We are born, we grow up and we die

回れ回れ回れよ – Maware maware maware yo
水車回れまわって – Mizu kuruma mawatte
お日さん呼んでこい – Ohisan yonde koi

生まれて育って死んだとて – Be born, grow up and die
せんぐりいのちがよみがえる – Lifetimes come and go in turn

Work is very slow as most have not returned from the holidays so I’ve had some spare time on my hands. Today I’ve been cleaning up my YouTube playlists and I came across this wonderful song from the movie The Tale of Princess Kaguya. This is a song that reaches directly into my soul and I wanted to get some thoughts down. I’ve also posted about this before.

Most western people only see Japanese anime as “cartoons” or something to entertain children. However a lot of anime, especially by Miyazaki Hayao, have enormous cultural, religious and historical undertones that reveal themselves to those who have an understanding of Japan as a whole.

But this post isn’t about anime. I am fascinated with time and the lyrics of this song reach directly into my being.

Birds, bugs, beasts, grass, trees, flowers
Flower, bear fruit and die
Be born, grow up, and die
Still the wind blows, the rain falls
The waterwheel goes round
Lifetimes come and go in turn
Lifetimes come and go in turn


On my About Page Supplement I explain why I keep an open journal like this. I talk about stumbling upon a forgotten graveyard in the countryside of Ireland. The people laid to rest there lived, had friends, families, experiences and then they died. There they lie, forgotten along the side of a country road. The tall, uncut grass hides their names as time has washed away the memories of those who knew them.

I’m currently reading The Tale of Genji, written by a Lady of Japanese Court in the 11th century. It is fiction but aptly describes court life at that time. Reading it I feel close to them, as though I am there and it is not 1000 years ago. I even look up ancient Japanese on YouTube and listening to it understanding almost nothing at all am shaken from my dream and realize there is a gulf of time and culture between me and them. I was there, with Genji, enchanted by the beautiful Fujitsubo and now the ego brings me back and I have tasks to do and schedules to keep.

I also read Montaillou , which pulls from writings in the 13th century and feel close with the inhabitants of a small village in France (my notes here). They are all gone now but by remembering them through the book I feel that this life is an illusion. Everything exists in the mind and there is no difference in time or culture between me and them. The Ego is what pulls me to the here and now but this isn’t the ultimate reality. I believe there is no such thing as time and space in the ultimate reality.

The same occurred when I traveled with Ibn Battuta through the medieval world (my notes here). Reading his writings there was no distance in time, space or culture and I experienced the world through his eyes.

After the songs end and I finish the last chapter of these books I’m transported back to the present. I realize these people lived, had experiences and died. I look at pictures from my youth and the different chapters in my life that have also ended and realize I am 42. I’m in the middle of my own book. I am drawn to the past, not only my own of which I have more than ample documentation but of those from ancient times. I try to hear their voices on the wind at sunrise and sunset. I feel a connection which is powerful but unstable, fleeting and which I can never fully put my finger on. These are the deep experiences of life which are hard to share with others as it seems our current society is superficial, corrupt and only thinks about money and sports. The only “conversations” I can have are with the great thinkers and historians in their books and it is only a one way discussion. Now that I think about it there have only been two or three “freethinkers” in my entire life with whom I’ve had deep discussions. Their names are Peter Brown, John Clifton and a guy who worked at an architectural firm in Ohio.

Isn’t that amazing how we can go through life and not have deep discussions with really anyone! Most are already wrapped up in what they’ve been taught and speaking about trying to hear voices of long ago on the breeze at sunset would be silly to them.

We are born, we grow up and we die.
Lifetimes come and go in turn.

I’m in the middle of my story and soon I’ll be reading these words with 70 year old eyes. Friends and family will have passed away, I’ll retreat more into my internal world and become more alone. There will be fewer and fewer who remember shared experiences, what the ’80s were like, or how it was to first surf the nascent internet. There is always a wide gulf between the old, with their vast accumulation of experiences and the young who simply look at them as old people. True communication between young and old is something very rare and extremely precious. Perhaps it is the lack of this that we as humans continue to repeat the same mistakes? “What we’ve got here is, failure to communicate.”

A dream for me is to be a spirit that can drift in and out of experiences at will. I could experience court life in 11th century Japan, I could be Ibn Battuta in his adventures, I could be a villager in medieval France. I could see these things with my own eyes and not just with the minds eye through books.

But for now, I’ll continue to read, I’ll watch the fantastic historical TV shows, and continue learning. I’ll visit monuments, engulf myself in nature and continue to try and hear those voices on the breeze as the last flickers of light are swallowed by the ocean. I’m here and I have not forgotten. After all, I write a lot of things down and so should I forget, I’m sure I’ll remember again.

By 魔手

Global Citizen! こんにちは!僕の名前はマットです. Es decir soy Mateo. Aussi, je m'appelle Mathieu. Likes: Languages, Cultures, Computers, History, being Alive! \(^.^)/