Being my harshest critic and operating with exceptional high standards for myself (sometimes ones I can't possibly live up to) I have tried not to beat myself up in asking how useful I was over the past seven weeks. If I didn't make a difference at all, the entire trip was for naught. I can't live with this. In order to let myself believe I didn't waste seven weeks of my life, in my own way and using my own definitions, I let myself believe I did make a difference. I allow myself to believe I was useful.
But, let's get real. How was I useful? For whom? And, how do I know I was actually helpful? Those are questions I can't answer. Perhaps I will never know. Then comes synchronicity. It hits me. I receive a glimpse of the possibility I did actually do something. This came one night as someone read the poem Amenimo makezu, Kazenimo makezu by Miyazawa Kenji. The synchronicity I encountered in Japan, over and over and over again blessed me this night as well. Hearing this poem brought it full circle. Let me explain.
This poem by Miyazawa was found posthumously in a notebook of his. It's beautiful in its simplicity and sincerity. Miyazawa died young at 37. He was one of my favorite poets/writers in my childhood. The poem which I loosely translate "be not defeated by rain nor wind" always makes me cry. I wish I could write like this. When this poem by Miyazawa, some might say what he is most famous for, was read as a going-away gift I learned for the first time he was from Iwate. I lost it. Of course he would be from Iwate. More synchronicity.
I have favorite lines from within the poem. Realizing certain stanzas speak to me more than others, it brought me back to the collection of writings I have selected over the years. I have gathered many of these tidbits into a notebook. In this notebook is the poem Success incorrectly (evidently) attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson. I have favorite lines within Emerson's poem as well. It was this juxtaposition of my favorite parts of two poems written by two men, one from Iwate and the other from Massachusetts (my two adopted homes), both of whom found the words to express their beliefs simply and yet so beautifully--this was how I could define how useful I had been in Japan.
So, with my offerings of profound respect to Miyazawa Kenji and whoever wrote Success and with sincere gratitude, please allow me to borrow from both to create a lyrical offering to myself on how I want to live my life.
Be not defeated neither by rain nor by wind
To laugh often and much
To win the affection of children
If there is a tired mother to the east
I will go there and shoulder her sheaf of rice
If there is someone near death to the south
I will go there and say 'there's no need to be afraid'
If there is a quarrel to the north
I will go and tell them to stop being petty
To know even one life has breathed easier because I have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
This is the person I want to become.
This is my new mantra, a gift I didn't expect to find in going to Japan. This, I can do. This, I hope I have done.