I Am Resolved

Kenzaburō Ōe
Kenzaburō Ōe

I am not one who dwells on the past, or, at least I try not to; for, unless one is fondly recalling, perhaps in a prayerful moment of divine gratitude, all the wonders and blessings the Begetter On High has begotten one, it is mostly a futile and potentially harmful self-flagellating exercise of ego worship in the negative. However, as hard as I try to stay securely in the now and out of the then, I still do find myself unconsciously lost back yonder from time to time reflecting on my life, and I am highly skeptical of anyone who righteously says in a wispy Eckhart Tolle wannabe voice while meditation bells softly chime in the background that they never do. (Just as I am even more highly skeptical of anyone who says they have complete and whole body faith in anything, be it their favorite sports figure or favorite God figure — we all have our doubts. But I digress…) So, if I were to be in the dwelling-in-my-past kind of mood, and if, while there, I were to dwell down even deeper into that dark danger zone of “what ifs”, I just might wonder what my life would have been like if I were to have had the strength and integrity to commit it to such intellectual rigor and deep thinking as Kenzaburō Ōe has had and has done throughout his highly acclaimed and respected life. Just where would my brain and I be right now? Unfortunately, I can only imagine.

When I was in my twenties, my mentor Kazuo Watanabe told me that because I was not going to be a teacher or a professor of literature, I would need to study by myself. I have two cycles: a five-year rotation, which centers on a specific writer or thinker; and a three-year rotation on a particular theme. I have been doing that since I was twenty-five. I have had more than a dozen of the three-year periods. When I am working on a single theme, I often spend from morning to evening reading. I read everything written by that writer and all of the scholarship on that writer’s work. ~ Kenzaburo Oe, Paris Review

I have read much of Ōe’s work and I believe it is some of the finest writing written, deserving all the acclaim and respect it has earned him, including the Akutagawa Prize, Japan’s highest literary honor, and, of course, the Nobel Prize for Literature; however, it is his integrity and commitment to that which he holds dear that I most admire about him. He is an ardent supporter of human rights and proponent for peace, mostly through his lifelong activism for the global elimination of nuclear weapons. But even more than his activism, I admire him mostly for his love and care and complete devotion to his mentally disabled and musically savant adult son Hikari, of whom most of Ōe’s inspiration has been drawn from and much of his writing has been about.

So, what is one to do when one admires someone as much as I admire the great Kenzaburō Ōe? Emulate the behavior of the one whom is admired, of course.

And that is what I resolve to do. To emulate Ōe’s behavior of surveying broadly and digging deeply into both an author’s work and life.

I have decided to commence this resolute commitment of mine with one of the greatest intellects my country, the United States, has begotten: Ralph Waldo Emerson. While familiar with the man and his work on a surface level — an essay here, a poem there, not to mention all the quotes of his that travel and transcend all the ethernets throughout the internet — I have yet to fully discover and understand the man and his work. To begin this discovery and understanding process, I will read first his Complete Essays and Other Writings, followed by (or perhaps even in conjunction with) Oliver Wendell Holmes’s work, Ralph Waldo Emerson: Biography.

Now, I have no intention of committing to, or even attempting, Ōe’s herculean three-year / five-year schedule; I do, however, intend to read as much of Emerson’s writing, as well as writing about him and his writing, that my way less than Ōe-ian brain can hold. And, I also intend to document this Emersonian commitment of mine here, through the posting of essays and other reflections on my readings. What, or whom, awaits me after I fulfill my Emerson commitment, I am not yet certain. I will let the literature decide.

Wish me well please, for I may need your encouragement from time to time.

But, who knows, maybe I won’t need it so much, as I am quite excited about this initiative; for just think of the opportunity I am providing myself – henceforth, a lifetime committed to the full development of my own intellect. Who can predict what joys and benefits I will reap from this effort? Because in twenty-five years when I am close to the age Ōe is now, I don’t want to be able to just imagine where my brain and I will be after such an enduring and fulfilling effort, I want both my brain and me to actually be there. I want to be able to, perhaps in a prayerful moment of divine gratitude, reflect on the twenty-five years gone past, and give thanks for all the additional wonders and blessings that the Begetter On High has begotten me because I was able to have had, if not fully, then at least partially, lived such an admirable life of integrity and commitment as had the great Ōe himself.


22 thoughts on “I Am Resolved”

  1. Interesting article, Kurt. I think if I had his enlightened approach to life I would be in a different place entirely, for better or worse. When I was younger I wanted to go to Japan and study Shorinji Kempo but didn’t have the courage to make the move. If only … Having said that, in spite of the fact that I didn’t have a life plan or a 3 or 5 year approach to the future I am pretty content with my lot overall. It has been both rough and smooth and I hope there is a lot more of both to come. Now I am in a position to give back to society and am enjoying doing so, perhaps righting things in other people’s lives that I wish someone had been able to do for me in my early years. Whatever we do with it, loving life (no matter who we think is in charge) is the best thing we can do. Pain and happiness are only flip sides of the same coin.
    Thanks for this article 🙂

  2. Great place to start your resolution, Kurt! I live and work smack in the middle of Thoreau country (Concord, MA), and I think that as huge as Emerson is, he’s still underappreciated. He was at least a century and a half ahead of his time, because we haven’t caught up to him yet…. Jeff

    • Break open the guest room my friend ’cause here I come! My motivation for Emerson comes mostly from my lovely and loving wife, as she studied him in college as an AmLit major and spent some time in your neighborhood as part of her study abroad program. She has been trying to get me to visit with her basically as long as we have known each other; sadly to say I have yet to visit. However, with this new venture of mine, we do, in fact, plan on visiting the Transcendental Turf sometime this year. I look forward to your feedback and rudder corrections as I proceed. Thanks, Jeff.

  3. I can see the value of sitting at the feet of the one you so deeply admire. That is the path a true follower takes to fully see into the heart and mind and character–to fully grasp so that some day you will find yourself morphing into the same bent as the one you aspire to truly know and in a sense become. This is what the Apostle Paul meant in his writings to the church at Philippi when he said “not that I’ve already attained but I seek after that for which I have been purchased for. Forgetting what lies behind I stretch forward for the upward call of God In Christ Jesus. ” He was determined to close the gap between him and Jesus. Paul wanted to get into the mind of Christ and into His heart. To truly know Him.

    • Indeed, and beautifully said, janjoy52. What better example to emulate than Jesus’s. Too bad all the religiosity surrounding him and the societal projection we are on moves us further and further away from truly appreciating and understanding him. Thank you for reminding us.

  4. I have always been a fan of Emerson and I commend his idealized vision for humanity. As I have gotten older however and experienced more of the inherent evil present in some of humanity I see that his vision could never truly be realized. He believed in the goodness in each individual and that highly structured and restricted society corrupted the purity of people. He believed that only through being allowed to be ourselves and to be self reliant could we truly form a great community.
    While I agree that allowing people to be more self reliant – which seems a contrary idea to current civilized trends of forcing us all to rely on banks and corporations for the products and utilities we require to participate in society – I understand that there must be laws and restrictions for the protection of all. If allowed too much individualization, there are some who would take advantage of this and of others. The government has to have some control over the people and their everyday actions to maintain a standard of living for everyone. Unfortunately we simply cannot rely on the inherent good in people to control their actions towards others as not all people have the same morals and the same conscience.

    • To me, the beauty of an ideal is not necessarily attaining it, because like perfection, an ideal can rarely be attained, but in knowing that it is there to be striven for. And as far as not all people having the same morals and the same conscience, while those not of mine may frustrate and disappoint and shock and even horrify me at times, all I can say is thank god for that. Thank god for the yin and yang of it all. Thank you for sharing your insightful thoughts with us, jcckeith.

      • Both of you make good points. Firstly I do think the government must take on the mantle of some form of overseer, however in the UK we have plenty of evidence of the nanny state dictating at a much more fine grained level than was ever intended. Making politicians realise that while they are elected and have caviar and lobster at subsidised rates paid for by the electorate, they are not our bosses, however plebian they see us as being.
        Your point Kurt about not being able to attain an ideal is exactly right in my eyes. For many people I encounter, reality is something for other people to worry about and that’s a shame. I try and be the best I can, ideals are something to read about and consider as part of your life plan – someone or something will always obstruct the perfect path!!
        Damn I sound like a preacher! Sorry 🙂

        • Preach on, preacher, for in me you have an eager disciple. You point directly to the life task at hand for me, zombieaussie: To strive, always, for the ideal all while working to thrive, always, in the real.

  5. I’ll wager that this undertaking is going to foster some serious creativity. Projects like this always have that affect, on me anyway. I theorize that there is some kind of strange re-verb that takes place inside the mind when you go deep into study. A space opens up inside your head, a quiet internal library within which your own thoughts can be more easily heard to echo.


Say it like you mean it

Discover more from KURT BRINDLEY

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading