Posts Tagged ‘runaway horses


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)


Mishima, the contradiction.

Mishima can dedicate twenty pages to step-by-step depictions of seventy soldiers disemboweling themselves, but he can also do… this.

Somewhere in his heart he had recognized who she was. His dominant wish, however, was to go a little longer without recognizing her. The woman’s face floating in its dark seclusion, no name yet attached to it, had the character of a mysterious, lovely apparition. It was like the scent of the fragrant olive which, as one walks along a path at night, tells of the blossoms before one sees them. Isao wanted to keep things just as they were, if only for an instant more. At this moment a woman was a woman, not someone with a name attached to her.

And that was not all. Because of her hidden name, because of the agreement not to speak that name, she was transmuted into a marvelous essence, like a moonflower, its supporting vine invisible, floating high up in the darkness. This essence which preceded existence, this phantasm which preceded reality, this portent which preceded the event conveyed with unmistakable force the presence of a substance yet more powerful. This presence which showed itself as gliding through air—this was woman.

Isao had yet to embrace a woman. Still, never so strongly at this moment, when he keenly sensed this “womanliness that preceded woman,” had he felt that he too knew what ecstasy meant. For this was a presence that he could even now embrace. In time, that is, it had drawn near with an exquisite subtlety, and in space it was only a little distant. The affectionate emotion that filled his breast was like a vapor that could envelop her. And yet once she was gone, Isao, like a child, could forget her entirely.

Yukio Mishima, “Runaway Horses” (Chapter 18)

Christ… How does it manage to hold up in translation!?!


Decay and the Color of Dawn

Absolutely stunning, Mishima-san.
“…but now, along this high, rocky road, it was the leaves of cherry trees that predominated. From the bridge on, these lay like fallen red flowers. Some wet leaves, already decaying, had faded to a pink that was the color of the dawn. Why should decay take the color of the dawn?”
– Yukio Mishima, “Runaway Horses” (Chapter 23)


Love, Passion, and Transformation

Things did not proceed as I had thought, however. Even as I watched, I saw this naive, heedless passion changing my friend. Love was feverishly at work, transforming him into a person suited for love. His passion, altogether foolish, altogether blind, made him into one altogether suitable. Just at the moment of his death, I saw his face become the very face of one who had been born to die for love. All incongruity was wiped away at that moment.

I, whose eyes had witnessed so miraculous a transformation, could myself hardly remain unchanged. My callow faith in my own indomitable nature became a prey to misgivings, and I had to work to maintain it. What had been an act of faith now became an act of will. What had been something natural now became something to be sought after. This was an alteration that brought with it a certain profit valuable to me in my role as a judge. When I deal with a criminal I am able to believe, unswayed by theories of retribution or re-education, or by optimism or pessimism toward human nature, that any man, regardless of his situation, is capable of being transformed…

…Having reached my present age, I find myself no longer adverting to the incongruity between men and their passions. When I was young, concern for my own welfare certainly made such fault-finding a necessity, but now not only is this necessity gone but the disharmony in others resulting from their passion, which in the past I would have considered a weakness worthy of scornful laughter, has become but an allowable imperfection. And with that perhaps I have lost the last vestige of my youth, whose vulnerability made it fearful of the wounds incurred by reacting emotionally to the erratic conduct of others. Now, indeed, it is the beauty of danger rather than the danger of beauty that affects me with the utmost vividness, and there is nothing comical to me about youth. Probably this is because youth no longer has any claim on my self-awareness. When I consider all this for a moment, there is something frightening about it. My own enthusiasm, innocuous as it is for me, may well have the result of further stimulating your dangerous enthusiasm.

– Yukio Mishima, “Runaway Horses” (Chapter 10)


Death and Freedom

He was always thinking of death, and this had so refined him that the physical seemed to fall away, freeing him from the pull of earth and enabling him to walk about some distance above its surface. Indeed he felt that even his distaste and hatred for the affairs of the world no longer stirred him deeply.

– Yukio Mishima, “Runaway Horses” (Chapter 12)

November 2017
« Mar    


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1 other follower