Sunday, October 09, 2011


The other day Echo was telling me that when you get up in the morning it is beneficial to the health to say OHAIYO GOZAIMASU!! (GOOD MORNING!!) or OSU!! (MORNIN'!!) loudly and deeply from the hara as the monks and the martial arts students do, as being stimulative to that primal source of ki (spirit energy) for the entire being, and I could not but agree, with the proviso that on certain mornings, such as Mondays, there is no particular reason to get all that excited or pepped up about anything, that's life, give it a rest.

Then later as I was whistling my way through a task or two as has been my wont for my entire life (well, ever since I first managed to whistle and didn't want to stop, from then on polishing my whistle to its whistliest), I realized that whistling whenever a whistle is willing is also a very good thing for the hara and the general mood of oneself, and possibly of others, if one is a good whistler. Extending this thought over to the cultural realms, I came to realize that no one ever whistles here in Japan, I am usually the only one doing so in the silent crowd, for which I am now and then likely looked upon as being a bit daffy, but as a traveling whistler through multiple cultures, I don't mind at all.

Whistlers usually don't mind at all-- it evolves in their natures, whistling being somewhat of an absently showoffy thing, when done right. That's another of the powers whistling bestows upon the whistle-blessed. In the States, especially when I was a kid, I used to hear folks (by 'folks' I mean men in this case, and politically correctly; women never whistled, except while they were little girls trying out new stuff, or later maybe in private, and that still seems to be true) whistling all the time: garage mechanics, mailmen, milkmen, paperboys, even guys just walking alone down the street with no particular objective (whistlers are right at home without objectives); I have never seen such a thing in Japan, even among foreigners.

I suppose that whistling, wherever it is done in earnest, is thought of as such a solitary endeavor that one doesn't seek it in others, listen for it or even think about it: it is just a matter of tuneful happenstance, unlike attending a performance by the New York Philharmonic, for example.

But whistling is a sure sign of contentment, of essential comfort, of the primal joy that can be found in simply being from top to bottom, adorned only by the curlicues of a whistle that dances upon the air like birdsong from the treetops of our souls, a song to sound out to your footsteps or the tool of your labor, even if the tune is one of the old standards, played on the instrument you always have with you.

Of course you can compose your own melodies ad libitum if you're of such a mind, as most whistlers are. That's another of those great unsung pleasures. And if you can't whistle, then you can get a flute or a recorder or a penny whistle or a harmonica and bring your music into the world wherever you go. You can give birth all your life, you know.


annie said...

I do appreciate a whistler, and I too have been a whistler for as long as I have been able. My father was a whistler of the crooner-warbler type, and I wanted so for him to teach me. But I was a girl, and my grandmother admonished that whistling girls and crowing hens etc. So except when I put the tips of my little fingers between my lips and let 'er rip, I am just an average whistler. And I love it.

esbboston said...

I typed "japanese whistler" into a YouTube search. I came up with a Japanese man doing a finger whistle on a subway. It is titled, "Number One Finger whistler in Japan" on YouTube.