I listened in India, and perhaps what I heard were not so much words but echoes pointing toward images I didn’t understand.
Since returning home, I’ve sought out ways to set aside words — what I understand (or think I understand) best — and connect to images.
The world I live in is saturated with words, so this took some conscious effort (and, it turned out, the effort did end up involving reading lots of printed pages). I wrapped myself in Kabbalah and the Power of Dreaming: Awakening the Visionary Life by Catherine Shainberg and I climbed down into my first work of fiction in years — the 925-page tome of IQ84 by Haruki Murakami, a novel in which characters look up into a sky with two moons.
And since I’m on the subject of moons . . . I feel as if I haven’t been able to stop looking at the moon these last couple of nights. It took deepening my ashtanga practice to start to more viscerally feel the effects of the moon, and now I am madly in love with the experiences of our tethered energies. (Have you also been feeling the effects of closing in on the full moon? If you have and don’t have anyone to talk about it with, you might want to check out “Moon Swings.”)
Murakami opens IQ84 with these lines from “It’s Only a Paper Moon“:
It’s a Barnum and Bailey world,
just as phony as can be,
But it wouldn’t be make-believe
if you believe in me
It was my husband — an ardent Murakami fan who has told me for years that I need to read this guy’s stuff — who told me about the famous story, set in a baseball stadium, of how the Kyoto-born jazz club owner become a writer. That story is recounted here:
Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949 and could not relate either to the esoteric delicacy of his parents’ traditions – they practised Buddhism and taught Japanese literature – or the hyper-capitalism taking shape around him.
“Most young people were getting jobs in big companies, becoming company men. I wanted to be individual.”
As a teenager, Murakami had read “all the great authors” – Dostoevsky, Kafka, Flaubert, Dickens, Raymond Chandler. He spent his lunch money on pop and jazz records. He wanted a lifestyle that guaranteed maximum exposure to the warmth of Western books and music, so he opened a jazz club where the music was too loud for conversation and read books at the bar until his customers considered him anti-social.
And then there was an epiphany. “Yes, epiphany is the word,” he says.
It is, he says, the only truly weird thing that has ever happened to him. He was watching a baseball game between the Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp one day in April 1978. A US player called Dave Hilton hit the first ball way out into left field. And at that extraordinary moment, Murakami realised he could write a novel.
“It was very strange,” he says. “My customers didn’t believe it. My wife was so surprised. I had no ambition to be a writer because the books I read were too good, my standards were too high. But that’s what happened. I bought pens and papers and started to write that day.”
The first line of his first novel, Hear The Wind Sing, went like this: “There’s no such thing as perfect writing, just like there’s no such thing as perfect despair.” And so Murakami began a story with no plot or meaning. He was writing but he had nothing to say.
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