Tao by Matsumoto

Practical uses / No Absolute Truth


Once upon a time, Tokyo was an El Dorado for English teachers.

Because of a sudden increase of language institutes, it was very easy to find a teaching position.

If you are from an English speaking country, Japanese school owners didn't even ask you what kind of qualification you had.

They didn't ask you if you were a native speaker of English.

If you didn't look like a Japanese and were able to speak basic English, that was enough.

It was the time when Japanese economy was flourishing, thanks to the country's real estate boom.

It was a real life experience of Midas' Touch, especially if you were an English teacher.

A Canadian woman bought a house at Banff after three years' stay in Japan.

It must be said clearly that those days have been gone for decades.

Those who remember that time in Tokyo are well over fifty years old.

Therefore, please don't pack your stuff and leave for Tokyo now. It is too late.

It was the time when no ordinary Japanese know the word "sub-prime". They didn't even know the word "internet".

In those good old days, there was a young American man teaching English in the centre of Tokyo, a Japanophile who adored old Japanese films.

He was often upset for the honor of the Japanese because they don't talk back when an English speaker ridicule them or, even, insult them.

He found them too reserved and lacking in self-confidence.

It was in a bar in Roppongi, which was the most popular Tokyo area among non-Japanese.

One night he saw a Japanese man being made fun of in front of other customers by English speakers.

The Japanese man was not capable of retorting against them in English.

With no hesitation, our English-teaching American brave dashed into the group like a Yakuza hero in a Toei company's film, and, instead of the silent Japanese, swore at those men in seasoned English slangs.

If the occasion allowed him, he was more than happy to teach his students some verbal arms for linguistic reprisal.

Thanks to his upbringing at a tough neighborhood of San Fernando Valley in California, he was quite rich in the resources.

Among his numerous repartees he taught, there was one sentence fairly decent to use in an ordinary conversation but nasty enough to hurt the other's feelings.

It was "It doesn't make sense".

Most old Japanese might wonder why this can be a harsh criticism of one's intelligence.

It was not long time ago when contradiction was the norm of life in Japan.

"Things never make sense." was part of the national common sense in the floating world Ukiyo.

Things change. They do rather fast in the Far Eastern floating world.

Nowadays the translation of this expression can be used to hurt Japanese feelings.

In American movies, they show a trial scene in a court where a man puts his hand on the Bible and declares he will say nothing but truth.

But, wait a second. Who in the world discovered an evidence that there is only one truth, no more?

Have you ever read a Japanese short story called "Yabu no naka (In a Grove)" written by Ryunosuke Akutagawa?

Probably, you may have heard of the film version of it.

It is "Rashomon" with Toshiro Mifune directed by Akira Kurosawa.

In the story, each character has his own truth. No one can say which is the true one.

The story represents very well Taoists' view of the world.

It is not important at all whether it is true or not. The important thing is that you feel good about it.

Each one has his own hologram and everything is true in his world (=his hologram).

All the truths are connected and interdependent on each other. All the holograms do not have to be different.

It doesn't make sense, does it?

If you ask Lao Tzu what is the absolute truth, he would answer, "The absolute truth is that there is not such a thing as the absolute truth".

  [Related Articles]


Yakuza. "Ya" is hachi, which means eight in Japanese. "Ku" nine. "Za" indicates san, which is three. Eight, nine, and three make twenty. The last digit of twenty is zero. In a traditional game in Japan, zero is the point you get when you have the cards of eight, nine and three points. Therefore, the expression "yakuza" signifies uselessness, some think.

-Chapter 1b Life is a movie will tell you about Ukiyo, the floating world. In the days of samurai, they invented the word to talk about the concept of holography.

-Chapter 10c Caution! You & Hologram. Don't look down on your hologram.

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