Thursday, September 02, 2004

Spirited Away.

Just before I left for this trip, someone asked me what my ultimate purpose and goal for the journey was. Since "cheap thrills and free-flowing alohol" seemed like a bit of a shallow answer, I said something to the effect that I was looking for spirituality in all of its manifestations. I think my response came across a bit more broadly and universalistically than I intended it to (... although apokatastasis panton is indeed my pet heresy -- I know, I know, how very postmodern of me ;) but now that I`ve been on foreign soil for nearly a week this very unfocused "goal" has been taking on unexpected shapes:

For one thing, I`ve decided that I dislike photography as it`s commonly, tourist-ly practised. That`s a train of thought that requires its own separate entry, but suffice to say that the reflexive reach for one`s camera that travellers, especially the kind of travellers who wouldn`t touch a camera with a ten-foot pole unless there`s some "occasion", sometimes practise is effectively preventing people (or, less broadly, is preventing ME) from seeing -- once focused on the view-finder, it`s easier to focus on the perfect dimensions of the picture, the right lighting, the potential use of flash, the steadiness of one`s hand etc. than upon that which one is both looking to take in and to preserve for posterity. Better to buy a postcard and save photography for capturing that which one has really seen and judged worthy and personal enough to capture. Personally, too, I find that I tend to really see only on a very small scale -- a fragment of ground, a face, a plant, half a reflection, etc. Sitting on the wooden foundation of Nijo Castle this morning (far longer than I should have -- thanks to the rain, the guards were mercifully unattentive and the gardens nearly deserted), I realized that glancing around for more than 20 minutes, I had only really taken in 3 well-defined but captivating images. Those are the kinds of pictures that I might be able to capture on film and show to others without a sense of rendundancy and deprivation.

So, a small collection of images has been gathering on my digital camera that might be described as "spirituality in Asia" or something catchier -- given that this is largely a Shinto/Buddhist country (... two very different religions with neatly defined spheres of influence. As one elderly gentleman at a shrine said: "Buddha take care of us after we`re dead. Shinto is for needs in life. No fighting [between the two]!") the concept of "spirit/spirits" is of utmost importance. These pictures range from the random and bizarre (... a plump cherub suspended in one of Kyoto`s busiest shopping passages ...) to the expected and inspiring (... zen garden formations, ancestor shrines crowded onto the streets for lack of space in stores in Hong Kong .. ) I`m NOT a good photographer -- this clearly isn`t my medium, but bringing a sketchpad seems a touch impractical, and perhaps the stories I have for each of the images will improve upon the shoddy quality of the image.

Rain today in Kyoto. A couple of shrines, a castle with singing floors ... I wish I weren`t leaving in less than two days.


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