KJ 42 TIME
published December 12, 1999
Cover Image: Total eclpse of the sun, April 16, 1893 by James Schiaberle
A special issue on Time:Pico Iyer on “All the Times in the World,” Wuppertal researcher Wolfgang Sachs on “The Speed Merchants,” poet John Brandi on “Time, Trance and Dance in Bali,” Terence McKennaon “Archaic Revival,” Marc Peter Keane on garden time, in “Currents“, Harold Wright on “Translating the Meiji Emperor’s Clock Poem,” Antonino Forte on “The Clock and the Perfect Society,” Bruce Allen on natural cycles in Tokyo, and Toyoshima Mizuho on “Pregnant Time.” Time-related fiction from Robert Brady on “The Best Sellers of 1857”; Stephen Radford, “Chiaki Stays Home”; and FJ Logan on the King of Japanese Novelty T-shirts. Poetry too, from Edith Schiffert and Kinoshita Yuji. Other contributors on the theme of Time include Hal Gold on “Korea’s Confucian Time Warp”; Rita Kubiak on an environmental time bomb (endocrine disruptors); Philip Grant on “Dragon Time”; Joaninha on calligraphy’s “Art of the Moment”; and Morgan Gibson on “the Non-Zen Poet of Yokohama.” This issue also features fine images from world-class photographers including Linda Connor, Hoshikawa Kuyo, Edward Levinson, Albie Sharpe, and David Culton — and illustrations by Walderedo de Oliviera.
In Kyoto, the past is sometimes so strongly present that it seems more real than what’s here-and-now — this sudden glittering synthetic dream, this alien cabled web of metal, concrete, glass, asphalt. To almost every previous generation living beside the ceaselessly flowing Kamogawa, today’s city and its lifestyle would have been wholly unimaginable. We reside in only one of old Kyoto’s infinite number of possible futures. With hindsight, always the illusion of inevitability. Looking forward, the illusion of absolute freedom of choice. This paradox is just one of the great mysteries of Time.
Time, like value or proportion, is one of those currencies we exchange (at the going rate) every time we cross a border. An hour in Japan (where everything is clockbound, and even televisions show the hour) is equivalent to a day in laid-back India; yet a single day in Cuba (so crazily eventful) can feel like a year in any calmer place. One of the curious paradoxes of time, as with the money for which it is often exchanged, is that those who are richest in it are the ones least attached to it: in Bali, on many nights, I’ve shown up for a ritual dance scheduled to begin at 8 p.m., only to see the minutes, the hours leak away, till soon the night is almost over. The gods can’t be made to arrive on cue, the locals always tell me; they have a time-frame of their own.
In Bali one never escapes the energetic ever-present reversible flow between noumenon and phenomenon. The kris “dancer” shudders and lapses into an area of transparence. His voice wanders, his words revert to pure sound — all power, no meaning. Time is a shattered clock, an exploding mirror of shrill laughter, angular rhythms, rippling joints, smoldering chaos, electric gyrations.
The rokuyo are six days in a continuous cycle of varying auspiciousness based on Chinese fortune-telling. They have appeared on Japanese calendars since the Edo period and are still observed today, especially in selecting suitable dates for weddings, funerals, and the commencement of construction projects.
Meiji’s Clock Poem –
This poem is a tanka by the Emperor Meiji, 122nd Emperor of Japan, who reigned from 1868 to 1912, when Japan began its explosion towards the modern world. The poetry of this Emperor has delighted me for years. Oh, he did write a lot of awful mini-“State of the Union” messages, but I like his personal poetry and his poems about new inventions coming into Japan. He wrote tanka about his first exposure to telescopes, photography, trains, steamships, telegraphs, and then to Western-style wars. He expressed grief over troop losses in verse.
There are many in Europe and America still unwilling to admit that what for centuries was considered a typically European invention is, on the contrary, from the Orient. Their reluctance is a remnant of the long-held but now largely abandoned Western perception of Asia as a “timeless” region — one not operating, at least socially, according to the conception of time as a medium for continuous development. The first European mechanical clocks date back to the fourteenth century.
About fifty ducks wing by, and then another group, and another. As thirty minutes or so pass, a dozen squadrons of ducks make their final great arc about the perimeter of the pond, as if to take one last look; perhaps to lock the image and location of the pond into their deepest memories, or to implant them in the genes of a generation yet to be born. Then they gather speed, crying out their whirring farewell calls as they go, and are off to the northland.
Natural systems change according to inherent time scales. Processes like growth and decay, formation and erosion, assimilation and regeneration, selection and adaptation follow rhythms of their own. Pushed along under the fast beat of industrial time, they are driven into turbulence or destabilized. The speed of capital accumula¬tion is at variance with the speed of nature regeneration.
When a women is pregnant, she quickly becomes aware that she is being ruled by the time-dimension of the embryo. For example, I like to stay up late, but after conceiving, my body began to shut down as the sun set. I tried to fight this tendency at first, but 1 soon realized that this body was not mine exclusively. It was merely a container, a body that conceived an embryo. This taught me to adjust to the cycle of nature.
Master calligrapher Tanaka Shingai often refers to the art of Sho, Japanese calligraphy, as “the art of the moment.” It doesn’t take much time at all to create a successful form, and it’s impossible to change anything once the brush has touched the paper.
Even though the cycles of time contain an element of consistency or permanence, in the garden the close of each cycle also reveals a new face — the plants are larger, the earthen walls a little more weathered, the ground somewhat mossier. The year returns in a cycle, spring to spring, fall to fall, but it is not exactly the same garden that waits upon the return.
I’ve always been a great believer in the corkscrew view of history, the idea that time travels in a series of ever-widening gyres that, in order to take us somewhere new, must always return us, if only for an instant, to a place we’ve been before. The notion is captured nicely in the image of a wheel, constantly turning back upon itself in order to move forward.
Each of us carries traces of hundreds of man-made substances that did not exist in our great-grandparents’ day. This rich new broth makes it nearly impossible to pinpoint causal relationships between certain chemicals and disease.
Nature has no interest in sustainability. Nature wipes out with earthquake, volcanic eruption, asteroid impact, tidal wave, again and again and again. Hammer blows. And out of each catastrophe has emerged greater if not redoubled complexity.
T-shirt are Ginroku’s life. Well, they have been good to him. Started with second-hand thermal printer in bedroom, kind you would mashed down upon each separately shirt during you look at second hand your tokei. Look forever. While life would just to hemorrhage away. Tsumaranai. But now is zuibun chigau, some big difference. Three big Toshiba producing out hundreds shirts per one hour.
Chiaki opened her schedule book and recalled the long, sweaty grind of August and early September. She had had sixteen interviews to date, with fourteen confirmed rejections. A phone call had never come regarding the fifteenth, and she was sure that it was only a matter of time before the apologetic, no thank you letter came. She considered crossing off number fifteen, and then she did cross it off. That left only today’s interview. Today was Tuesday. She’d know something by Friday.
Few people in the present day see the world the way top-ranked author Lavinia Braithwaite did in the runaway best-selling nature book of 1857, “The Truth in God’s Word as Manifested in the Geometric Flower Garden for All Mankind, Who Should Dress in Black.” Nor can much of today be found in the best-selling poetry tome of 1857, “Three Posies and a Nosegay in Black Crepe” a leatherbound heartstopper by Pangborne Thurgoodworthston.
A Question of Journey: Travel Episodes: India, Nepal, Thailand & Bali, by John Brandi — Preston L. Houser
A Zigzag Joy: The Bilingual Anthology of Contemporary Japanese Poetry, Ed. Kijima Hajime — Rebecca Dosch
Makiko’s Diary: A Merchant Wife in 1910 Kyoto, by Nakano Makiko, trans. Kazuko Smith — David Stowe
Makiko’s New World, A film version of the above diary, produced and written by David W. Plath — David Stowe
In the Empire of Dreams