whole to some of its parts
And losing all the significant intricacies in the process?

Zuihitsu #4

Even in the dead of night I know that I am not alone. Across time and space, memories always keep me company.

For instance, the memory of a brief but eternal plane ride, the one that set the gears in motion for us to become closer than we’ve ever been. The plane ride that led to the great bridge, to the two of us standing together at the water’s edge, to the terrifyingly vulnerable confession, and everything after.

That’s a good one.

Or the memory of her face that night, flooded with genuine surprise and delight and embarrassment all at once. It takes on a soft, pensive look as four hands run over the piano keys in the background. For a moment it almost overflows with love, but it doesn’t, because love can’t overflow – it builds, expands, acting as its own container, its own master, the pace of its growth only restrained by the being it fills, but always on an endless journey towards infinity.

That’s another good one.

Sometimes, I am kept company by other people’s memories rather than my own. The memory of a broken childhood, of parents angry or never there, of social harassment and tears and pain and rage and above all a single, desperate, unspoken question, still perhaps unanswered, a question that a human being shouldn’t even have to ask.

This memory is not mine, but it may as well be, because when I lay awake at night this memory comes to me with the same depth of emotion as my own.

Memories are strange. They can evoke happiness, or suffering, or a million other indescribable things. They are not always reliable – they can change, become corrupted, or lost into the vast reaches of the universe, to be recovered someday, or not. They can be shared, or kept hidden, or they may be public in the first place. But in any case, it is memory that sustains life.

After all, memory keeps dead people alive, and it keeps living people alive along with them.

And which one am I?

Does it matter, in the end?

Zuihitsu #3

Someday, you will be happy.

Someday you’ll live in a world where you are valued. A world where every person, every book, every movie, screams out I love you, a world that affirms your very existence, your right to life as a human being. A world of freedom and peace, a world where the sun shines bright and never goes down. A world where the curtain never falls. Where darkness is something unknown to man.

Someday you’ll live in a world where you don’t need me. A world where you don’t have to call me in the middle of the night crying. A world where you don’t have to silence yourself, restrain yourself to just looking at me with pleading eyes, hoping I’ll see your pain. A world where you don’t have to lie awake at night trying to understand… why. Why you exist. Why you suffer. Why nobody seems to care.

Someday you’ll live in a world where you are not alone. A world where you are surrounded by dozens, hundreds, millions of people who love you unconditionally. A world where you are understood, accepted, invited in with open arms. A world where you can talk freely, act freely, where you can put down your facade, your safety net, your wall. A world where you can simply be you.

Such a world doesn’t exist. I know that. I’m not naive. But hope doesn’t have to come from a place of innocence.

Sometimes, hope comes from a place of love.

And sometimes, hope is just hope. It doesn’t have to get any more complicated than that.

How’s Your Summer Going? – Artist Check-In

Hi! This is different from my usual posts. I felt like it was time for a bit of personal reflection, so here it is!

Question: How’s your summer going?

Overall, this summer is shaping up to be a very creative one for me. I think it’s great! Here’s a quick look at what that means in terms of my writing.


1 – I’m pushing myself to write something almost every day.

For me, this is highly unusual! In the past, I would just write “whenever I felt like it,” and while I do believe that the writing process should flow naturally, I think taking this season to push myself more will help me grow and expand my abilities for whatever comes next.

2 – I’ve introduced myself to poetry, which is an art form I’ve never tried before.

Because I’m new at it, it’s very difficult, and in comparison with my prose pieces (which I’ve had 8+ years of experience with) I think I have a lot of room for improvement. I’m not happy with my poems, and hopefully I never will be. However, I am finding that poetry is a good way to express my feelings toward certain current events: for instance, Rally for Democracy expressed my thoughts toward the extradition bill protests in Hong Kong, and At the Edge of the Earth reflected my feelings about the tragic KyoAni arson attack a few days ago. It’s not a perfect form for me yet, so I’ll keep working on it!

On a related note, art as a tool for activism has been heavy on my mind this summer… but I’ll have to write a separate post for that one.

3 – I’ve experimented with zuihitsu more.

I’ve loved this genre ever since I read Kamo-no-Chomei’s Hojoki in the summer after 11th grade. Eleventh grade for me was all about social justice, exploring all of the failures of America, all of the false promises, all of the human rights violations, all of the (largely successful) attempts to cover them up. The bitter hypocrisy of the American Dream was weighing heavily on my mind, and I was starting to feel depressed again. For me in this vulnerable state, Hojoki was like a lifesaver. It freely explored many of the unanswerable questions I’d been dealing with for ages, and it painted a picture of zuihitsu as a genre through which I could explore them, too. I figured I’d give it a try, and this project evolved into Life = Suffering + Love, a 25-entry zuihitsu collection I wrote for my friend’s birthday.

My modern, personal interpretation of zuihitsu is definitely different from what the genre was originally, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I believe it’s important that genres evolve with the times, and it’s also important that artists don’t feel limited by the genre/s in which they write (or speak or sing or play or…).

At any rate, while working with zuihitsu initially came very easily to me, I’ve recently discovered that it’s not something I can just write whenever I want to write it. It might sound strange, but zuihitsu is easiest or most natural to me when I’m depressed. If I’m not depressed, it’s harder to convey my thoughts in that genre… so even though I love it and want to keep working with it, I can’t promise zuihitsu as a regular feature or anything like that. There might be long gaps in between zuihitsu entries sometimes, but really, for me, that’s not so bad.

4 – I’ve begun working with short stories.

Believe it or not, short stories are pretty new to me, too! Prior to this year, everything I wrote would be novel-length or at least in a long novel-like style. I wrote my first short story, Life Beyond the Setting Sun, sometime this past spring. It was inspired by a comment my friend made about shadows, as well as “The Chrysanthemum Pledge,” a story out of Ueda Akinari’s Tales of Moonlight and Rain. I spent only two or three hours on it, with very minimal editing, and immediately handed it to my friend the next time I saw her. (She didn’t like it very much, ahhaha…)

Actually, I didn’t like it very much either, at the time. I thought it was great for a first try at a short story, but I think I was trying to do too many things with it, and as a result I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the finished product. However, I did send it to one of my long-distance friends, and he recently got back to me saying he’d read it and loved it. Unlike most readers, who just say “I thought it was great!” or “Meh, not really my thing,” he spent ages carefully detailing all the reasons why he liked it. Because of his words, I dug the story up from my files and reread it for the first time since, and I’ve come to conclude that it’s a pretty passable, enjoyable story, a good first effort, and something I’d be willing to put up on my blog.

My friend’s encouraging words also led me to write a second short story: Songs Without End. Now this one I really like! Actually I was a little rushed to finish it, so there are definitely some parts I’m not happy with. But in the end, I’m pretty proud of it, and now I’m looking into writing more short stories. Even though I’ve only published two, I think short stories suit my style pretty well. What do you think?


That’s where I’m at with my writing so far. This summer, I’ve also reconnected with music on many different levels. Here’s what I mean by that.


1 – I’m exploring and expanding my musical interests.

I’m listening to music everyday, thoroughly immersing myself in new artists, watching videos of their concerts and listening to their songs. Before this year, while I was kind of into music having grown up in a musical household and played two instruments, I’d never really had any famous musicians or genres I really liked, besides a vague “I like songs from the romantic era” and “RADWIMPS is a powerful band.” But at the beginning of the year (or maybe the end of last, I don’t remember, haha), I almost simultaneously discovered X JAPAN and GACKT. I was immediately hooked! And, you know, one thing leads to the next, right? Before I knew it, my playlist also included songs by sukekiyo and LUNA SEA as well as the individual works of artists like HYDE, Sugizo, ToshI, MIYAVI, Kyo, hide, and Chachamaru. And I have a long, long list of bands and artists I’ve yet to listen to!

2 – I’m playing piano more often.

Honestly, I used to hate playing piano… but it wasn’t the instrument itself or the music that I hated. I hated having to practice and perform songs that I didn’t actually want to play. I also hated being made to compete – competitions and competitive pursuits were never my thing. My shoulder also made playing and practicing difficult sometimes, so for most of last year I stayed away from the instrument as much as I could. However, this summer, I’m actually playing a lot! This is in part because of my new musical interests, and also because I’ve taken it upon myself to find my own music. I search up sheet music for songs that I like and artists I know, and then I’ll sight read them for fun. If I really like the piece, I’ll go on to learn it. Of course, I’m not a professional pianist, and I have a lot of room for growth – but being able to play the things I want to play makes me really happy.

3 – I’m exploring music as a way to deal with depression.

Music as therapy has been on my mind recently. Songs, and the human voice in general, are really powerful, don’t you think? Even though the lyrics are sad or the background of the artist is tragic or the melody is melancholy, I always feel some kind of peace in my heart and mind after listening to such songs. I wonder why?

4 – I’m exploring music as a way to connect with other people and the past.

As Ryū says, music is communal. I love making music with other people – I think it takes on a very special meaning. The interaction between musician and listener is also meaningful – in the past I’ve made efforts to learn songs my friends like for their birthdays, and I want to continue doing so. Music is the universal language, that’s what I think. It transcends all barriers and reaches deep into your soul and makes you feel. Even if there are no lyrics, or the lyrics are in a different language that you don’t understand… there’s still something there that is so incredible I don’t know how to describe it. I want to think about this more!


So, this is basically how my summer is going. Writing and music are my life.

As for mental health… I’m doing pretty good right now. I haven’t felt seriously depressed or suicidal in several months. I’m pretty comfortable where I am, and I can recognize when my thoughts are starting to head towards chaos. (Of course, sometimes I can’t do anything about it, but so far this summer, music, writing, and comedy have been working pretty well for me!) Hopefully, this good trend will continue.

Maybe this is off-topic, but I wanted to mention something else. Today my mother made dinner for me and after taking a few bites I told her that it was really delicious. But even as those words were coming out of my mouth, I started to think, Do I really mean that? Of course it was true that the meal was very delicious. But I had a feeling that I wasn’t truly enjoying it to the best of my ability. I was kind of scarfing my food down, without taking the time to thoroughly chew it and taste the flavors. I want to pay more attention to my food from now on and savor it for all the work that has been put into creating it, from farm to table. Towards the end of the meal I also started to think, If this is my last meal, I want to enjoy it more…

Hm, maybe that’s a bit of a depressing way to end this post. But, I’m getting rather tired, so I think I’ll sign off here. This is how my summer is going – how about yours? I hope everyone is doing well.

Take care of yourself!

Kohaku