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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 
21 days ago by robertogreco
LMU Magazine: Jumping Time
"For some time, I’d been shadowing artists like Massenburg, people who were expert at reading possibility in a mere gesture and reacting in the moment. I had been cataloging what sort of creative benefit bloomed out from a chance encounter — a serendipitous discovery, an open path or fresh new sense of self. But now, with so much infrastructure upended, their facility to do so resonated even more. As life became increasingly difficult to parse when the planned-for scenarios evaporated — or simply didn’t arrive — so many were looking for not just comfort but real tools to find their own “what’s next.”

Chance and Serendipity

We want to map a plan — a life — that’s what both our conscience and the culture tells us; a life/plan that nudges us toward “success” and ultimately a precisely articulated and fully realized you. The trouble with this premise is that what we already know too often obstructs what we might come to know — if we’re open to it. That’s the juncture where chance lies — and where serendipity — and often the greatest possibility can step in.

We think we can outline a foolproof strategy, one that keeps us on track, moving forward, but things break, sever, snap and shatter all of the time. Plans fizzle, promises are broken, things fall apart. Both life and the language we use to describe our derailments and defeats tell us that.

Planning, however, doesn’t stave off the inevitable detours that present themselves: There are moments when patterns are broken for us, and moments when we choose to break them. What happens when we walk into that void, that open question, is the first step toward the unknown and where faith and chance can take us.

As a journalist who writes about people who make elegant, jaw-dropping leaps — creatives who ultimately conceive beyond-category art, music and food, or design vibrant community landscapes or networks — I see many who seem to share a key trait: the ability to pivot, to “see in the dark.” The darkness in this case is uncertainty: blind turns and difficult passages that we all must navigate at some point to find our way to the next phase, chapter, summit. Why, I wondered, are some better at the pivot than others? That facility begins with feeling comfortable in the space of the unknown.

Near the end of Pico Iyer’s slim, astute meditation titled “The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere,” the essayist explores the importance of framing calamity: “It’s not our experiences that form us, but the way we respond to them; a hurricane sweeps through town reducing everything to rubble and one man sees it as liberation, a chance to start anew, while another, perhaps his brother, is traumatized for life.”

Iyer’s words reassured me that what we are handed is not just a measure of our mettle — how we move forward — but that the unexpected also can limit or enhance our life’s possibility. We choose.

I saw, much more clearly, that the stories I’d been assembling weren’t necessarily a catalog of successes. Rather the artists’ arcs I traced suggested that the real journey begins with instances others might categorize as dead-ends, failures, even tragedies: a deportation, a wife’s near-death experience, a diagnosis of a rare blindness. Instead of accepting an impasse, they understood a setback as a threshold, not an end, but a beginning. The ability to shake free from an outdated dream or shed a fixed desire — be it a job, a hunch or place in the world — and cultivate new inspirations is not a facility we often honor or celebrate. We should. Recalibrating — or, as one subject calls it, “bounce” — is critical to survival. Success, then, isn’t about achieving static goals or checking items off a list. It’s about mastery, acquiring insight and achieving breakthroughs.

We live in a moment of “vision boards” and Post-it affirmations — “See it. Be it.” But we forget that just as important as what we wish for ourselves is gleaning the insight that may seem beyond our imagination. That big life we crave, the one larger than we can conceive, is often the consequence of risk, misadventure and recovery. As one subject finally came to understand it: “Don’t look; leap. Trust the dark. Trust what you’ve cultivated inside.”

Jumping Time

In American roots music — jazz, blues, zydeco, bluegrass — there’s a term called “jumping time,” a moment that inevitably reveals itself on the bandstand. The singer perhaps forgets a verse, or the trumpet player, distracted, stumbles, barges in too soon, and the band must work together to pivot, restore order, move to the next line and not get jangled. It’s about moving forward: salvaging not just the moment, but the possibility for the one that follows.

I think about Massenburg and his own “salvaging” — the poetry of the pivot — finding not just a use for the stumbled upon and tossed aside, but a new narrative for it: “I remember John Outterbridge saying to me that art can be anything you want it to be. Even your life. So when I think about how I got here — it wasn’t straight-line.”

That left or right turn, it’s all about jumping time — sliding to the next spot, finding the treasure in the detritus, saving the moment. You can’t plan for it, just prepare.

Those beautiful dovetails in life that we watch from afar? They come with hard work and foresight: reacting adroitly, even poetically, at that fork in the road of thought, crisis and life shift is often our only control in chaos. That informed pivot — the one that takes us from disaster to possibility, the “new place” — can be the life-changing difference between simply surviving and thriving.
lynellgeorge  michaelmassenburg  johnoutterbridge  art  music  jazz  2016  picoiyer  chance  serendipity  planning  plans  possibility  certainty  uncertainty  presence  losangeles 
april 2017 by robertogreco
A long sentence is worth the read - latimes
""Your sentences are so long," said a friend who teaches English at a local college, and I could tell she didn't quite mean it as a compliment. The copy editor who painstakingly went through my most recent book often put yellow dashes on-screen around my multiplying clauses, to ask if I didn't want to break up my sentences or put less material in every one. Both responses couldn't have been kinder or more considered, but what my friend and my colleague may not have sensed was this: I'm using longer and longer sentences as a small protest against — and attempt to rescue any readers I might have from — the bombardment of the moment."



"To pick up a book is, ideally, to enter a world of intimacy and continuity; the best volumes usher us into a larger universe, a more spacious state of mind akin to the one I feel when hearing Bach (or Sigur Rós) or watching a Terrence Malick film. I cherish Thomas Pynchon's prose (in "Mason & Dixon," say), not just because it's beautiful, but because his long, impeccable sentences take me, with each clause, further from the normal and the predictable, and deeper into dimensions I hadn't dared to contemplate. I can't get enough of Philip Roth because the energy and the complication of his sentences, at his best, pull me into a furious debate in which I see a mind alive, self-questioning, wildly controlled in its engagement with the world. His is a prose that banishes all simplicities while never letting go of passion."



"I love books; I read and write them for the same reason I love to talk with a friend for 10 hours, not 10 minutes (let alone, as is the case with the average Web page, 10 seconds). The longer our talk goes, ideally, the less I feel pushed and bullied into the unbreathing boxes of black and white, Republican or Democrat, us or them. The long sentence is how we begin to free ourselves from the machine-like world of bullet points and the inhumanity of ballot-box yeas or nays.

There'll always be a place for the short sentence, and no one could thrill more than I to the eerie incantations of DeLillo, building up menace with each reiterated note, or the compressed wisdom of a Wilde; it's the elegant conciseness of their phrases that allow us to carry around the ideas of an Emerson (or Lao Tzu) as if they were commandments or proverbs of universal application.

But we've got shortness and speed up the wazoo these days; what I long for is something that will sustain me and stretch me till something snaps, take me so far beyond a simple clause or a single formulation that suddenly, unexpectedly, I find myself in a place that feels as spacious and strange as life itself.

The long sentence opens the very doors that a short sentence simply slams shut. Though the sentence I sent my copy editor was as short as possible. No."
2012  picoiyer  writing  via:seanziebarth  sentences  attention  pace  speed  slow 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Living Among Incompatibles | - Pico Iyer Journeys -
"Yet when the floats began to move through the busy streets, in the great summer festival of Gion Matsuri, I started to notice other things below the classic surfaces. Many of the men in white-and-blue yukata, chanting a traditional song in unison, had the dragon tattoos of gangsters across their bare chests. Many of the young women running after them were teetering on 8-inch platform heels, their hair bright yellow and their skins artificially tanned in the fashion of the moment. Even some of the tiniest little boys were calling their mothers on tiny cell phones. The ancient rites were observed solemnly, with dignity and elegance; but they were woven into and around and through the most garish of modern Western artifacts. As if (as often happens) a geisha were carrying a boom box into a traditional inn.

When first I came to Japan, more than 20 years ago, these contradictions—and the serenity with which the culture lived among them—startled me every day. If the test of a first-rate mind, as Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, is the ability to hold two opposed ideas at the same time, and still keep going, then Japan, I thought, had the best mind I’d encountered in a lifetime of traveling. And in the years that have followed, the extremes have in some ways intensified, as much of Japan streaks into a mongrel, high-tech, science fictive future, while the rest remains more firmly rooted in the old than any culture that I know, including China’s. There are TVs on the dashboards of taxis in Kyoto, but most Japanese people were slower to get onto the Internet than the people of Cambodia were.

As I’ve stayed longer in Japan, though, living here on and off for almost a decade, I’ve come to think that contradiction is in many ways in the eye of the beholder, and that part of the magic of this place is that it invites, and sometimes forces the foreigner to leave, his assumptions at home. We tend to think that cultures, and people, must be one thing or the other (modern or traditional, themselves or imitations, elegant or crude); the Japanese are happy to see them as both things simultaneously. They adhere, that is, to a belief in both/and more than in either/or. And this allows them to collect an almost indefinite number of selves and surfaces without remaining any less themselves within: at a typical wedding over here, the bride still changes costume three or four times in a day, shifting from classic Shinto maiden to white-dress Eastern Cinderella to typical Japanese young woman (with many traditions alive in her).

This is, of course, a skill prized in all ritualized old societies—it’s little different from the England where I was born—but nowhere is it managed so efficiently as in Japan. In countries like America, for example, the emphasis is on “being yourself”; in Japan, it’s often on the opposite. Being “not yourself,” but just a kind of impersonal actor playing the part the moment requires (to this day my Japanese wife doesn’t know the name of her immediate boss at work, because the boss is always and only known as “Tencho,” or “Department Head”). And this is all made easier, perhaps, by the fact that the Japanese tend, I believe, to think in images rather than in ideas, and where ideas need to be consistent, images can sit side by side, belonging to different worlds, like parallel lines in a haiku. It’s not uncommon, near where I live, to see a Zen abbot stepping out of a late-model Mercedes, on his way to his favorite bar in the red-light district. In Europe, such behavior might be seen as hypocritical; in pragmatic Japan, a Buddhist priest will perform every last rite demanded of him at funerals and ceremonies immaculately—like the Platonic image of a Buddhist priest; but when he is finished, he will go home to his wife and children, and pop open a beer in front of the baseball game on TV. He’s played his role, he’s allowed to slough off his robes.

The first thing to remember when coming to Japan, I therefore tell my friends who visit, is that everything is reversed here. The Japanese read their books from right to left and from back to front (as it seems to us), and they take their baths at night, before they go to sleep; even their baggage carousels move in the opposite direction. And so, naturally enough, what is exotic for them, and what is normal, is the opposite of the way it might be for us. Sometimes, here in Nara, where I live, I go out at dusk and walk along the great park that surrounds Todaiji Temple, home to the largest bronze Buddha in the world. As night falls, the only beings visible are deer, grazing under trees or pricking their ears at me, like ghosts come down from the hills. The place is largely deserted because most of the local Japanese are heading in the opposite direction, to the “Dreamland” amusement-park 10 minutes away.

The other thing to recall is that the Japanese keep their different selves perfectly organized (as everything else is here) by drawing strict lines between different worlds. There is one set of rules and expectations for men, another for women (and, indeed, one set for “normal” women, and a very different set for those who belong to the “mizu-shobai,” or water-world of the night district); in the same way, there are firm divisions between the office world and the play world. That is why the same Japanese businessman who is so flawlessly polite to you in a meeting will vomit in the street; and the one who fashions a delicate ikebana flower-arrangement will be incomparably ruthless when it comes to war."
picoiyer  2009  contradiction  and  yesand  boithand  eitheror  multiplicity  japan  tradition  culture  people  society  compatibility  incompatibility 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Transcript: Pico Iyer — The Art of Stillness | On Being
"MS. TIPPETT: I'm Krista Tippett and this is On Being. Today exploring the “art of stillness” with essayist, novelist, and travel writer Pico Iyer. He began his career as a journalist with Time magazine. He’s now based in a modest, quiet, nearly-technology free home in Japan. He’s written many books and is still often to be found in the pages of publications like The New York Times and Harpers. But he also retreats many times each year to a Benedictine hermitage in Big Sur, California. He’s one of our most eloquent translators of 21st Century people’s rediscovery of inner life.

MS. TIPPETT: You know, one interesting thing you've said about living in Japan, in fact, is that it's made you aware of time in a new way. Now, and again, I want to go back because, isn't a true — so in your 20s you left your very successful, exciting life in New York, and you — I think you left to live for a year in a temple in Kyoto, but you didn't end up staying for a year. Is that right?

MR. IYER: Exactly right. [laughs] I stayed for a week, by which time I found a temple in Kyoto is very different from what I’d imagined in midtown Manhattan. But I did move then to a single room on the back streets of Kyoto without even a toilet or a telephone or a bed.

MS. TIPPETT: Oh, OK. All right then. You're absolved. [laughs] But you have written that — so tell me what you learned about time, and perhaps this is still true, because you spent most of your life in Japan. I’m so intrigued because I think time is just such a fascinating concept, and it has all this resonance both in science and in mysticism and — anyway. So…

MR. IYER: Yes. And I think we all know that sensation. We have more and more time saving devices but less and less time, it seems to us.

MS. TIPPETT: Yeah.

MR. IYER: And I think when I was a boy, the sense of luxury had to do with a lot of space, maybe having a big house or a huge car. Now I think luxury has to do with having a lot of time. The ultimate luxury now might be just a blank space in the calendar.

MS. TIPPETT: So true. So true.

MR. IYER: And interestingly enough, that's what we crave, I think, so many of us. So when I moved from New York City to rural Japan — so after my year in Kyoto, I essentially moved to a two-room apartment, which is where I still live with my wife and, formally, our two kids. And we don't have a car or a bicycle or a T.V. I can understand it's very simple, but it feels very luxurious.

And one reason is that when I wake up, it seems as if the whole day stretches in front of me like an enormous meadow, which is never a sensation I had when I was in go-go New York City. And I can spend five hours at my desk. And then I can take a walk. And then I can spend one hour reading a book that where, as I read, I can feel myself, I’d say, getting deeper and more attentive and more nuance. It’s like a wonderful conversation. Then I have a chance to take another walk around the neighborhood, and take care of my emails and keep my bosses at bay, and then go and play ping pong, and then spend the evening with my wife. And it seems as if the day has a thousand hours, and that's exactly what I tend not to experience or feel when I'm, for example, today in Los Angeles and moving from place to place. And I suppose it's a trade off. So I gave up financial security, and I gave up the excitements of the big city. But I thought it was worth it in order to have two things, freedom and time. And the biggest luxury I enjoy when I'm in Japan is, as soon as I arrive there, I take off my watch, and I feel I never need to put it on again. And I can soon begin to tell the time by how the light is slanting off our walls at sunrise and when the darkness falls, and I suppose back to a more essential human life.

MS. TIPPETT: And that's about the life you've crafted rather than something in Japanese culture, right?

MR. IYER: It is, but of course, when I left New York City, I could have gone anywhere. And as a writer, I'm lucky. I could do my job anywhere. And I think one reason I went to Japan — it goes back to what you were asking about the institutes of higher skepticism — is that my education had taught me quite well to talk, but I don't think it had taught me to listen. And my schools had taught me quite well to sort of push myself forward in the world, but it never taught me to erase myself. And the virtues of when I got to Japan, finding that I was essentially an illiterate. I can't read — I can't — to this day, I can't read or write Japanese. And I'm at the mercy of things around me. I can't have the illusion that I'm on top of things. Japan was a place that I had a huge amount to learn from, and I'm still learning it."
picoiyer  stillness  japan  time  pace  2015  kristatippett  place  nyc  attention  meditation  california  kyoto  onbeing 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Pico Iyer: Where is home? | TED Talk Subtitles and Transcript | TED.com
"And if "Where do you come from?" means "Which place goes deepest inside you and where do you try to spend most of your time?" then I'm Japanese, because I've been living as much as I can for the last 25 years in Japan. Except, all of those years I've been there on a tourist visa, and I'm fairly sure not many Japanese would want to consider me one of them.

And I say all this just to stress how very old-fashioned and straightforward my background is, because when I go to Hong Kong or Sydney or Vancouver, most of the kids I meet are much more international and multi-cultured than I am. And they have one home associated with their parents, but another associated with their partners, a third connected maybe with the place where they happen to be, a fourth connected with the place they dream of being, and many more besides. And their whole life will be spent taking pieces of many different places and putting them together into a stained glass whole. Home for them is really a work in progress. It's like a project on which they're constantly adding upgrades and improvements and corrections.

And for more and more of us, home has really less to do with a piece of soil than, you could say, with a piece of soul. If somebody suddenly asks me, "Where's your home?" I think about my sweetheart or my closest friends or the songs that travel with me wherever I happen to be.

And I'd always felt this way, but it really came home to me, as it were, some years ago when I was climbing up the stairs in my parents' house in California, and I looked through the living room windows and I saw that we were encircled by 70-foot flames, one of those wildfires that regularly tear through the hills of California and many other such places. And three hours later, that fire had reduced my home and every last thing in it except for me to ash. And when I woke up the next morning, I was sleeping on a friend's floor, the only thing I had in the world was a toothbrush I had just bought from an all-night supermarket. Of course, if anybody asked me then, "Where is your home?" I literally couldn't point to any physical construction. My home would have to be whatever I carried around inside me.

And in so many ways, I think this is a terrific liberation. Because when my grandparents were born, they pretty much had their sense of home, their sense of community, even their sense of enmity, assigned to them at birth, and didn't have much chance of stepping outside of that. And nowadays, at least some of us can choose our sense of home, create our sense of community, fashion our sense of self, and in so doing maybe step a little beyond some of the black and white divisions of our grandparents' age. No coincidence that the president of the strongest nation on Earth is half-Kenyan, partly raised in Indonesia, has a Chinese-Canadian brother-in-law.

The number of people living in countries not their own now comes to 220 million, and that's an almost unimaginable number, but it means that if you took the whole population of Canada and the whole population of Australia and then the whole population of Australia again and the whole population of Canada again and doubled that number, you would still have fewer people than belong to this great floating tribe. And the number of us who live outside the old nation-state categories is increasing so quickly, by 64 million just in the last 12 years, that soon there will be more of us than there are Americans. Already, we represent the fifth-largest nation on Earth. And in fact, in Canada's largest city, Toronto, the average resident today is what used to be called a foreigner, somebody born in a very different country.

And I've always felt that the beauty of being surrounded by the foreign is that it slaps you awake. You can't take anything for granted. Travel, for me, is a little bit like being in love, because suddenly all your senses are at the setting marked "on." Suddenly you're alert to the secret patterns of the world. The real voyage of discovery, as Marcel Proust famously said, consists not in seeing new sights, but in looking with new eyes. And of course, once you have new eyes, even the old sights, even your home become something different."
picoiyer  2013  place  belonging  culture  japan  california  migration  international  thirdculturekids  global  roots 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Is it time to cut adrift from island thinking? – Libby Robin – Aeon
"Island-mindedness is born in island places, but the islands of the mind have a broad appeal. Is this hard-wired? Recognising an island of safety and refuge might have enabled our hominin ancestors to find stepping stones out of Africa in times of environmental stress. The concept of the island has long been prominent in literature and useful in science: biologists and geographers, national park managers and archaeologists, linguists, geneticists and evolutionary theorists have all turned at times to the model of the island. Yet it might no longer be a great model for the new needs and concerns of our rapidly globalising century."



"An island is as much metaphor as it is physical place. Nature and wilderness reserves became the real nature for quantitative biological theorists. They could ignore the complex stuff of urban development and human communities. An island could stand for the Garden of Eden, in an age when wilderness was the highest ideal for conservation.

Islands are also devices for thinking mathematically, for simplifying the real world and leaving out messy variables. MacArthur and Wilson were conscious of the complexity of the processes they wished to explain quantitatively – processes such as dispersal, invasion, competition, adaptation and extinction. An island-based theory, they acknowledged, left out ‘many of the most troublesome – and interesting – problems’. Ecological principles need sound theories and statistical significance if they are going to attract support from governments and policymakers. Ultimately, they argued, islands and continents need to be understood together, but the island was the basis for mathematical certainty – for laws – in the management of nature. Their final chapter, ‘Prospect’, argued that biogeography was mature enough to ‘be reformulated in terms of the first principles of population ecology and genetics’."



"The island had seemed an ideal field for ‘experimentation’, but island biogeography did not take sufficient account of time and history, and the assumption that the island’s ecological future was heading steadily towards some sort of ‘balance’ was misplaced. In 1986, the Finnish philosopher-ecologist Yrjö Haila argued that the equilibrium model had ‘ossified into a simple formula that began to suppress creative thinking instead of stimulating it’.

Haila advocated ‘a broader, pluralistic appreciation of the role of theories in general’. But ecologists have found it difficult to let go of the elegance and parsimony that equilibrium theories embody, and to see the way life works afresh without theoretical assumptions. In 2006, the ornithologist and oceanic island specialist David W Steadman argued: ‘Data that fail to support an ‘elegant’ model are often regarded as noise or the exception that proves the rule. Elegant models made by deified people die hard.’

Wilson’s fame gave the equilibrium theory a longer life than its data supported. The balance of nature was attractive beyond science, and it has a romantic following, particularly among conservationists and nature lovers who support the national parks and ‘wilderness’ ideals. The US Wilderness Act is now 50 years old, and things have moved on during the Great Acceleration of change in the same period.

Even as the theory of island biogeography was gaining supporters, the critique of the balance of nature was gathering pace within ecology. National parks and nature reserves management took for granted that nature could somehow heal itself, if protected from humanity. Experimental ideas about islands drove – and at times limited – the conservation agenda, because managers still indulged the idea that nature could be fenced off, or isolated from the threat of humanity. In the past half-century, during which the human population has more than doubled, theories for protecting nature from our overexploitation have proliferated. Biological extinctions have accelerated unabated."



"In the ‘post-national’ 21st century, borders are no longer as fixed as national jurisdictional law suggests. Australia has, at times, excised itself from its islands to handle the politics of asylum‑seeking. Would-be migrants, seeking refuge in Australia, are held on offshore islands until their status is legitimated or denied. By this means, successive Australian governments have deprived vulnerable people, including children, of basic human rights. For the sake of domestic political convenience, the nation of the plastic stencil sometimes defines itself without the islands where refugee boats land. The fact that people abandon nations and passports because of global pressures, because of the impossibility of being at home where they were born, is part of what is changing the nature of nations in a global world. People are no longer from where they came from. They become citizens of where they wash up, or the world. Island-mindedness – the separation of places from other places – is no longer an option.

In this global world, it is flows and circulation, rather than land parcels, that are important. Just as Google maps and GPS have become widespread, territoriality is changing. Flows are about land-and-sea-and-sky-and-people – a collective consciousness that is hard to represent on a 2D map or a phone app.

The island-minded idea of nature, separated from culture, has also changed. Some say we are at the ‘end of nature’: there is now a human signature on all the global flows: the biophysical system is also cultural, as the new epoch of the Anthropocene is imagined. To rework the poet John Dunne, no island-nation is ‘entire of itself’, nor can any island-nature be other than ‘involved in mankind’. Perhaps the bell now tolls for the last island: the blue marble of planet Earth, an island in the infinity of space."



"Surtsey is still bleak and black, but mosses and lichens, windswept grasses and stunted shrubs now soften its edges. All its creatures still live as much with the global systems of winds and storms as on the precious fragment of land that erupted 50 years ago. Surviving on such a remote island is, paradoxically, a mark of cosmopolitanism. Only plants and animals that travel easily will flourish there."
libbyrobin  via:anne  2014  iceland  islands  science  isolation  cosmopolitanism  judithschalansky  picoiyer  surtseyisland  peterveth  charlesdarwin  alfredrusselwallace  galápagos  alexandervonhumboldt  newzealand  australia  bali  lombok  ecology  biology  life  robertmacarthur  edwardowilson  ecosystems  discreetness  nature  wilderness  complexity  extinction  dispersal  invasion  adaptation  competition  biogeography  geography  lordhoweisland  yrjöhaila  equilibrium  conservation  adrianmanning  jakobvonuexküll  flows  circulation  borders  people  humans  separation  anthropocene  darwin 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Notebook on Cities and Culture: S3E1: Buoyancy and Poignancy with Pico Iyer
"Japan's distinctive combination of buoyancy and poignancy, which leads to the pre-savoring of wistfulness to come; the culture's dissolution of mind, heart, and soul all in the same place, and his efforts to build an intellectual infrastructure around his Japan-related intuitions; his recent reading of John Cage, an unexpected master of the Japanese virtues of not knowing and not saying; the necessity, when you want to write about something, to write about something else, and of writing about a passion in order to write about yourself; the Californian question of "being yourself," and its inadmissability to the Japanese mindset; his relief at not having to be Japanese within Japanese society, and what being a Japanese in Japanese society has done to visit a female brain drain upon the country; what it takes to best remain an outsider in Japan, enjoying its peculiar kind of diplomatic immunity, and how Donald Richie mastered that exchange of belonging for freedom…"
passions  memoirs  notknowing  presence  time  fleetingmoments  poignancy  buoyancy  nuance  invisibility  reservedness  quiet  energy  friction  spontaneity  globalization  osaka  english  responsibility  interdependence  compassion  isolationism  isolation  canon  identity  collectivism  community  place  westpoint  books  listening  silence  understanding  vitality  comfort  nostalgia  pre-nostalgia  memory  women  familiarity  attention  donaldrichie  gender  knowing  writing  belonging  california  thoughfulness  japan  intimacy  society  culture  colinmarshall  johncage  2013  via:charlieloyd  picoiyer 
january 2013 by robertogreco
The Snake in the Garden - NYTimes.com
"it’s uncanny how often we let ourselves out of the Garden by worrying about something that, if it did happen, would quicken us into a response much more practical than worry. All the real challenges of my, or any, life…[examples]…came out of the blue; they’re just what I had never thought to worry about…And every time some kind of calamity has come into my life, I and everyone around me have responded with activity, unexpected strength, even an all but unnatural calm.

It’s only when we’re living in the future, the realm of “what if,” that we brilliantly incapacitate ourselves. And it’s mostly when someone abruptly cries, “Watch out!” that we lose control of the car we’re driving. Yet all the Stoic arguments are hard to absorb in that part of ourselves that matters…

We worry only about exactly those things we can never do anything about. And then that very fact becomes something else we worry about."
writing  mind  precarity  uncertainty  statusanxiety  cv  worry  anxiety  stoicism  stoics  2012  picoiyer 
november 2012 by robertogreco
Think You Under the Table On the Internet and Quietness
"My friend Wes linked to this article in the New York Times Sunday Review Op-Ed. It’s about how we’re in danger of losing our selves and our sanity due to screens, the internet, and cellphones (it’s well written and probably better than that description, but…). But as I read these articles from time to time there is a sense that there is something right about them, but I think I ultimately largely disagree with these assessments. Does anyone else find that they don’t have a problem with their selfhood in the context of the internet/cellphones? Maybe it’s because a large part of the way I use these gadgets and all this information is for reading quality writing (like the article Wes linked to) and interacting in intellectually engaging ways with other humans. But that would just reiterate to me that technology is what one makes of it. It isn’t inherently distracting. It can be used for reflective analysis of how one uses technology, like what I’m doing right now. This is form and content in harmony."
noahdennis  technology  humanity  consciousness  quietness  stillness  picoiyer  attention  via:lukeneff 
january 2012 by robertogreco
The Joy of Quiet - NYTimes.com
"A few months later, I read an interview with the perennially cutting-edge designer Philippe Starck. What allowed him to remain so consistently ahead of the curve? “I never read any magazines or watch TV,” he said, perhaps a little hyperbolically. “Nor do I go to cocktail parties, dinners or anything like that.” He lived outside conventional ideas, he implied, because “I live alone mostly, in the middle of nowhere.”

Around the same time, I noticed that those who part with $2,285 a night to stay in a cliff-top room at the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur pay partly for the privilege of not having a TV in their rooms; the future of travel, I’m reliably told, lies in “black-hole resorts,” which charge high prices precisely because you can’t get online in their rooms."
2012  philippestarck  thinking  attention  technology  quiet  silence  solitude  picoiyer 
january 2012 by robertogreco
Museum peace: Japan's Naoshima island | Travel | The Observer
"Japanese cool has, for decades now, been associated with everything fast, hi-tech & jangly; it's the TVs on taxi dashboards, the control-panels on toilets, the underground universes around major train stations that keep buzzing even after a natural calamity that stunned the rest of us. And if you're looking for a world-defining Japanese art form, you're more likely to turn these days to anime and manga than to any of the country's classical painters or mock-European forms. So it was shocking for me to go to the sleepy, faraway island of Naoshima – now turned into an "art island" rich with museums and installations – and find the coolest thing I've seen in my 24 years of living in Japan. It was, in some ways, the reverse of technology…"

"Naoshima is not like anything in the west, but more an ultra-cool reference and homage to what Japan has been doing all along, in cutting away distraction and using frames and light and silence to still the mind and train one in attention."
picoiyer  japan  naoshima  naoshimaisland  art  museums  technology  simplicity  tadaoando  chichumuseum  parks  benessehouse  jamesturrell  leeufan 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Angela Ritchie's Ace Camps - Why We Travel - Pico Iyer
"We travel…to lose ourselves…to find ourselves…to open our hearts & eyes & learn more…to bring what little we can, in our ignorance & knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed…to become young fools again—to slow time down & get taken in, & fall in love once more…

…travel…is just a quick way to keeping our minds mobile & awake. As Santayana…wrote, “There is wisdom in turning as often as possible from the familiar to the unfamiliar; it keeps the mind nimble; it kills prejudice, & it fosters humor.” Romantic poets inaugurated an era of travel because they were the great apostles of open eyes. Buddhist monks are often vagabonds, in part because they believe in wakefulness. And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end."

[Wayback: http://web.archive.org/web/20110526050656/http://www.ritchieacecamps.com/why-we-travel-pico-iyer ]
picoiyer  travel  learning  identity  glvo  self  knowledge  tcsnmy  ignorance  slow  time  love  santayana  thoreau  ralphwaldoemerson  wakefulness  awareness  noticing  observation  familiarity  transformationcompassion  empathy  work  life  freedom  proust  language  camus  fear  disruption  odyssey  grahamgreene  dhlawrence  vsnaipaul  brucechatwin  samuelbutler  paultheroux  oliversacks  petermatthiessen  marcelproust  albertcamus 
august 2010 by robertogreco
The Joy of Less - Happy Days Blog - NYTimes.com
"I have no bicycle, no car, no television I can understand, no media — and the days seem to stretch into eternities, and I can’t think of a single thing I lack...at some point, I decided that, for me at least, happiness arose out of all I didn’t want or need, not all I did...I’m not sure how much outward details or accomplishments ever really make us happy...happiness, like peace or passion, comes most freely when it isn’t pursued...If you’re the kind of person who prefers freedom to security, who feels more comfortable in a small room than a large one and who finds that happiness comes from matching your wants to your needs, then running to stand still isn’t where your joy lies. In New York, a part of me was always somewhere else, thinking of what a simple life in Japan might be like. Now I’m there, I find that I almost never think of Rockefeller Center or Park Avenue at all."
happiness  materialism  consciousness  well-being  picoiyer  simplicity  slow  cv  consumerism  postmaterialism  postconsumerism  presence  now  glvo  via:behemoney 
june 2009 by robertogreco
In the Realm of Jet Lag - New York Times
"in 1971, a woman called Sarah Krasnoff made off with her 14-year-old grandson, who was caught up in an unseemly custody dispute, and took him into the sky...fugitive enterprise ended...collapsed and died...of terminal jet lag."
picoiyer  2004  jetlag  nytimes  airports  health  history  travel  nomads  neo-nomads 
june 2008 by robertogreco
Foxymoron: The global soul
[wayback: https://web.archive.org/web/20080113210554/http://citygirl.typepad.com/foxymoron/2007/01/lessons_we_have.html ]

"The country where people look like me is the one where I can't speak the language, the country where people sound like me is a place where I look highly alien, and the country where people live like me is the most foreign space of all. And though, when I was growing up, I was nearly always the only mongrel in my classroom or neighbourhood, now, when I look around, there are more and more people in a similar state, the children of blurred boundaries and global mobility."



"For a Global Soul like me--for anyone born to several cultures--the challenge in the modern world is to find a city that speaks to as many of our homes as possible. The process of interacting with a place is a little like the rite of a cocktail party, at which, upon being introduced to a stranger, we cast about to find a name, a place, a person we might have in common: a friend is someone who can bring as many of our selves to the table as possible.

In that respect, Toronto felt entirely on my wavelength. It assembled many of the pasts that I knew, from Asia and America and Europe; yet unlike other such outposts of Empire--Adelaide, for example, or Durban--it offered the prospect of uniting all the fragments in a stained-glass whole. Canada could put all the pieces of our lives together, it told me (and others like me), without all the king's horses and all the king's men."
picoiyer  travel  global  multicultural  losangeles  lax  toronto  society  identity  writing  books  globalism  ethnicity  human  cities  airports  homes  belonging  future  work  cosmopolitanism 
march 2007 by robertogreco

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