Posts Tagged ‘life


Real life

Death was playing a joke on me but now that I’ve escaped the demon wall, I am secretly rejoicing. Life for me once again has a wonderful freshness. I should have left those contaminated surroundings long ago and returned to nature to look for this authentic life.

In those contaminated surroundings I was taught that life was the source of literature, that literature had to be faithful to life, faithful to real life. My mistake was that I had alienated myself from life and ended up turning my back on real life. Life is not the same as manifestations of life. Real life, or in other words the basic substance of life, should be the former and not the latter. I had gone against real life because I was simply stringing together life’s manifestations, so of course I wasn’t able to accurately portray life and in the end only succeeded in distorting reality.

Xingjian Gao, “Soul Mountain”


The power of the word (with a rare absence of Mishima)

How soon will someone speak the word the resentful millions will understand: the words to be, to act, to live?

Richard Wright, “Native Son”


Favorite passage from “Waiting”

The moon was glistening on the willow and maple crowns; beetles and grasshoppers were chirring madly. The leaves and branches, heavy with dew, bent down slightly, while the grass on both sides of the road looked spiky and thick in the coppery light of the street lamps. A toad was croaking like a broken horn from a distant ditch partly filled with foamy water. Lin felt weak and aged; he was unsure whether he cared for the twins and whether he would be able to love them devotedly. Watching their covered faces, somehow he began to imagine trading places with them, having his life start afresh. If only he himself had been carried by someone like this now; then he would have led his life differently. Perhaps he would never have had a family.

Ha Jin, “Waiting”


The law as an obstruction to poetry…

The law is an accumulation of tireless attempts to block a man’s desire to change life into an instant of poetry. Certainly it would not be right to let everybody exchange his life for a line of poetry written in a splash of blood. But the mass of men, lacking valor, pass away their lives without ever feeling the least touch of such a desire. The law, therefore, of its very nature is aimed at a tiny minority of mankind. The extraordinary purity of a handful of men, the passionate devotion that knows nothing of the world’s standards… the law is a system that tries to degrade them to ‘evil’, on the same level as robbery and crimes of passion.

– Yukio Mishima, “Runaway Horses” (Chapter 33)


Mishima: Social Psychologist

Back to “Runaway Horses” real quick. This is quite a different approach from how we studied and considered groupthink during my undergraduate and graduate social psychology courses.

In ordinary human relationships, good and evil, trust and mistrust appear in impure form, mixed together in small portions. But when men gather together to form a group devoted to a purity not of this world, their evil may remain, purged from each member but coalesced to form a single pure crystal. Thus in the midst of a collection of pure white gems, perhaps it was inevitable that one gem black as pitch could also be found.

If one took this concept a bit further, one encountered an extremely pessimistic line of thought: the substance of evil was to be found more in blood brotherhoods by their very nature than in betrayal. Betrayal was something that was derived from this evil, but the evil was rooted in the blood brotherhood itself. The purest evil that human efforts could attain, in other words, was probably achieved by those men who made their wills the same and who made their eyes see the world in the same way, men who went against the pattern of life’s diversity, men whose spirits shattered the natural wall of the individual body, making nothing of this barrier set up to guard against mutual corrosion, men whose spirit accomplished what flesh could never accomplish. Collaboration and cooperation were weak terms bound up with anthropology. But blood brotherhood… that was a matter of eagerly joining one’s spirit to the spirit of another. This in itself showed a bright scorn for the futile, laborious human process in which ontogeny was eternally recapitulating phylogeny, in which man forever tried to draw a bit closer to truth only to be frustrated by death, a process that had ever to begin again in the sleep within the amniotic fluid. By betraying this human condition the blood brotherhood tried to gain its purity, and thus it was perhaps but to be expected that it, in turn, should of its very nature incur its own betrayal. Such men had never respected humanity.

– Yukio Mishima, “Runaway Horses” (Chapter 33)


Purity as the key to joining heaven and earth…

Taking a step back to the previous volume…

If we look on idly, heaven and earth will never be joined. To join heaven and earth, some decisive deed of purity is necessary. To accomplish so resolute an action, you have to stake your life, giving no thought to personal gain or loss. You have to turn into a dragon and stir up a whirlwind, tear the dark, brooding clouds asunder and soar up into the azure-blue sky.

– Yukio Mishima, “Runaway Horses” (Chapter 37)


Opposites or Complements?

Then there’s only one way to participate in history, and that’s to have no will at all—to function solely as a shining, beautiful atom, eternal and unchanging. No one should look for any other meaning in human existence.

– Yukio Mishima, “Spring Snow” (Chapter 13)

Oddly enough, living only for one’s emotions, like a flag obedient to the breeze, demands a way of life that makes one balk at the natural course of events, for this implies being altogether subservient to nature. The life of the emotions detests all constraints, whatever their origin, and thus, ironically enough, is apt eventually to fetter its own instinctive sense of freedom.

– Yukio Mishima, “Spring Snow” (Chapter 15)

October 2017
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