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Lions Roar : July 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2008 33 THE WRITER’S JOB, DECLARED THOREAU, is to “watch his moods.” Perhaps this is everyone’s job, and yet the writer has the rare luxury of sitting still in a quiet place with not much to look at other than what’s inside him. He has a front-seat view, you could say, at the cinema that’s constantly playing in his head, in which images come and go every second, tempting him to hold on to them. His job, in part, is to see what will remain when the show is over, and what lies behind the diverting, terrifying, dis- tracting play of images. The writer watches himself, moment by moment, giving re- cord to what he sees, and that record shows that he’s changing as constantly as the clouds above, now clearing—so everything looks sunlit, reborn—and now massing over again, so he can barely see a few feet beyond himself. He picks up what he wrote yesterday, so exhilarated, and today it looks dead: is that today’s mood speaking, he has to wonder, or just yesterday’s condemn- ing itself? His job, he knows, if only so he can make it clearer to his reader, is to find which is the reality he can begin to trust, which of his responses is truest and most transparent. He notices, too, if he is me, that the days move at his desk and the moon turns around it, and the moments collect, and he is a different person after one month there from the one he was after one week. Again, what looked to him as radiant then is now a lit- tle surfacey—he’s gone further, pushed deeper—and yet what he sees now is still a little more clouded than he would like. He has to travel further, behind the moment, further and further behind the play of shifting images, to what is really constant, changeless, in the background. This will not make sense to anyone who has not undertaken the trip herself (the play of images, the movie for which she has paid such a high admission price, is amusing, constantly exciting, the thing she’s come here to enjoy; no one walks into a cinema, waits for the lights to go down, gets caught up in the dramas and convulsions there, so close to the dramas one recognizes within—and only seeks to know what’s sitting backstage in the dark). Even the writer realizes that at some point his job is to come back out into the theater, to sit down before the action movie, and to enjoy and share it with his companions, with the added delight of that non-show—the inaction movie—he’s now able to place behind and beside it. It helps, though, if there is an external show of sorts to re- flect the change of moods in you; no one enjoys only looking at himself (what could be more boring?). Especially if that self is changing so often that all you’re really seeing is a record of the infidelities, the inconsistencies, the unreliability of whatever it is that you can think of as “you.” Here in Japan the seasons roll round with a color and intensity, even an absoluteness, that many more uninflected places might die for. Spring, famously, is frothy with pink—a fluffy, seething, entirely inconstant sea of blossoms along the Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto, around the hills of Yoshino, near Nara, that moves peo- ple to sit under the play of colors and sing lusty songs, get heart- ily drunk, have picnics. The idea is that the impermanence itself is the essence of the beauty; you enjoy the show, Nature’s home My Private Cineplex The writer’s job, says PICO IYER, is to watch his moods and thoughts, as captivating yet passing as the seasons, and decide which are worth sharing. PHOTOS©EMMYC.LUDWIG,2008,WWW.EMMYLUDWIG.COM PICO IYER’S new book, The Open Road, covers more than thirty years of talks and travels with the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. He is currently work- ing on a book about the autumn in Japan. JULY 18-39.indd 33 JULY 18-39.indd 33 4/25/08 11:57:02 AM 4/25/08 11:57:02 AM