Tuesday, March 15, 2011
humanizing the quake (iwate)
The Iwate-born writer Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933) is the author of some of the most beloved children's stories and free-verse poetry of Japan. One of my favorites is the poem known as Ame ni mo makezu (literally: "undefeated by the rain"). I tried to express some of the poem's sentiments in this etegami of a broken umbrella.
I trust that the survivors of the Great Tohoku Earthquake, as inheritors of Miyazawa's legacy, will be drawing deeply from the well of human character described in this poem, as they rebuild their lives in the aftermath of disaster.
Be Not Defeated by the Rain
Written by Kenji Miyazawa and Translated by David Sulz
Be not defeated by the rain, Nor let the wind prove your better. Succumb not to the snows of winter. Nor be bested by the heat of summer.
Be strong in body. Unfettered by desire. Not enticed to anger. Cultivate a quiet joy. Count yourself last in everything. Put others before you. Watch well and listen closely. Hold the learned lessons dear.
A thatch-roof house, in a meadow, nestled in a pine grove's shade. A handful of rice, some miso, and a few vegetables to suffice for the day.
If, to the East, a child lies sick: Go forth and nurse him to health.
If, to the West, an old lady stands exhausted: Go forth, and relieve her of burden.
If, to the South, a man lies dying: Go forth with words of courage to dispel his fear.
If, to the North, an argument or fight ensues:
Go forth and beg them stop such a waste of effort and of spirit.
In times of drought, shed tears of sympathy. In summers cold, walk in concern and empathy.
Stand aloof of the unknowing masses: Better dismissed as useless than flattered as a "Great Man".
This is my goal, the person I strive to become.
(here is an alternate translation)