Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Living Museum

What must it feel like to be a living museum? How can one exist as part of a past so remote, so indistinct, so lost, without becoming lost as well? Undeniably the past has parented this present world, but no silvery mirror, no drop of blood, no spark of the mind betrays a thread of common lineage. The present age is an orphan, raised in a world of foster families and half-brothers, all unsure of what a parent is, even as the ghosts of our mothers and fathers drift through the haunted orphanage, barely seen but impossible to ignore. There are those who choose the shadow world; as ghosts they walk through our world while living in the world we came from, too long ago to remember. What must it feel like to put on the face of a mother, a father, a Creator, and see the child gawk, chatter nervously, take a picture, and remember nothing?
This young woman walked past me, and though I don't know where she came from or where she was going - doubtless from one meticulously recreated world to another - her transition through the world of broad daylight was spellbinding indeed. Though avoiding the main bustling streets her quiet passage drew a crowd; not of foreigners longing for an elusive glimpse of the Japan they came to see, but of Japanese schoolchildren and grandmas and adults going home from work, digging for their cameras and hesitantly mumbling the one-word request "picture?" They're uncomfortable, uncertain how to speak with this specter, frightened by their fascination, and she is just as reluctant, silent, as displaced as a deer transported to the streets of Tokyo. The contrast is drawn by one old man whose confidence is grating "Hey there, where are you going? I'll bet you're going to the tea houses? Isn't that right? Right? Hey, Maiko-san, say something!"
Maiko means "dancing girl," the title for an apprentice geisha, a rigorous year-long trial by fire entered into -in Kyoto and Nara- usually before the age of 18. Her averted gaze and nervous grace begin to take on new meaning, new poignancy. What must it feel like to choose a life of mystery in a world where ever rattle is broken and every lock picked? Can ghosts of our past survive in the blinding light we've created? What happens when we look back without memory, stare into the eyes of our parents without recognition? What can we do with this exhibit, out of joint, too real, too strange? What must it feel like to be a living museum?

1 comment:

  1. I am sorry to say that I haven't been keeping up on your blog. But, as of today I figured out how to add your blog to my "dashboard".

    We found a book that you would enjoy very much. It is called "Evil Penguins". It is much like the "Book of Bunny Suicides" if you have seen that one. It is just poorly drawn penguins doing evil stuff to other creatures or people.