Saturday, May 31, 2003


In a previous millennium, not long after I had first 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 affect news, and that the "real" news is local. Every seasoned wanderer knows how the truth changes when that juridical interface is passed, how the victims on one side become the perpetrators 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 dubious answer at the time; but then, I was only a novice alien dream monk. Since then I've traveled a lot more, and have seen and heard more news about here 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 'on the spot.' It seems most people never travel 'far' enough to perceive such a thing and gain such perspective, so never know how profoundly their own borders alter news. General populaces thus tend to believe the reports of their media, that 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. There was nothing in between.

Long before there were media standing dutifully in our light, streaming through the air in disembodied voices or residing on sheets of paper covered with words from other minds, times and places; before we began to accept the addiction of believing even history was true as told to us, of relying on second, third and fourth-hand accounts of events to keep us abreast of things we didn't have a clue about as we bought into 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-- as I say, before all these veils came to be (pay no attention to the man behind the curtain), we saw no separation between ourselves and the world around us; we had as yet created no distinction between the world and ourselves: 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, with billboards on our eyeballs and tv in our faces, new stars in the sky and radio waves sectoring our very bodies, all we need is the internet. How crucial it has become, then, that we maintain our skepticism, our own intelligence as we carom like corks down the whitewater rapids of data directed by experts. So acquire 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 observe what the cloud resembles.

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