“These ‘instructions for use’… seem perfectly plausible and immediately applicable, without effort, provided one is really sure of having a personality to shed, of looking at the world from inside an ego that can be dissolved, to become only a gaze.”- Calvino
The rocks rose up from the carefully raked sand like harsh islands from the sea. I squinted against the glare of the sun and didn’t understand what I was looking at. There was some sand. Some rocks. I didn’t get it. It was too harsh and bright, and the most peaceful moments on this trip for me were in shaded, green forests, surrounded by natural and animal noises, not groups of schoolkids. That was yesterday, when I spent no more than a minute looking at the rock garden before moving on to the moss garden and the landscapes around the temple. I just snapped a picture (#) and moved on. Today in class, after reading “The Sand Garden” by Italo Calvino, I realized where I went wrong in my experience. Not only did I not sit down to contemplate the rock garden, but I was too concerned with my own personality and ego. I just went through a breakup, I wasn’t feeling well, I was tired and stressed. I was focusing on myself. I was thinking that serenity or enlightenment would hit me in the face, and I didn’t take the time to ‘become only a gaze’ as Calvino puts it. What a silly mistake. Here are pictures of the moss garden (#) and surrounding landscape (#) that I took much more time to ponder. Also, I touched a tree that didn’t want to be touched (#).
Luckily, the 88 Temple Pilgrimage was much more satisfying. We hiked up this incredible mountain, (#) polishing our Japanese-number-reading skills (“San Ju Hachi… temple thirty eight! We’re almost halfway there!”) by counting the temples. The 88 Temple Pilgrimage was modeled on a pilgrimage on a different island that takes months and months to complete, but this one can be done in less than an hour if you’re in decent shape. For some reason, I think because my friends were taking a picture of every single temple, I didn’t take a picture of a single one. I did, however, try to capture a shot of the view of Kyoto: (#). The whole hike up the mountain I had a mini rosary that my great-uncle gave me in my hand, praying that my knee would be okay (the last time I hiked I blew out my knee pretty badly) and that I wouldn’t feel so ill I’d have to turn back. This mini rosary is a metal circle and reminds me very much of the Buddhist prayer beads that pilgrims use on the ‘real’ 88 temple pilgrimage. I thought that was a cool cross-cultural link.
Dr. Paine said, “You will not be the same after you have been to Hiroshima, but let it happen.” in class today, and I’ll admit to being afraid. The things that humans have done to other humans are truly unthinkable, terrifying, and disheartening.