A Tale for The Time Being

Saturday, September  19, 2015

Even though the book club discussed A Tale for The Time Being yesterday, I will finish the book before I start the next book. If I am lucky, I’ll be able to see and hear the book. This a new experience. To listen to the audio while reading the text on my cell phone or tablet is something that I tried so hard to get my students to do. Most balked, but since this is a new experience for me, I had been balking along with them. No wonder sales were low.

Sometimes I listen with my eyes closed and write, like what I am doing right now, though I’m doing a lot more of listening and imagining than the typing.  Ozeki’s writing draws me in and when there is a ceremony, I’m taking part. I imagined myself drumming. I learned that  “when you beat a drum, you create now. Sound and no sound are examples of the Time Being.” There are so many layers of this book.

I love hearing Ruth Ozeki read The Tale of The Time Being. I prefer her voice over mine any day, especially with the Japanese pronunciations. I don’t really make an attempt. I don’t skip over it, but I don’t try to attack the word with my mighty phonic decoding skills. I scrolled over the word, perhaps looking at the beginning middle and end or perhaps hope that there’s a grouping of letters that I recognize. Sometimes an English word, a word that had no translation in Japanese, would mingle with Japanese words, and at least I had something to grasp.

Ozeki enjoys bouncing between languages. Sometimes there are a lot of English words and then a Japanese word is inserted and it’s like a stop sign. I don’t recognize it. I don’t even recognize the letter combination:

“The night, she came to my room to say good night, slipping along the engawa and in through the sliding doors like a breeze from the garden, so quietly I didn’t even hear her coming.”

If I had been just listening to this passage, I wouldn’t have paid much mind to the word engawa. I wouldn’t have even met it. Reading a word that I have never seen before, it reminds me of meeting a new person. Some become a friend, and some only become brief acquaintances.

I could go on and on about all of the times I have tried to make words become my new best friend. I kept lists. Sometimes I wrote the lists of new words by hand and color-coded. No one told me to write the definition, to identity the part of speech, and write the example. No one assigned me the task of typing the word and definition over and over, pushing obscure  words into my head. At least it gave me something to do.

Having the author read her own book is just like having her sitting next to me. Reading to me. I know she doesn’t have The Tale memorized, but since she owns the words, owns the characters and their accents, owns the story, when she reads, the tempo of her her words exude so much meaning. It’s like having another dimension of the book. There have been many times that her words are so exciting that I have to find the words in the text.  I play Hide and go seek with her words. Only takes me a couple of minutes to find the place of where she’s reading.

Was it Ozeki that said something about how each and every word she wrote, words that would survive the cutting block had to pass the oral audition? If it was she who said this, I picked up this little nugget of gold at the book club meeting, I had wanted to join a book group for so many years. Just never got around to it. There are lots of things swirling around in this whirlpool of things that I have always wanted to do, but so far I’ve not gotten around to it. Sometimes it’s more like a cesspool rather than a whirlpool. Too many things are churning.

It’s too bad that my cell phone is about to die and no longer have it as a source. The characters, Japanese soldiers, are facing death in the war, but maybe only hearing the story is better than hearing and seeing it.

Listening to this story is helping me to own the story because there are so many parts that I relate to. In so many ways, I am a Time Being reminded that I too have limited time. Perhaps this is why I seem to be compelled to get my house in order, my life in order.

Looking closely at all of the things that I have wanted to do, but never got around to, there are things that have been swirling for more than forty years. For example, take learning how to play the drums. Buddy Rich. Beating my right thigh  with the drumsticks my mom gave to me, the last present I ever got from her was therapy. I still love to crank the rock, and I will never part with the sticks, but do I intend to learn to play the drums some day?

Intention. Attention. Those are the things swirling about in my mind. It’s time to sort and sift. I am not ready to let go of playing the drums, and it’s okay for me to throw it back in with the realization that I’m running out of time, I want to think about how much longer do I want this activity to be into the future and not into the present.

If the state of my house represents the state of my mind, I obviously have a problem with letting go of things. It wouldn’t be the end of the road to take a good hard look at the idea of my drumming and not see lessons or practice or doing on a regular basis in the near future. Letting it go of this dream  is like weeding the garden. Can’t have big juicy carrots if they are squished together. It’s time to make room for the other dreams I have picked up along the way.

As I sort and paw through the things I want in my life, I reprioritize, like all of the stuff that surrounds me. I typically have three containers, stuff I definitely don’t want, stuff that I definitely want to keep, and stuff that I don’t know. On the fence things. And guess what? I don’t have to make the decision. I allow myself to use one of the I don’t know card. I tell myself that  IDK cards should be limited. Why do I believe that there always should be rules?

Just as I did with the 39 polo shirts that now occupy the inside of a large black plastic garbage bag, destined for St. Vincent De Paul, I’m feeling strongly that having too many things on my dance card is preventing me from really getting a dream fulfilled. I image all fifty-something polos in my closet, most of which are blocking the view of the clothes that I really like, rather than clothes that mere cover my body.

If my dreams and Want to Do’s are crowded, the Sort of Want to Do’s and the Used to Want to Do’s could elbow their way to the front of the line, causing the Really Want to Do’s to yell out, “Cuts and Cutted, but then it only becomes a bottle-neck of one word against others. Nothing is resolved and nothing is complete

Or, I could pitch the things that block my view of things that I really want to do, that I’m serious about getting around to sooner than later.

Ruth Ozeki’s story, A Tale for The Time Being is tickling my fancy. It’s almost midnight. No, make that 1:44 a.m. I don’t want to stop listening to her. I had paused her at eleven, momentarily thinking that I ought to go to bed. It didn’t take much self-persuasion to press the play button.

I paused another time, thinking that I had another blog in me or that if I happen to be writing after midnight, I could count this as Saturday’s blog, which I am going to do, and at this rate, perhaps I’ll just write right on in to Sunday.

It’s a strange feeling to think that I have absolutely no time to squander. It will be a foreign feeling to not be able to lounge in bed until ten or eleven or twelve like I did today.  The seven o’clock alarm, just five hours from now, will definitely be a rude awakening. I am shaking my head disgust since I have no choice.

I don’t know what I have against the early morning? Is it worth figuring out why? My friend Joyce Watts would say yes; not that long ago, we argued about the value of Why. I fought fiercely that Why isn’t important to come to answers, but the longer the debate dragged on and raised voices occupied the room, I lost hold on my arguments.

Why I do the things I do is the sun in my life. My subconscious must be nudging me, reminding me that seven o’clock a.m. is only fifty-five minutes. The more I think about  the question of why I do the things I do, the more I think about why I don’t do the things I want to do.

It’s too bad that Nike doesn’t sponsor writers. I suppose I could ask for a sock contract. They do make great socks and the logo of “Just Do It” will last  for centuries to come. Who coined the phrase “Just Do It?” So simple. So powerful.

This is what I appreciate about Ruth Ozeki. Simple and powerful. So interesting. At one point, I paused the story with the idea that I would blog about Jubei-chan. Perhaps I could get my niece Andrea to tell me what she knew about the Ninja Girl. I know absolutely nothing about anime. I always thought that my so much smarter than smart niece would be a a published author. I had never known anyone who had such an appetite for reading. It just occurred to me that my niece Andi and I both have hollow legs. When I was growing up, people would tell me that I had a hollow leg for food. I was proud at my ability to eat as much as a grown man could. Where did this come from? Why did I think this was a good behavior?

The realization of the eleven o’clock kickoff time is kicking me in the butt, but at least I got a blog in…


1 Comment

  1. I have listened to exactly 2 audio books. When I try to remember the names of them, I can’t. My brain is like Swiss cheese these days though. Oh, the last one was “A Death at Pemberley” – the sequel book to “Pride & Prejudice” – about a murder surrounding the guests and inhabitants of that great English home of Mr. Darcy and his bride Elizabeth… the only thing was that the best time for me to listen to this audio book was after I got into bed at night. I would turn it on and promptly fall right to sleep. I would awaken and it would be over! I tried restarting it over and over and, now that I think about it, that was the best sleeping pill ever! Plug yourself into an audio book and lie back in the bed and fall instantly to sleep!

    I just heard this on TV:

    “Never start an argument with a women when she’s tired…. or when she rested.” (Ronald Regan)

    I like that. They were wise words from a guy I never much cared for.

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