tokyoliving

I have so much bubbling inside of me these days. I don’t know if people even take the time to read what I have written. Maybe one day they will look back and read. Or as one of my favorite punk bands lyrics, “One day we will all look back and laugh.” Is that even possible after many lives are lost because our priorities have been so skewed?

I continue to write my feelings and thoughts on the situation knowing that death is a part of this. Knowing that lives will be lost, whether because of the ineptitude of government or just simply living out the days of our lives until it is simply time to go.

I don’t know, nor do I profess to know how any of this will play out. With each passing hour things change. That is life. Life has always been that. This disease, that moves at breakneck speed is highlighting the fact that life is change. That is not to assume that change is positive or negative, change is change.

In the context in which we are living, change leans towards the darker side of life. It is change nonetheless. Our problem, we have held on far too tightly trying to keep change at bay. To maintain our status quo has been detrimental in so many ways. We are seeing the results of our holding on for too long.

People respond in a myriad of ways to what is happening worldwide. Some turn to religion, others rise to the occasion to lend a hand, even taking risks to their own lives, including those on the front lines. Others prefer to place blame, deservedly or not, instead of dealing with the reality at hand. Others problem solve. Others isolate.

There are others that try and find ways to deny the reality, whether it is to binge watch, overeat, drink or the many other forms of escape. While this may be an alright strategy in the short-term, it is perpetuating the status quo and not admitting or allowing the reality that life is change.

The beauty of the internet, I get to read news from all over the world. I gain insight on how countries are dealing with these challenges, and changes being thrust upon people. My focus is on Japan, my home for many years, and also the United States where my family lives. I am concerned for both for different reasons, but with the same actors – the government and its politicians. It has become abundantly clear that the US federal government has failed its people. I won’t go into the reasons, we all know why. What is also clear is that there are people losing their lives unnecessarily.

In Japan, it has been about saving face due to the upcoming Olympics. In addition, an assumption that the way in which the culture encourages face mask wearing, hygiene and bowing instead of handshaking has allowed Japan to “dodge a bullet.” At what cost? Complacency. People had been going about their lives, despite the warning from the government to remain indoors and work from home. This is their way of denying change. We may see the result of this in the coming weeks. I don’t hope for the worse.

I am not in the game of fortune telling and try and live in the now knowing that with each passing moment life is change.

Wrap your head around that!

Unbecoming Italy

These days I have been self-sequestering. To pass the time away I have been watching television shows. Perusing the list of recommended shows I stumbled across a 21st century Italian mobster drama called “Gomorrah. What I found fascinating, as I worked my way through the first season, is the context in which I was watching it – the corona pandemic. This was a few weeks back when the pandemic worked its way into the fabric of Italian society mowing down and any all inhabitants that happen to be in the way.

Reading stories online about the spread happening so quickly in Italy, I was seeing why firsthand in the mob series. Italians touch and kiss one another with abandon. And a large part of Italians live in close proximity in dilapidated, what I assume to be, low-incoming housing and buildings, at least that’s how the creator’s of the series portrayed it.

I hesitate to use the word ghetto, but it was an unexpected sight, and not my image of Italy. Italy has always been one of architectural beauty and art. Think Venice, Rome and Florence. While they are beautiful places to visit, there is also the reality of life in other parts of the country. Like most other countries in the world Italy has created a myth to make us believe.

Our beliefs are created by images, experience and what people tell and do not tell us. Beliefs, while a part of all of us, are fluid and change over time as reality works its way into us. As I see the images of squalor in the outskirts of Italian towns on the TV show, coupled with the spread of the pandemic and loss of life due to the way in which the Italians live, my beliefs of the country change. This is not a bias against Italy, rather a reality check of my own beliefs so that I do not hold on to them so tightly. We all have beliefs, the trick is not to hold on to them letting them change with the context, time and experience.

The pandemic is shedding light on our beliefs as they begin to change. One other example, my country, the United States, the country that voted a president in on the phrase “MAGA.” I will not go into this phrase in detail as I have written it about it in a previous blog. I will say that the myth and beliefs around the American dream, we are seeing is less possible. However, people are holding on to this dream. How? By going into personal debt. The cost of living in the US is staggering, yet people are willing to forego this reality and allow themselves to live paycheck to paycheck. It will be even more unattainable in a post-corona world.

This is the death of the American dream. It hasn’t been nor no longer be possible as Americans are coming to realize they have no savings to last them past the next paycheck. The government safety nets that used to be so readily available are less so. The cost of health care is so high that many forego even getting it. And higher education for many is far out of reach without going into massive debt.

The beliefs of America and Italy are changing. These are not anomalies, they are the realities in just about every country. I don’t mean to assume that the beliefs are negative. Some countries have risen to the occasion. Germany for example has done a decent job for the most part. The same cannot be said of each and every country in the world.

I can say that as I write this now, Saturday, March 28th, we are on a voluntary lock down in Japan. We are on the brink of a potential explosion of infections. Just last week I wrote about why Japan has dodged a bullet. And in less than a week my beliefs, rosy as they were, continue to change.

I love the title of this, but not sure how I can make it into something, so I will write and see what takes shape.

It’s early morning, 6-ish, on my bike riding to a meeting point for a group bike ride, followed by a post ride coffee at the local coffee hangout. Our group is the U.N of cycling, long time residents of Japan whose love of cycling brings together people from all walks of life and countries including Canada, France, United States, Germany and Japan among others.

During these trying times in Japan we try and live a normal active life, with minor inconveniences. Cycling is one of those luxuries we are able to enjoy given that the length of the bike allows for a preset social distancing. Upon meeting fist or elbow bumping is the preferred greeting.

My journey to meeting the international contingency of cyclists continues as I ride down a narrow street in suburban Tokyo. Flanked by a rice field on the right, and a pack of post-war 1950s Japanese wood style homes that would flatten in seconds in an earthquake above 5.0, on the left, I’m about halfway there when suddenly in the distance I spot a crow. Nothing out of the ordinary, crows are in abundance in Japan, right up there with pigeons in New York City.

I notice the crow has flown from its perch, an electrical wire high above paralleling the road and heading in my direction. Still a few hundred feet away, no concern. Closing the distance, 200, 150, I see that this jet black crow has the wing span of an adult eagle, “Rather large for a country that prides itself on smallness,” I think out loud. I am still not concerned. Then less than 100 feet, concern wins out. And like a Jedi Tie Fighter maneuvering the small alley-like maze of the Death Star, the crow is now level and flying straight at his target – ME!

It’s do or die.

Do I hold my ground and assume the crow will course correct pulling up at the last second? Or to avoid a collision with one of Mother Nature’s own Fighters, do I swerve into the rice field?

I held my ground, as did the crow, who was flying level with my head only to slightly pull up at the last second tapping my helmet with its talons. (Or is it crow’s feet?) Had I not been wearing the helmet I surely would have a bald spot and even better story to tell.

After our skirmish, I started thinking about how this relates to what is going on worldwide. Early on in this crisis, corona was careening headlong into the direction of humanity with no conscious motivation to swerve. Like Poe’s Raven, had we listened closely we could have heard the utterance “Nevermore.” Now face-to-face with darkness and the great equalizer, collectively we grieve and will grieve the loss of life, and life we have known will never more be the same.

We could have swerved. Unfortunately, we are seeing the result of our decisions. Humanity is not superior as much as it is a part of nature. This is where the disconnect begins for people in many parts of the world. Technology and stuff have taken over. We have lost touch with the spirit that is nature. And once lost, we care less and less over time about what we have done and continue to do the planet. Thinking superior and invulnerable, it took a zoonotic disease so minuscule it takes a microscope to see for us to realize our vulnerability.

It’s a wake up call to the reality that we can no longer life the kind of life that has left us disconnected from nature. It’s time to change to a life of sustainability for the planet and all its inhabitants, or Mother Nature will continue to dare us to take her head on.

Do we play chicken and risk mass extinction?

To salvage what’s left of her world, I can hear her warning, “Nevermore. Nevermore. Nevermore.

I have a whole slew of posts that I have written that I wanted to begin posting in the next few days.

  1. On Becoming Italian
  2. The Orgasmic Announcer
  3. Playing Chicken with a Crow
  4. Untitled – Interview with a personal trainer on health during this time

I will hold off and want to talk a little about my experience today being out and about in Tokyo, then leave you with a link to an article that sums up what I had written about in my previous post, (Social Distancing. Non-Existing) and why I am now beginning to change my tune.

My day started with a morning train ride to central Tokyo. These days I usually ride my bike to avoid the trains for obvious reasons, but it was raining. I waited a little past 9:00 am in hopes that the rush hour crowds would dwindle. There has been far fewer commuters since the beginning of the spread of the virus. To my surprise the two trains that I took, a total of 45 minutes, were both packed as if there was nothing going on.

While on the train I was listening to a Making Sense with Sam Harris podcast. He was interviewing disease specialists and talking about how serious the spread of this virus is and why the near draconian measures are being put in place. I had done a lot of reading and kept up on the news, but I respect Sam Harris’ scientific and meditation practioner background. He brings a level headed, fact based approach to any topic. He is not an alarmist and what he had to say in effect was alarming.

Picture me standing on the train barely to move, a buffet for the corona virus to work its way through infecting anyone and everyone within vicinity. I admit I let my creative mind get the best of me as it can do.

After arriving at my personal trainer’s gym, he talked me off the ledge and I calmed down. After the gym, I took another less crowded train, thankfully, and went to Yokohama (the location of the first infected ship) where low and behold everywhere you went there were people. I am not talking a few, but many, everywhere, even after rush hour.

It was then that I realized I am one of those people. I had already made plans to meet a friend for dinner, and kept those plans. On my return trip home, of course it was just as packed as it was in the morning. And to top it off a guy standing just in front of me sneezed two of the biggest sneezes I have ever heard. Thankfully he was wearing a mask to keep the death spray at bay. I thought to myself, “FFS, couldn’t he have waited for the train door to open and stepping out into the open platform?”

After arriving at my station and to the safety of open air and free from the worries that plagued me on the train, I vowed that this would be the last day that I take the train and will be riding my bike, something I already love to do.

I have attached a link below to an article from the Japan Times online newspaper that talks about some of what I had previously written, expanding further with a few other potential scenarios that could occur in Japan. With time on your hands at home, I encourage you to listen to the above three most recent Sam Harris podcasts and the Japan Times article.

Japan Times Online article

Upon reflecting on the day, I have come to the conclusion it is better to overplay it safe. While some of the social mores I wrote about may factor in less infections so far, there is still a complacency in the populace to the reality of the situation worldwide and the potential for it to happen here.

During dinner at the restaurant with my friend, looking around at all the people smiling, laughing, drinking and not sitting within an acceptable social distance, I felt guilty that there are others in the world unable to do what we are doing for nobody knows how long. It was then that I also decided that it is a moral and ethical responsibility as part of a global community to adhere to some of the same rules our global citizens are doing to stave off the spread of infection.

Please be safe, practice good hygiene, don’t hoard, take care of one another and know that from my family and friends here in Japan, our hearts go out to each and every one of you who have taken the time to read this and are home bound and worried.

I’m a middle of the road kinda guy so this is strange what I am about to write. Many people from doctors to my Mom who live outside of Japan, the country where I have resided for more than twelve years, are texting and asking the question,”Why does Japan have so few coronavirus infections?” This is an interesting question and one in which I have been pondering for over a week. With things changing so rapidly by the hour in other countries, Japan life goes on for the most part relatively normal. And yet at the time of this writing the number of infected is under 1,000.

Don’t get me wrong there has been some societal changes, such as elementary to high school closings going on two weeks. Many businesses are requiring employees for the first time ever to telecommute, which has also been going on for two weeks. Events across all industries have been canceled as well. However, businesses have remain open and people are freely moving about. There is no quarantine of any kind required, unless having tested positive or showing symptoms.

With people moving about freely this also means that trains are still crowded during morning and evening rush hours. This also means that “Social Distancing” is “Non-Existencing.” People stand and sit next to one another on the train with no problem whatsoever. The only difference, instead of 70% of the population wearing masks it is now 95% and coughing and touching one’s face is no longer done publicly.

This leads me to a theory as to why there are so few infected in Japan. I am no scientist of course, so what I am about to say is really my own opinion based upon years of living in Japan as well as impromptu interviews, observation and conversations with Japanese and non-Japanese alike.

Some liken Italy’s demographics to Japan’s as an aging population. I have not spent time in Italy for quite some time, but I can say with certainty that the elderly make up about one third of the population and increasing every year in Japan. As we know, this is the highest at risk group when it comes to the coronavirus. Yet Italy has been ravaged and Japan has not. It is in my opinion that reason is, for the most part it all comes down to cultural mores.

Japan is a collective culture, one in which the group takes precedence over the individual. This is one reason why Japan is such a safe country. This way of thinking in essence is, if the group is taken care of first then the individual is taken care of. On a personal note, I struggled with this change for the first five year of living here. An American “me first,” entitled attitude is deeply rooted and one that would not be serving me well during times like this in Japan.

The result of a collective culture, rather than having to enforce requirements, government officials make announcements and suggestions and people simply adhere to them.

Mask wearing is a part of the culture. If you have ever visited Japan the first thing you notice, Japanese wear masks year round depending upon whether for flu, colds and hay fever seasons.

Japan is already an impeccably clean and hygienic country. It is one of the first things people comment on when they visit. Everything from hand washing, to alcohol disinfecting, something that is being asked of everyone after entering a restaurant or business these days.

After spending the day outside, showers and baths are done in the evenings before going to bed.

Japanese remove their shoes at the “genkan” or front entrance before entering the house. Shoes are never worn in the house.

Physical contact has always been limited in Japan, bowing instead of handshaking.

Japanese are active and healthy comparatively speaking. Japanese are not overweight, tend to eat healthy and are active, whether exercising or simply riding bikes or walking. This makes them less prone to pre-existing conditions.

I will say after the fact that some of this is generalizations, but when it comes to something like this, it’s difficult to drill down to specific details.

I hope we have dodged the bullet in Japan despite the fact that we had a large Chinese and Korean tourist population in the country a few months back and left the borders open for a period of time.

If these cultural mores indeed are part of the reason there are so few infections we are fortunate. The other possible scenario is that Japan is in store for a big explosion. The good news if that were to happen, the health care system is equipped to handle it, Japan can learn from the other countries dealing with it now and because of the collective society we will all listen and do what needs to be done.

Be safe, practice hygiene, think of others and please don’t hoard.

The other day I was having coffee with two friends at my favorite central Tokyo coffee shops. Being somewhat on opposite ends of the political spectrum. we had long ago agreed not to talk politics. Sometimes politics creeps in by accident. I take the blame on this occasion because of one utterance, “America is finally being made good again.” As soon as these words left mouth a hush descended on our table. One of my friends began stirring his coffee nervously. Looking over at the coffee stirrer I noticed him glancing at his MAGA political gendarme in arms.

All of us having lived in Japan for more than double digit years, I only assumed that while our politics were different, the real MAGA phrase was silly. Not from the commiserating looks they gave one another.

As a former New Yorker I am not afraid to speak my mind when called upon to do so. This was one of those callings. Breaking the silence I said, “Come on, really, you both think that America needs to be great again. Was it ever really great?” Not able to stop myself, it morphed into a rant, “What was it that made America great? What about other countries? Don’t you think that all countries have their own sort of greatness? ” In rehearsed-like head nods they both disagreed.

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. They also say, wisdom is knowing when to keep your mouth shut. I said nothing further changing the subject to what Minnesotans knows best, the weather.

After our coffee talk while on the train ride home I started thinking about the MAGA statement in the context of my two friends. Despite the fact that they have been living in Japan for a combined total of thirty plus years, they still think America was great and has the potential to be great again. This begs the question, “Why are they living in Japan if America could be great again?” I don’t know their answers, nor do I want to jump into their headspace and speculate. I would think that if one wanted to “MAGA” then living in the country to help make it “MAGA” would be the best course of action.

This leads me to the title of this blog – Careful What You Pray For (Or MAGA in the making) Let’s say for the sake of argument that Trump is a god-fearing man and everyday since the beginning of the MAGA craze that got him elected, before the start of each day and after his McDonald’s breakfast he has been hitting his knees at the White House church praying to the almighty. Because of his consistent earnestness his MAGA prayer is now being answered, but not in the way he expected. It never is.

From my experience, anytime I prayed for something it came in ways that I was not expecting. During my punk rock days in my 20s when the world was always coming to an end, thanks to corporations, I used to be a smoker. Being an athlete and a smoker was not a good combination. I remember willfully trying to quit smoking on my own over and over and over again. Then one day after many willful attempts at trying to stop I gave up and began praying daily.

With smoking there is a physical addiction and I had to go through that difficult and painful period of withdrawal for real change to take place. Before prayer, which is simply a surrendering, using brute force, my willpower, whenever I got to that place of withdrawal I would give up because it was too difficult. Prayer, surrendering, allowed space for me to go through that painful withdrawal period. By surrendering I made room for change to happen. I eventually quit and never smoked again.

With MAGA, first let’s substitute the word “Good” instead of great. It’s easier to achieve. The reality is that this idea of greatness is nothing more than a narrative used to bind a swath of the population into thinking that America is no longer great because the other has made it bad. (Immigrants, other countries, etc.)

Okay, back to the new phrase MAGA – Make America Good Again, and Trump’s prayer. Trump has a direct line to GOD, and he has prayed for this to happen. GOD says yes, I will grant you this prayer and Make America Good Again. Now his prayer is being answered in an unexpected way which happens to come in the form of this virus plaguing America and the world. There is an opportunity for America to be good again if society makes room for change to take place. Like the smoker in me, willpower will not cut it. Surrendering is what makes room for change.

There will be a window of opportunity for societal change to take place. To care for one another. To be equal . To be less independent. To be less judgmental. And to know that America can be good again with help outside the borders. Maybe this feels too optimistic. I am a pessimistic guy by nature, but having lived through many disasters firsthand including 9/11, Fukushima and now the “C,” I have seen the spectrum of responses.

It remains to be seen how this all plays out of course. Maybe, just maybe it will be a very different world than what it was on the other side. One in which humans trump profit and sustainability is more important than the short-term.

I’m sure the last thing you want to read right now is another piece on corona. The disease that has re-defined going viral. Let’s call it hyper-viral.

This little pesky microbe is everywhere, SNS, MSM, BMW and now burrowing into all facets of life. With each passing day life is being re-shaped as fear begins to take shape. From the canceling of events with large gatherings to the deletion of cultural traditions like kissing on the cheeks in France. This annoyance of a disease is changing everything.

There are no cultural boundaries with corona, despite countries trying to close borders. This is a battle between Mother Nature and humankind. Mother Nature 1, humankind 0.

Until we admit that we are not separate from her, this real life apocalypse scenario will play out over and over.

Admitting is the first step towards acceptance and change. This I trust will get us to rethink the ways in which we live our lives. It is my hope that over time, as the virus wanes we change course by reshaping our lives towards one of sustainability.

I am not sure how many lives will be lost or need to be lost before realizing that the way in which globalization i.e., governments and corporations run and ruin the world, that we the people need to take matters into our own hands and make the tough changes that are necessary.

These are just a couple of very simple easy to adapt examples of the way in which I live my life. Of course some countries and locations are easier to adapt than others. But there are ways and we have choices.

1.) Use hand towels to wash wipe my hands after washing them. Not wasteful paper towels.

2.) Alternative modes of transportation whenever you can. Bicycle, train or bus. Single passenger driving is wasteful.

2a.) Travel less by plane.

3.) Bundle up errand running. If you have to run around town taking care of business, shopping and going to appointments, schedule them all into one outing. Better yet combine them with friends and family, that is if you have to drive.

4.) Buy perishable non-packaged and less prepackaged foods for up to three days at most. Perishable goods tend to have minimal packaging. Buying food for a week or more is wasteful and ends up going to waste.

5.) Exercise and eat healthy. Believe it or not this saves the planet.

This is just a handful of ideas and first step changes to ponder and make a part of your life.

I purposely did not explain how these connect with mother nature, climate change and sustainability. I would rather you make the connections yourself.

There is so much more you can do of course. It is up to you. Right now, we are not doing a good job of it at all.

I hope this corona virus scares everyone, and this reality shifts our thinking towards one of sustainability.

How do you want to leave the planet for your children and generations to come?

I have a few guilty pleasures I don’t really write about much. One of them is to watch television shows that may seem on the surface to be cheesy and shallow. On the surface it may be, but I choose television shows based upon a certain criteria.

I know within the first five minutes of a television show whether it has heart and truth regardless of whether or not it may seem shallow. I can tell by how the lines are written and spoken by the actors. It’s the same way with movies, books and even blogs. I know within the first few sentences whether it is even worth the precious time to read or watch.

Being drawn to the various mediums has its limitations, that is there is not a lot out there I find myself drawn to. It’s easy to spot when its not truthful, forced or manipulative of emotions. It’s easy to spot when there are ulterior motives behind what is being written about. It’s easy to spot when it’s simply shallow.

It’s not easy to tap into truth. It’s not easy to confront oneself, deal with it and lay it out there making room for one’s voice. And with such easy access to creating content in whatever form it may be, it’s no wonder there is so much mediocrity. Of course the only way to finding a voice, walk the path through mediocrity, risk, experience, create.

Getting back to my guilty pleasure, having recently run out of television shows to watch, I happened upon a Japanese Netflix show called “Followers,” about oddly enough a similar same topic I have written about in the last month – Upvote Blues.

The premise of the show follows the life of a famous Japanese woman photographer and her struggles with work and eventually becoming a mother. Parallel with this story is the trajectory of a young up and coming, struggling, unconventional actress who clearly does not fit in with the system. The famous photographer spots her in a photo shoot, takes a few candid pictures and uploads them to her Instagram account. With a large Instagram following, immediately the up and coming actress photos go viral. The actress becomes the “It” girl. Then the swift fall from grace.

I will not go into any more much detail in case you have in fact read this far and want to watch the show. The reviews written about the show call it a Japanese version of “Sex and the City.” It is much more than that.

What I will say, this show moved me in unsuspecting ways about this desire to be needed via likes, upvotes, positive comments, etc. This may be the time we live in, but all of that is fleeting. What matters most is finding one’s own way, voice, path, vision, call it what you will. Sustainability is created by hard work and paying dues. The rest is nothing more than a distraction.

The title of this blog is, “Walk your Own Path and Let People Talk,” happens to be a quote from the very last episode of the show. I think the title speaks for itself. If I have to explain it to you, keep walking you just might find you are already on it.

I don’t want to downplay the severity of what is going on worldwide. It is serious. How serious? Nobody knows. I wrote a piece titled “Fear” a few days back about more or less keeping it in perspective, or as those Zen Masters like to say, “Keeping it in the now.”

Living in the moment there is no fear, no problems, nothing to worry about. I know for most of you this is a hard concept to grasp. Living in the past or the future is easier to control in your mind. This is what they call delusion and manifests in many different forms.

What I want to talk about today is a few oddities I have noticed in Tokyo in relation to corona, fear and delusion.

Imagine …

… you are standing on a packed commuter train in Tokyo unable to move. The corona virus is a few weeks into its long journey towards worldwide infection. Convinced mask wearing offers protection and a modicum of relief, everyone on the train is wearing one. The exception? One haggard looking elderly salary man who clearly should have retired over a decade ago. This non-mask wearing octogenarian surrounded by a sea of mask-wearing paranoid younger salary men suddenly coughs without covering his mouth, spewing forth droplets of saliva easily seen by the naked eye.

The already deafening silence on this morning train reaches a depth of silence that would frighten any meditation practitioner. With this simple act of coughing, everyone within eye-shot in their minds has pronounced him guilty of murder. Nominating himself executioner, a young brash up and coming salary man begins to yell at the perp for coughing in a crowded train, “What the hell do you think you are doing old man? You’re going to kill us all!” Lavishing in the attention the executioner continues his delusional rant, “I think it’s best you get off the train at the next stop or else we will have to take matters into our own hands.” Stunned and speechless by the lack of respect, the old man gets up from his seat and with head held low shuffles off the train at the next stop.

Imagine …

… you are at an Italian style coffee shop in a trendy part of central Tokyo minding your own business writing your next blog post. Sitting at a large dark mahogany table that could easily seat twelve disciples + 1, it is empty thanks to the corona virus scare, save for one patron. This university age Japanese mask wearing male stands in front of a glass counter and home to a plethora of deserts to savor along with a cappuccino.

Having already ordered your banana bread and cappuccino you are sitting down at the hulk of a table getting ready to write. You look up to see the university student with tray in hand sitting down directly in front of you. Annoyed by the fact that of all the chairs to choose from this guy sits within corona giving proximity. You remind yourself that Japanese personal space and yours are not the same. Returning for a moment to your writing you look up for a second and notice the mask on your new friend is hanging from his chin. The stark whiteness of the mask accentuates the red pock marks that overwhelm his face. Thinking he is sick with the big “C” you consider moving further away. At closer inspection you realize it’s puberty related.

You glance at his tray and realize why he has so many of those pesky pimples on his face. He has ordered one of every desert displayed in the glass case, not one two or three, rather six, along with a small cup of coffee to wash it all down with. With mask removed he begins the devouring session with the same banana bread you have ordered. Followed by a slice of cheesecake, then shoe cream (think cream-filled-doughnut). With your stomach getting queasy just watching him, you go back to your writing to push this gluttonous juvenile out of your mind. Then it occurs to you, he is eating out of fear. Fear of the big “C”.

Imagine …

… you are in Tokyo church (yes they have them here too) praying for the sick and the dying, the priest mentions corona in relation to the prayer, a collective sigh moves through the room and heads drop ever lower, as if this is more important than the myriad of other issues that affect the world. The priest says, “Reach out and grasp each other’s hands. Let’s bond and give strength to the poor and hungry, the sick and dying of the world.” Your first thought, “What the hell I am not holding hands with anyone. I’d rather not be one of those sick and dying we are praying for now!

You notice that of the one hundred or so parishioners attending mass that day, nearly everyone is having similar thoughts. One third chose to live on the edge and are actually holding hands, the other third simply opt for survival and do not hold hands. With the final third coming up with a clever alternative, tucking their hands underneath the armpits and touching elbows. You stifle a chuckle at the sight and ingenuity of this life-saving alternative.

The unified reluctance to hold hands is perceived by the priest. He speaks in a calm god-like tone, “God is watching your every move. He knows what you do, what you think.” This Christian koan goes over the head of everyone. Each parishioner holds their ground continuing to do what they are doing.

You don’t care about that at all, you have chosen to cram both your hands into the front of your pants.

True to oneself. Comfortable in skin. Occupy space. Knowing the knowing. Honorable. Responsible. Flawed.

Life is change. Living is now.

Past is pain. Future is pain. Hearing it in the voices of others. Heartless and head full.

Asleep, unable to hear. Awake, not wanting to. Pay no heed go on with life.

The task at hand. Pass no judgment. Listen, speak and live. From the heart a faint recognition. Experience a faint connection.

Lost are the masses. Driven by what? Those words I dare not speak. If you have to ask you are not found.

Where is the heart, not a sound. Blinded by the darkness residing within. Light emanating grows slowly so dim. Knowing they know not.

Light if found, the way out. No longer fear, no longer doubt.

Gratitude abound for another breath. Another day. How many left? This I can say I know not.

At least I know there is another word, another thought another something that reveals in time.