It’s been six weeks since I decided to take a break from Facebook. Back in mid-January I took a screenshot to show students how to figure out which apps they used the most (Line, by far, in case you’re wondering, followed by YouTube… not surprisingly, since my students are all Japanese).
It was a little shocking to see that I was spending over 8 hours a week on FB on my iPhone. My train commute is about an hour and a half each way, and I go to campus four days a week. So basically I spent 2/3 of my train time looking at FB posts.
This past year was an eventful one, to say the least!
By January, my science fiction novella/novellette Adam’s Stepsons, which I had come back to after a long ( ~ 18 year!) hiatus, had already been rejected by three separate SF magazines. So I made the decision to go the self-publish route.
But before that, I sought out some advice from a fellow self-publisher, Greg Spry, whose debut novel I very much admired (Beyond Cloud Nine). He pointed out several areas to be corrected/emended/improved and although I initially resisted further changes, I soon realized that he was right.
Lesson 1 learned: Always listen to advice about your writing. It helps. Continue Reading
Kyoto, where I work, is chock full of temples and shrines. Every day I walk to campus, I walk through a Rinzai Zen temple along the way. While the temple itself is not as famous or as old as others nearby, it is popular among tourists for its gardens, open public lectures, and guest houses. There’s a nursery school within the temple grounds, and TV crews occasionally can be seen filming for various end-of-year specials. Because it’s located in a residential neighborhood near several high schools, students and office workers alike travel through it daily. After a long, crowded train ride during the morning rush hour, walking through a zen temple is an incredibly relaxing experience. I’ve walked through the temple grounds every day for three years now; I have to remind myself how lucky I am.
Last week, after a typhoon crossed over Japan just south of us, I was heading home through the temple when I saw an older man squatting down in front of a small pine tree. He had taken off his hat, with a small white towel draped over his shoulders to prevent sunburn, and was silently contemplating the tree. I watched as he took a drink from a water bottle, then poured the rest of the bottle around the base of the tree.
I don’t know what he was thinking, of course, but I like to imagine: how long would it take for the sapling to equal the other pine trees in the temple precinct in size? He might no longer be alive then. How long ago had the older trees been planted, as saplings? Perhaps he had not even been born yet.
Pine trees (matsu) have long been associated with zen Buddhism and zen temples. Zazen (sitting meditation) is practiced by Rinzai Zen monks, and visitors to this temple are encouraged to join the morning zazen when they stay at the guest house. But really all you need is a tree, and your imagination, to understand how short life is. How mysterious. How tenacious. How precious.