A Grand Polyphony

Ryuichi Ishikawa


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285 × 297mm
160 pages
ISBN 978-4-86541-025-9
November 2014

"From the Tang Age to the Yamato Age, from the Yamato Age to the American Age." This line from a song by Rinsho Kadekaru conveys the singer's love for the Okinawan people, who have maintained their pride for this small group of islands at all costs, regardless of who controlled it. It also serves as an ironic commentary on Okinawan society. The islands have constantly fallen victim to people's greed and sorrow. This probably explains why there are so many dreams connected to these rich and peaceful tropical islands. And this is also why the islands have been fraught with a chaos borne of uncontrollable greed.

But for my generation this was simply a given, something that started long before we were born, and most of us did not take issue with it. At least, there was no one like that around me when I was growing up and even when you had a chance to ask older people how to make life better, no one was ever really sure how to break free from these circumstances. In the final analysis, you might say that this history, made up of conflicts and invasions, is a basic human problem. To those of us who have freely consumed chocolate and coffee beans (produced under harsh conditions by someone in some far-off land) since we were children, it was impossible to change the life that we had grown accustomed to, even after we came to understand it as adults. We simply had to deal with the contradictions and the frustrations they created.

We have a robust natural environment, a seemingly regular lifestyle, and our own kind of pleasures. We cope with our sense of unresolved frustration, and wait for those extraordinary moments that are not supposed to occur, spending our days in anguish.

"Nan kurunai saa" ("It'll all work out") is a phrase that dates back to a time when everyone worked desperately to keep from starving. Now that life has become so easy, everything is filled with an excessive "vigor for life," distorting its original form. The islands are caught up in a huge vortex - it is as if one segment of society thrives in proportion to how much stress it harbors. And commonplace things are disappearing and being forgotten without attracting much attention.

From a plateau, the scenery is made up craggy chunks of concrete and iron stuck into the surface of the ground like tattoos and piercings in a person's body. Signs in vacant lots read, "For Sale" and "Under Prefectural Management." Capitalist society was built on the idea of a very small privileged class wielding negative imagery related to the sorrow and fear of death.
But the truly sad thing is neither death itself nor the fact that people were killed - it is the fact that the desire to kill lives on in people's minds.

This kind of society treats everyone cruelly. You might compare it to using reason to control people's wild nature and physicality. The important thing in life is not to hammer ideas from books and other people into your head but to be more in sync with the wild nature that you experience and feel. Despite this, philosophy that uses reason as a shield creates a form of life that approaches society as a huge organism. In the end, our lifestyles should be based solely on taking responsibility for our lives. True reason is not something used to manipulate, but something used to permit and guide. Life has no meaning other than living.

It goes without saying but not all entities and events are equal. In this world, each entity or event has a different value as a completely different thing, and while shrouded in contradiction, it moves forward as it turns. So it is perfectly acceptable for today's correct answer to be tomorrow's mistake, and today's dislike to be tomorrow's like. We should make more mistakes and find the correct answers. Human existence and creative power are life itself, and with their experiences as a foundation, people create every moment. Each moment is for the most part meaningless and only by forming a connection between moments does it become possible to imbue each of them with a tiny amount of meaning.

Reality is always excessive. And people's vessels are always too small. When we are confronted and devastated by the world we live in, the vessel is smashed to pieces and scattered. Then, before we know it, another vessel has taken its place, and we begin searching for somewhere else to dwell. In this world, which should be equipped with everything we need, we merely select the things that match our own hopes (the things we have experienced or the things that we can easily derive from them).

This is not the important thing. The important thing is to accept what is here and now to the greatest possible degree. "Polishing" and "eliminating waste" are not technical concerns. We should discard our experiences and the concepts that have accumulated as much as we can and face the present moment. By doing this, we can break out of our chains and enter "something" new. This is something that always remains no matter how many times we try to get rid of it. This is nothing so much as our own hopelessly idiotic identities.

Ryuichi Ishikawa (from the postscript)

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