Yesterday I sat in the sunshine binge-reading the second half of this amazing novel by Ruth Ozeki – A Tale for the Time Being.
I was completely engrossed in it, turning pages that almost ripped in my haste to find out what was going to happen next, and to me, that is the joy of reading.
“For the time being,
Are they fallen leaves?”
There were beautiful descriptions and evocative passages, often peppered with Japanese words with their translation in the footnotes. I’ve always been interested in Japanese culture so it was great to feel like I was ‘learning’ a few Japanese words.
Other words that imbued me with a sense of far-away places and a dream-like in-between kind of world: gingko, temple, bento, shrine, cedars, dogwood, cherry blossom, wolves.
Events such as 9/11 and the Fukushima earthquake/tsunami are woven into the story, with an increasing sense of authorial anti-narrative as concepts of time, destiny, fiction and fantasy are explored and exposed.
And there were many references to ‘sitting zazen‘ – a specific kind of seated, Buddhist meditation, which was particularly appropriate as I had just been for an hour-long meditation on Sunday.
I wanted to share these little passages as they resonated so much with me:
“The only time they ever throw anything away is when it’s really and truly broken, and then they make a big deal about it. They save up all their bent pins and broken sewing needles and once a year they do a whole memorial service for them, chanting and then sticking them into a block of tofu so they will have a nice soft place to rest. Jiko says that everything has a spirit, even if it is old and useless, and we must console and honor the things that have served us well.”
I thought that was beautiful, and it made me want to save even more things instead of throwing them away.
This book really took me on a journey, a tale for the time being, and this line also struck a chord:
“It made me sad when I caught myself pretending that everybody out there in cyberspace cared about what I thought, when really nobody gives a shit. And when I multiplied that sad feeling by all the millions of people in their lonely little rooms, furiously writing and posting to their lonely little pages that nobody has time to read because they’re all so busy writing and posting, it kind of broke my heart.”
I’ll finish with this quote which is listed in the footnote of the page as a seventh-century Chinese saying:
“A great man should die as a shattered jewel rather than live as an intact tile.”
There is something so strangely sad but beautiful in that line. We are all precious jewels.