daily preciousness

Thursday, October 03, 2002

the letter

It’s a simple letter, with black, hand-scrawled letters in an easy hand.

It’s on bright yellow paper that lounged atop a box of my things from Japan. It languished there for seven years.

The box was carefully labeled and inventoried, like archeological artifacts in a museum. But the semi-official sounding title was clearly a joke. “Items from the pre-Japonic period.” (You know, one of the million little personal jokes that nobody else would get but me… “Japonic” was a stab at a Latin-sounding name, pseudo-official sounding to my silly ear.)

I packed the box a long time ago, before my adventure.

The note reads:

7/23/95

Jeffrey –

Welcome back. I assume you enjoyed your days, months and years in the East. You have so much to talk about and listen to. Where to begin?!?

Today I am packing up and putting away all my precious things for safekeeping ‘til I return. What are you putting away today? What are you keeping safe for tomorrow?

There’s one thing you must remember as you settle back into your life at home: You’re home again. Think about what that means. Don’t forget where your home is. It should be your base of support and your emotional foundation.

What have you learned from your journey? What have you left behind, never to regain? And what precious things have you gained in your travels that you could never do without?

I wish you joy. I hope you return a happier person, richer in mind and spirit. I hope your expectations were met generously and your worries were scarce.

What’s next? What now? I wonder as I wander. All my love – you were always on my mind.

– jb

The letter brings up some good points to ponder.

What am I putting away today?

These days, I’m putting away money so that I can travel again, just like I did in Japan. But it’s more than that. Today I’m putting away the doubts I used to harbor. (This is pretty easy. I surround myself with people who generate megawatts of positivity.) I’m putting away my former habit of being silent about my political beliefs. (I volunteer for political causes regularly.) I’ve also said “sayonara” to all the toxic people in my life.

What am I keeping safe for tomorrow?

I am keeping my body in shape, with my marathon training. I’m keeping my mind healthy and alert, by reading and writing regularly. (I challenge myself ideologically more these days, reading books that run counter to presuppositions.) I keep my hopes lively and bright, aspiring to a relationship that inspires me. I keep an eye out for opportunity and beauty, for friendly smiles and for those elusive moments of clarity and serendipity.

What have I learned from my journey?

- Jedi mind tricks were first pioneered during the Meiji era of Japan and are still used to this day.

- The spiraling, indirect method of communication is as effective as it is enigmatic.

- Culture can be as powerful as a stormy sea or as imperceptible as a ripple in the moonlight; context is the only inter-cultural Rosetta Stone.

- Only once you’ve forgotten everything about a subject can you study it without bias or sociological academic baggage. (…Or at least with less of these encumbrances…)

What have I left behind, never to regain?

I think the dominant attitude of total cultural imperialism that most Americans unknowingly hold is something that I’ve successfully shed. (Yes, of course I still make fun of Canada, despite my Wonder Twin’s choice to live there.)

And what rewards have I reaped in your travels that you could never do without?

Fantastic memories, Wisdom about the incredible variety of the world, Profound respect for the mysteries of culture and foreign belief systems, The ability to cook with ginger, A love of wasabi and fresh (raw) seafood.

What’s next? What now?

I can only cite Bjork: “In wonder, I wonder, ‘What happens next?’”

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