In Life’s Impermanence, Love Is All That Remains

I FELT A SURGE of energy, a breath of life, walking through the station on a Friday night. The weeks go on. What’s new, then? Everything, my friend, if we stop and look around.

What we see isn’t only what we see. It’s the memory evoked, the thought inspired, the love released from a heart that longs to open. I’ve changed since the last time I was here.

The more I see the more I feel; what’s out there seems so inconsequential: the way a porch light dances with a shadow. The feeling of the sun on my skin in the morning, standing on the station platform. The dark red color of the rain-soaked wood.

Moved by these flickers of time, the flame within me rages. On the surface it’s unnoticeable, as often in life, what we feel inside remains covert.

What’s out there — nothing more than the way life passes — guides me.

I seek what makes me come alive; must it be more than being alive? I touch that inner flame and feel its radiating heat, lit by the energy of people.

I’ve been living in Japan for almost six months.

This is the first time I’ve lived in a vibrant and navigable city that feels as one identity, one beating heart amongst an expansive and unbroken landscape. I can explore much of Osaka on my bike, ebbing and flowing with the distinct tides of each ward.

I can get lost.

Regardless of the intention, you learn something every day when you live in a foreign country. You contend with the unfamiliar and uncover, however slowly, what it means to be a human being without an identity to abide by. When you look at your native culture from a distance, you realize what it means to you.

You may also transcend the familiar, realizing that your heart is home, and that no matter where we go we’re people, unbound by race, ethnicity and culture. We’re people. Why is that so difficult to see?

Each day the veil lifts from my eyes.

It’s no longer just Japan which allures me. It’s the same perception which hasn’t left, that which has always gripped me. We’re here, alive, now — anywhere at all. That’s the feeling of home beating from my chest.

What interests me about Japan is the vibrancy, the distinct quality, the details.

Quality means different things. The most obvious explanation is that everything here’s done with quality. There is care adhered to with every job and every act. But beneath the surface, quality means something more.

It’s the location of the earth on which Japan inhabits, the energy which it emits, the feeling in the air and drifting through the streets.

The Japanese philosophy wabi-sabi 侘寂 honors the impermanence of life, the fleetingness which gives each moment deeper meaning. It’s like saying bye to someone you don’t know if you’ll see again. How many souls throughout history have had to endure this?

Yet perhaps that uncertainty produced an answer, if there is one, as to why we’re here: to feel what it means to have a heart that’s torn. To feel its opposite so deeply, the human emotions of joy and love which make this life worth living, those which dare us to seize the time we have, go for it, and live.

The moment fades. Seasons change. Japanese life admires the ephemeral nature of each. The neon lights of the Umeda skyscrapers, light blue and ruby red and touching the clouds, illuminate the passing winter night. The sky darkens as the air chills further.

With time off, I often head to a bustling area. I exist. I walk and see where I end up. I do me.

I buy a couple of books and head for Fukushima, a part of the city I haven’t explored.

Day to night with dusk as an intermediary, the perfection of an imperfect world reflected in the way the city moves. Not just the people. The city has a spirit of its own.

Lights shift in Fukushima alleyways as doors open and guests depart. A woman smokes a cigarette and the smoke lingers in the cold. Trains rumble as they pass above hole-in-the-wall sushi shops. Leaves fall from their branches, awaiting spring, ready to be born again.

Modernity and nature coalesce and settle as a stillness, a calm.

And while Japan reveres tradition, what excites me most is what’s to come.

The progression of youth is universal, the breaking free from cultural stigmas to pave the way for a future in need of change. We’re trying to find who we are. Not what’s always been. Not who we’re supposed to be.

A brighter future will prosper not through separation, never through hate — only through love. It’s love I feel on the daily in Japan. Love I feel no matter where I am in this world. But emotions conflict, I lose myself, I stray, consumed by the noise around me and within.

That’s what it means to be alive.

Notice the impermanence of it all: the joyful emotions and the bad, the day and the night, the fear and the strength.

I know I’ll find my way back home, because even in the depths of myself I’ll see something in the world, nothing more than a smile in the station or a group of skaters in the park beneath the highway, and that flame will reignite.

What’s new then? Everything. In life’s impermanence, love is all that remains.

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