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robertogreco : fall   4

Pico Iyer Reflects on a Quarter-Century of Life in Japan - The New York Times
"In Japan, he notes, people accommodate themselves to small spaces, and so he and Hiroko have for a quarter-century. The transposition from a bustling office tower in Manhattan to a suburb of “the sleepy old city” of Nara has felt to him “as if I’ve walked out of a cluttered warehouse into a simple bare room with a scroll on the wall, everything so singular that emotion is brought to a pitch.” All this is part of what Iyer sees as an aesthetic of enhancement through subtraction, “the Japanese art of taking more and more away to charge the few things that remain.”

The book attempts a similar paring down, composed as it is of brief ruminations, notations, vignettes, descriptions. What holds everything together, besides Iyer’s elegantly smooth prose style and gift for detailed observation, is a circling around the theme of autumn in Japan and this autumnal period in his life. Self-described as having a restless “‘birdlike’ traveler’s temperament,” he spends half the year tending to his aging mother in California or reporting on subjects like “the warlords of Mogadishu,” but tries to get back to Japan each fall. This season teaches him the lesson of impermanence, the inevitability of decay, and “how to hold on to the things we love even though we know that we and they are dying.” Not much plot to speak of here: We watch Iyer going through his daily rounds, dropping in on his Ping-Pong club, visiting his mother-in-law in her nursing home, recalling scenes from the past. His wife, questioning him apprehensively, says, “Like Ozu movie? … Your book, nothing happening?” “Not exactly nothing,” he replies. “It’s in the spaces where nothing is happening that one has to make a life.” And indeed, he references Ozu films numerous times, particularly the way that cinematic master will cycle through the seasons as a metaphor for the changelessness of the nonhuman world within stories of human change and suffering. Of course, it’s harder to pull off on the page, without sublime actors like Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara to embody the effect.

Iyer’s wife makes for a marvelous presence, zooming away on her motorbike to her job in a boutique, cleaning the house briskly like a tornado or dashing off to honor dead ancestors at shrines and grave sites. Hiroko is the book’s motor, and Iyer is in awe of her energy, even as he says, a bit condescendingly: “It’s one of the qualities I most admire in her: She doesn’t stop to think” and “I have a wife who reminds me with every gesture that the only impulses to trust are the ones that arise without thought.” Hiroko strikes me as more quick-witted than thoughtless, but perhaps Iyer is aspiring, on her behalf, to the Buddhist ideal of the blank mind.

His own self-portrait is dimmer. He comes across as a modest, kind, gentle man, somewhat colorless, as though trying to practice spiritual erasure of the ego. He had moved to Japan “to learn how best to dissolve a sense of self within something larger and less temporary” — an admirable pursuit, though problematic for autobiographical writers. He admits he finds “belief” in general difficult, and says he doesn’t consider himself a Buddhist, but treats with fascinated respect his wife’s conviction that spirits and ghosts exist. He’s a big proponent of his own ignorance, saying he doesn’t choose to learn more than a smattering of Japanese because he needs mystery and “a sense of open space in life, something to offset the sense of the familiar.”

In a way, his attraction to Japan can be seen as an attempt to hold onto its exotic, eternal appeal — to his partly idealized picture of what the East has to offer a Western man in the way of healing. “Autumn Light” isn’t the book to turn to for an account of the political, social and economic problems of today’s Japan. Now in his 60s, Iyer feels free to communicate his tentative revelations about life. There’s much wisdom in what he says, though some of it comes close to platitude. But then, perhaps it’s the nature of hard-earned wisdom to sound like something we’ve heard many times before."
2019  picoiyer  japan  autumn  seasons  fall  impermanence  small  japanese  language  familiarity  ozu  buddhism  spirits  ignorance  familiar  subtraction 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Fall In | Submitted For Your Perusal
"I’m writing this on the first day of fall in the Northern Hemisphere.

Depending upon where you are, it might not feel like fall yet. Right now, for instance, it’s 92°F outside where I live. And humid. More summer than fall. Yet, at the same time, school’s back in session, football is being played, and Halloween paraphernalia is appearing in stores.

The leaves on one of the trees outside my window are starting to change color. Some leaves have even started to fall. It’s getting darker earlier and lighter later. And even though it’s still hot out during the day, it’s cooling down more at night.

Change is in the air.

This leads to a question: Should one also change in conjunction with the seasons? By this I mean more than donning a natty scarf when the temperature drops below a certain level—I mean changing things about the way you eat, sleep, live, and work.

Conventional productivity advice doesn’t really take up this question. One of the things, in fact, that irks me about such advice is that it tends to frame things in terms of daily routines, routines that are ostensibly the same regardless of the season. In other words, most productivity advice is seasonless. Here I’m thinking of things like Mason Currey’s engrossing 2013 book Daily Rituals and Tim Ferriss’s more tech bro-y late-2016 knockoff Tools for Titans.

Now, I’m as interested in famous people’s daily routines as anyone. But at the same time, I feel it’s important to resist the tyranny of “the day.”

What do I mean by that?

Well, we live in a world of seasons—and increasingly more variable and violent seasons at that—but productivity advice seems to always think in terms of the day, the week, the year, or five years, never the season, the sun, and the shadow.

In Lewis Mumford’s endlessly-rich 1937 book Technics and Civilization, he explains how the clock altered human relations by organizing everything around twenty-four little hours instead of, say, the rhythm of the seasons.

The consequences of this, Mumford argues, are profound:
When one thinks of the day as an abstract span of time, one does not go to bed with the chickens on a winter’s night: one invents wicks, chimneys, lamps, gaslights, electric lamps, so as to use all the hours belonging to the day. When one thinks of time, not as a sequence of experiences, but as a collection of hours, minutes, and seconds, the habits of adding time and saving time come into existence.

Because of the clock, Mumford continues, “Abstract time became the new medium of existence. Organic functions themselves were regulated by it: one ate, not upon feeling hungry, but when prompted by the clock: one slept, not when one was tired, but when the clock sanctioned it. A generalized time-consciousness accompanied the wider use of clocks: dissociating time from organic sequences….”

Since we all pretty much live according to “clock time” now, the autumnal equinox presents us with an opportunity to cast off our Apple Watches and reflect on some of the benefits of living according to what might be called “seasonal time.” To that end, I encourage you to step out of “clock time” and into “seasonal time.”

This will, no doubt, strike some as unappealing. Many people see nature as something to overcome or counteract, not as something to flow with or submit to. For others, it will be impossible. “Clock time” is simply imposed on them too strongly. But if you can do it, even just a little bit, I strongly recommend it, if only for the perspective it brings.

To quote Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To every thing there is a season.” What if we took that adage seriously, not just by buying pumpkin spice lattes but by doing key things in a more fall-like way? Fall-like might take different forms. The point is to embrace fall in particular and seasonal change in general. I’m definitely not recommending becoming “Mr. Autumn Man”. I’m talking about something else, something deeper.

One example I like is how novelist Lee Child sits down every September and begins work on a new Jack Reacher novel. He finishes up sometime the following spring and then spends the rest of the year doing other stuff—stuff like spending the entire month of August on vacation. (I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty nice.) Note, too, that this routine produces a book a year. (As someone who writes much more slowly, this sounds pretty nice to me as well.) And Child has been doing things this way since the late 1990s. (For more on Child’s process, see Andy Martin’s Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me.)

Fall is a time to write for me as well, but it also means welcoming—rather than fighting against—the shorter days, the football games, the decorative gourds. Productivity writer Nicholas Bate’s seven fall basics are more sleep, more reading, more hiking, more reflection, more soup, more movies, and more night sky. I like those too. The winter will bring with it new things, new adjustments. Hygge not hay rides. Ditto the spring. Come summer, I’ll feel less stress about stopping work early to go to a barbecue or movie because I know, come autumn, I’ll be hunkering down. More and more, I try to live in harmony with the seasons, not the clock. The result has been I’m able to prioritize better.

And yes, fall for me also means some of the stereotypical stuff: apple picking, leafy walks, we’re even trying to go to a corn maze this year.

In sum, as the Earth wobbles around the Sun, don’t be afraid to switch things up. I can’t promise an uptick in productivity, but when you think of things in terms of seasons instead of a single day, the entire year becomes your canvas."
mattthomas  seasons  routine  2017  tempo  change  writing  work  productivity  rhythms  lewismumford  timferris  clocks  time  fall  autumn  clocktime  nature  calendars  leechild  nicholasbates 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Ready for Rain — Medium
"It’s raining in Seattle today and tomorrow. This should come as no surprise to those who know the reputation of this part of the world. But in fact, this rain is special. It’s the first storm of the year; a harbinger for a change of season that strikes at the core of how it feels to live in the Pacific Northwest.

You see, this time of year, I want it to rain for days. I want an atmospheric river to roll off the Pacific and slam Seattle with precipitation. I want to look at the weather map and see greens, yellows and oranges. Thankfully, I live in a place that makes the timely arrival of rain an absolute certainty.

It’s not simply the arrival or rain, but the transition to a different environment and way of life. The drear has a certain dark beauty; a low-contrast softness. There’s no need to squint or close the blinds. Even the sound of the rain on our house is music to my ears, a lullaby.

In this feeling, I am not alone:"



"The long, dark Seattle winters do something to me. They make me forget what it’s like when the days are long and warm. The bare trees make it hard to imagine the lush Seattle spring.

And then, just as it becomes too dark for too long, the promise of a sun-kissed rendezvous returns and the great maximization begins again — along with the pressure. It’s a cycle I’ve come to love.

I do look forward to the sun, but it ends just in time, because in my heart, I also love the rain."
seattle  washingtonstate  rain  leelefever  via:austinkleon  summer  winter  fall  sun 
september 2014 by robertogreco

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