Monday, May 16, 2011

“We are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 am of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget.”

Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Hint

“…self-deception remains the most difficult deception. The tricks that work on others count for nothing in that very well-lit back alley where one keeps assignations with oneself; no winning smiles will do here, no prettily drawn lists of good intentions. One shuffles flashily but in vain through one’s marked cards - the kindness done for the wrong reason, the apparent triumph which involved no real effort, the seemingly heroic act into which one had been shamed. The dismal fact is that self-respect has nothing to do with the approval of others - who are, after all, deceived easily enough…”
— Joan Didion, On Self-Respect.

It was Joan who gave me the idea in the first place. While bored one day last year, I picked up and started rifling through my mission journals. Frankly, what I had chosen to record and what I had chosen to omit surprised me and made me curious to see if it would be possible to fill in the blanks. The act of reading alone was enough to remind me of more than what was written. Memory is a tricky thing though and the task will no doubt be hopelessly biased toward the present me at the expense of past me. I am far more cynical now. What I wrote then seems naive and embarrassing but that is kind of the point of Didion's statement above: I am built on who that far away and silly missionary was way back then in Japan. Ignoring him isn't possible so I should learn from him instead.

The possibilities inherent in this exploration feel like a chance to consider how an incomplete past can be filled in. Twenty year old me was not a careful recorder of the events he experienced and acted in. Most often I read the repetition of trite phrases and platitudes. I'm glad he had so much "fun" doing certain things but he should have been clearer about why those things were fun or why they mattered to him. He was often insecure; often setting and resetting goals in an ongoing effort at self-improvement. But he was never very good at recording the results of all that goal-making. How well did he live up to the ideal he so continuously championed with pen and paper? I would like to know these things now but they are lost between the lines of the text. If he could change and grow then, I can do it today.

Another lack of these journal entries is descriptive. Japan was a wonderful, new, foreign environment full of new sights, sounds, tastes, smells: every sense. I wish he had been more detailed. The few passages that do not disappoint in this way are amazing to read now. They flood my memory and help me feel closer to that previous me. By immersing myself in transcribing all the entries, I hope to fill in the settings and the context of a time in my life when I was more open to the wonders and the eccentricities of another land and of a different way of life--the life of a missionary in Japan. It is a unique perspective that not many people get to share.

So, this is an opportunity to fill in these blanks before even more time goes by and more is lost. I will get to know the "me" I was so that I can reexamine the "me" I am today. This will consist of blog posts directly from my journals interposed with my commentary and reflections. Hopefully, it will be worth reading. Hopefully, it will be worth doing.

Friday, May 6, 2011

More to Come

I'm kicking around an idea for this blog that will soon result in actual posts again. Stay tuned...