Thursday, July 23, 2009


In a previous millennium, not long after I had come to Japan and seen how different the news was over here from what it had been back home, where Japan was still not quite above suspicion as an ally (and never will be, in some still-living minds), I was experiencing what every traveler senses at every international transit: that borders determine news, and that all news is local. Every seasoned border-crosser knows how the truth changes when that judicial interface is passed, how the victims on one side become the murderers on the other. But this was all rather subconsciously perceived by me at the time, amid the swarm of new information travel stirs up.

I guess that’s why not long after I arrived in Tokyo I had a dream in which as a dream novice monk I asked my dream abbot the koan “What is media?” and he responded “The cloud resembles a rabbit,” which phrase was floating homeless in my newly alien brain as I awoke. I thought it a rather silly answer at the time; but then, I was only a novice alien dream monk.

Since then I’ve traveled more, and have seen and heard more news here and there and elsewhere from an increasingly alien perspective, and have observed how difficult it can be for a local to maintain a healthy skepticism while immersed in a sea of information served up by ‘trained’ and ‘qualified’ professionals who are actually ‘on the spot’. It seems most people never travel ‘far’ enough to gain such perspective, and never see how profoundly their own borders alter news, and so general populaces tend to trust their media, which by definition stand between the seeker and the truth.

Once upon a time, when there was nothing between us and reality, when rock or tree or flower or wind or stream was as real as our imagining – when we were inseparate from the actuality around us-- our hands were easily water, our eyes easily sky, our hearts easily fire. Long before there were media standing dutifully in our light, or streaming through the air in disembodied voices or faces, or sheets of paper covered with words from minds, times and places we can never know or be in; before we began to indulge in the narcissistic addiction of setting ourselves up to believe even history was true as told to us, subsequently relying on second, third and fourth-hand accounts of events to keep us abreast of things we didn’t really have a clue about except this or that smidgeon afforded us by an unknown and elsewhere accredited committee, thus collectively aspiring to the dangerous illusion that bides at the heart of modern society, i. e., that we actually have a handle on what is going on around the world even now – as I say, before all these veils came to be (pay no attention to that man behind the curtain), we saw no separation between ourselves and the world around us, had as yet created no distinction, no palisades of faith, no moats of patriotism, no need for better and better weapons and the right to bear them, no seeds of distrust, no doubting the very air.

Environed as we are now by information and its aftereffects, with billboards on our eyeballs and pixels in our faces, new stars in the sky and etherwaves sectoring our very bodies, all we need is the internet. How crucial it has become, then, that we revive and maintain our ancient skepticism, our own intelligence, as we carom like corks down the whitewater rapids of data directed by experts. So gain perspective: look at a tree if you can find one, and remember the roots; or at least look up at a patch of sky and remember that the cloud resembles a rabbit.

One of my Rambles, From Kyoto Journal #46

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