Shared Experience

I mentioned in a previous blog that the commonality of human experience is more important than the differences that are stressed in what we loosely call studies in “cultural diversity.” The best way to make this point, it seemed to me, is to quote from one of the books I have been reading by Japanese authors. I could choose many such passages, but one struck me as particularly apt since I am “crawling toward death,” as Lear would have it, and it is the Fall of the year. So I will quote at some length a reflection written by an elderly man I found in a novella by Junichiro Tanizaki titled The Reed Cutter.

“. . .with every passing year my sense grows stronger of a loneliness, a dreariness in autumn, a seasonal sadness that comes from nowhere, for no reason. ‘The sound of the wind awakens me,’ ‘Stirring the blinds at my door, the autumn wind blows’ — it’s only after we’ve reached this age that we come to understand the true flavor of these old poems. But this doesn’t mean that I hate the autumn because it’s sad. In my youth I liked the spring best of all, but now I look forward more to autumn. As we grow older we come to a sort of resignation, a state of mind that lets us enjoy our decline in accordance with the laws of nature, and we come to wish for a quiet, balanced life, do we not? And so we derive more comfort from a lonely scene than from a gorgeous view, and we find it more fitting to lose ourselves in memories of past pleasures than to indulge in real pleasure. In other words, for a young person, love for the past is nothing but a daydream unrelated to the present, but an older person has no other means for living through the present.”

As I say, the universality of human experience, the fundamental humanity that we all share, is much more interesting than those trivial things that we focus upon in our “cultural studies.”


2 thoughts on “Shared Experience

  1. Maybe we old farts appreciate the beauty of the fall colors more. Of course, I also like Valerie Harper’s outlook with her terminal illness – I am not dead yet, so excuse me while I live.

  2. Well brother Hugh, I’m not sure I view autumn (literally or figuratively) with loneliness, or a sense of dreariness–and while I have to admit that I don’t enjoy “my decline–” I must also confess I continue to enjoy the gorgeous view–be if from my back yard patio or the stunning vistas of New England’s autumnal glory which Darla and I will visit in October for the kazillionith time, or the new explosion of pleasure that will greet our afternoon when grandson Carson, age 4, explodes on the scene. Our pleasures will be both of our still reasonably stable memory hungry for the nourishment of the moment, which if we’re alert and open, will deeply satisfy.

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