31shortyones27) life, death, and… ― Sayaka’s worst and brightest day






★life, death, and… ― Sayaka’s worst and brightest day★

Jaugo: Hello, Sayaka-san, how are you today?

Sayaka: I’m very fine today, Jaugo-san. I have a feeling this is going to be a bright day.

Jaugo: I have a feeling you might be the only one to say that in front of this TANKA.

Sayaka: I know it’s not a bright TANKA, but it’s not so bleak, either.

Jaugo: Did you really make it out, Sayaka-san?

Sayaka: Yes. “Most people I used to know are gone and now exist only in history. I wonder how long I will stay on this side of history”. In other words, “It won’t be very long before I’ll rejoin them on the other side of history”… What do you say to this interpretation, Jaugo-san?

Jaugo: Very fitting for you, Sayaka-san. Quite positive, nothing bleak, as you said. I especially like that “I’ll rejoin them” part; I’d have said “I’ll join them” or “I’ll also become a history”. “Rejoin them” is a hopeful term, since it stipulates “rebirth” on the other side of the grave. Is that what you really thinking? Are you a believer in the afterlife?

Sayaka: Yes. I’m positive I can meet my Grandma and Grandpa, and all the people that I loved, when I go to the other side, in our grand alumni association… You are of course one of them, Jaugo-san.

Jaugo: Mm… it’s nice to hear you say that, however unthinkable it seems to me.

Sayaka: Don’t you want to see me again out there?

Jaugo: “Out there”… nice sound; yes, your life is likely to continue after you go out of this one, Sayaka-san.

Sayaka: Judging from your tone, you don’t believe in meeting me out there?

Jaugo: I’d rather think there’d be nothing “out there”.

Sayaka: Why?

Jaugo: Uh… it’s difficult to explain.

Sayaka: Please try to explain and let me understand, as you always did.

Jaugo: OK, then, how about this question ― when you meet your Grandpa and Grandma “out there”, what do they look like?

Sayaka: Just the way they were in my happiest childhood.

Jaugo: I thought you’d say that. Now, another question ― when you meet ME out there, what do I look like? Or what would you like me to look like? The way I am now, or the way I used to be, say, in my early twenties, or maybe at exactly the same age as you are now?

Sayaka: Yeah, that would be fun, I’d like to meet you as my classmate! You wouldn’t have been that wise when you were 17, I’d guess; I might even have some opportunity to beat you or tease you.

Jaugo: And are you gonna tease me the way a cat does a mouse?

Sayaka: If that’s what you want. I’m sure you’d look great when younger, when you were doing 500 push-ups a day… not that you don’t look nice now, in case you are anxious.

Jaugo: Thanks, I know what you feel about me. What about your parents?

Sayaka: (…)

Jaugo: What if they desired to become younger, as young as you? Wouldn’t that seem a little awkward to you, Sayaka-san?

Sayaka: They’d be doing fine, all right.

Jaugo: All right… How about your child?

Sayaka: I haven’t got one. I’ve never been married. I’ve not even been in love yet.

Jaugo: And you never would?

Sayaka: I don’t know, how can I tell? And what are you trying to tell me, what is your point, Jaugo-san?

Jaugo: My point is, our reunion “out there” would be quite a mess if we attended it the way we would like to look like in the afterlife.

Sayaka: OK, then, we should attend it the way we actually were.

Jaugo: The way we actually were… when? At the moment of our death?

Sayaka: (…) In the prime of our life, then.

Jaugo: What about those who died in childhood?

Sayaka: They should grow up to be eighteen or twenty out there.

Jaugo: And they would live happily ever after? Forever young in their prime, never getting old, never getting ill, never dying, without any naughty childhood, without anxious adolescence, without worrisome care of old age, without unpleasant memories they’d rather erase, totally happy and satisfied, without even the concept of anxiety or misery? Isn’t that utterly weird? Good things alone, nothing going wrong, 100% satisfaction and happiness guaranteed ― do you call that “life”? Or “Paradise”? Or “bliss”? Or “Utopia”? I should say it’s the Utopia of the brain-dead, the perfect Dystopia I’d never want to find myself in… Oh, no, I didn’t mean to hurt you, Sayaka-san, I’m sorry… Are you hurt?

Sayaka: (…) You are sometimes cruelly lucid… My afterlife is dead today.

Jaugo: I thought you had a feeling this was going to be a very bright day.

Sayaka: I was deluded; you disillusioned me.

Jaugo: And you’re gonna give up on your reunion “out there”?

Sayaka: There’s nothing “out there”, you disproved it yourself!

Jaugo: Yeah, that’s what I did. I’d like very much to destroy the afterlife as a carbon copy of this life, a stale rebroadcast going on and on and on for eternity, the eternal Hell of happiness from which there’s no escape, a cheerful dinner table with all the family gathering with never-ending supper consisting solely of sweets… you would never want to get involved in it, would you, Sayaka-san?

Sayaka: (…)

Jaugo: I’m not trying to make your day even more miserable. Trust me, I’m going to help you out of that Dystopia into something much brighter, if you would only trust me… will you trust me, Sayaka-san?

Sayaka: Can I trust you? Can I rely upon you… to rebuild something “out there”?

Jaugo: Maybe not “out there”, but I can rebuild something within you… shall we continue?

Sayaka: Yes…

Jaugo: Now, let us think together what’s so bad with that Dystopia I destroyed… can you point it out, Sayaka-san?

Sayaka: Eternity.

Jaugo: Exactly. Nothing goes on forever without getting stale. If you want to go on with the same thing without making it stale, the only way left for you is to kill your brains, turn off your mind and heart and start feeling nothing ― the brain-dead ― that’s the only answer. Unless you are brain-dead, you can never put up with eternal happiness any more than you can endure endless pain or misery. And what do you call that state of being? ― your brain is dead, you feel nothing, you are in the middle of eternity but you can endure it for ever, because you don’t feel it or even don’t know it exists ― DEATH. That’s the answer: eternal happiness or misery is only endurable in death, or brain-death. You might as well be simply dead as live as the brain-dead in eternal Heaven or Hell. Death is the perfect liberation from nightmarish eternity… Are you still with me, Sayaka-san?

Sayaka: Yes… please don’t lose me here and now ― I couldn’t stay here alone.

Jaugo: Trust me, I’ll never leave you alone, Sayaka-san. Now, stage-II ― please answer me, Sayaka-san, what’s so wrong with eternity? What should we do to rebuild eternity into something endurable, or even desirable?

Sayaka: (…) Death?

Jaugo: Ah… back to the conclusion of stage-I: yes, death is a kind of eternity, to the extent that it is changeless, and death is an endurable eternity in that it makes you feel nothing, but do you call death a “desirable” eternity?

Sayaka: No.

Jaugo: What makes you say “No”? What is undesirable about death? Can you answer that question?

Sayaka: I don’t want to die… or remain dead.

Jaugo: Why do you hate to remain dead? Death is an endurable kind of eternity. You can go on sleeping in death for eternity in perfect peace without feeling anything. Do you still hate death? Do you still want to wake up from that peacefully endurable eternity?

Sayaka: Yes… but I don’t know why… maybe because I’m afraid of death.

Jaugo: Death is nothing to be afraid of, as has been proven in the stage-I, I’d guess?

Sayaka: Yes, but… I don’t want to die.

Jaugo: Or rather, you’d like to live: which sounds the more correct to you, Sayaka-san, “you don’t want to die”, or “you’d like to live”?

Sayaka: I’d like to live.

Jaugo: Good. It’s good to be alive. But it has to be “live” to be good ― it ceases to be good in “rebroadcast”. If not totally bad, it’s not so good the second time; the first time is always the best.

Sayaka: Repetition or “imitation can never exceed the original; there is something that can only exist once, never twice”. Oh yes, I understand ― “live” is only once, “life” should never be twice; life is wonderful because we live it only once! Life repeated twice ceases to be wonderful because it is no longer unique or original.

Jaugo: You remind me of 稗田阿礼(Hieda-no-Are), Sayaka-san: you seem to remember everything I said.

Sayaka: Every memorable thing you said. I can recite them whenever they fit the situation ― this is a kind of totally good “rebroadcast”, I believe.

Jaugo: Yes. And if you are curious, I believe there is another kind of totally good “rebroadcast”… would you care to know?

Sayaka: By all means.

Jaugo: Rebroadcast in total oblivion.

Sayaka: In total oblivion?

Jaugo: Or rebroadcast in largely unremembered oblivion; or partly remembered oblivion. The best of all is vaguely familiar rebroadcast… Do you know what I mean?

Sayaka: I… seem to know.

Jaugo: Now, tell me, Sayaka-san, what do you think is “vaguely familiar rebroadcast”?

Sayaka: I love birds now because I used to be a bird myself before I came into this world as a girl… or I’m so much attached to you now because you used to be my… sweetheart, possibly my husband in our former lives… although we don’t remember, we may be repeating what we used to do in our former existence… it’s no “stale rebroadcast”, it’s our uniquely original life, but it is in fact lived more than once, maybe for countless times without our knowing it, in the form of vaguely familiar rebroadcast… is that what you mean, Jaugo-san?

Jaugo: I’m beginning to believe in this “vaguely familiar rebroadcast” myself, since you so perfectly know what I mean ― maybe because you and I have been engaged in this conversation over and over again in the eternal flow of time.

Sayaka: I completely believe what you said, Jaugo-san. Maybe we are repeating the role we’re supposed to play without knowing it ― what a wonderful rebroadcast it is!

Jaugo: Do you like the idea of vaguely familiar rebroadcast?

Sayaka: Definitely! Wonderful!

Jaugo: Although I totally destroyed your Dystopia first, now I succeeded in rebuilding something more wonderful in you ― is that correct?

Sayaka: Perfectly correct!

Jaugo: Are you getting hopeful you can meet your grandparents in your childhood, again in life somewhere, if not in this life, if not “out there”, but surely some day, somewhere, in a freshly unique yet strangely familiar experience?

Sayaka: I’m sure I can. And I can surely meet you again, Jaugo-san, again and again and again for ever!

Jaugo: Good. But, your grandparents aside, I am still here with you, so are your parents, so are your friends living in this world together ― let’s just forget about the “vaguely familiar scenario” and enjoy the present the way it is, not as “rebroadcast” or some “beaten path”, but as something we experience for the first time and only once in this life ― that’s what life, whichever life, is supposed to be lived, all right?

Sayaka: Right. Oh yes, I was perfectly correct in my hunch ― this happened to be the brightest day of my life! Thank you very much, Jaugo-san, you are my mentor… no, much more than that… how can I put it?… you are my savior, my guardian angel, my… ― I have no words for it!

Jaugo: Don’t worry, it will be found in due course some day. We can always find the answer in the end.

Sayaka: Yes…

Jaugo: Oh, I almost forgot to tell you something.

Sayaka: What is it?

Jaugo: This “vaguely familiar rebroadcast” scenario is a total stranger to Heianese Japanese ― as far as I know, people in those days never thought of life, or death, or rebirth, so earnestly as we did today.

Sayaka: I believe very few people would ever do even today.

Jaugo: Without a doubt. So, the author of this TANKA was, or for that matter practically everyone was, or still is, simply and totally sad to be left behind by too many old familiar faces, without any hope of meeting them again “out there” or “in here”.

Sayaka: Then, we should owe them condolences.

Jaugo: You are right ― please accept my deepest condolences, folks.

Sayaka: OUR condolences… to all those ignorant, both living and dead! Sorry only the two of us are so happy together… alone!

Jaugo: Oh-ho, aren’t you going overboard, Sayaka-san? Too much pity is not so much elegant as arrogant.

Sayaka: Sorry, I’m prone to be elated, especially when I’m with you, Jaugo-san.

Jaugo: It’s so nice to see you come back from dejected to elated, but you might as well remember, Sayaka-san ― there might never be any such vaguely familiar scenarios, and if there was, there would be no guarantee for a happy ending. So, we have to live as best we can anyway, without counting on some invisible hands to guide us to some glorious goal. OK?

Sayaka: OK! I don’t have to count on the invisible guide of destiny, so long as you are here with me, Jaugo-san.

Jaugo: What if I’m gone? I won’t live forever.

Sayaka: Don’t worry, we’ll meet again some time, somewhere.

Jaugo: All right. Let’s meet again in our next TANKA. So much for today, have a nice day, Sayaka-san. So long.

Sayaka: Thank you for the greatest enlightenment… so far. See you again in our next revelation, Jaugo-san.








(when news of someone passing away came rushing in to bewilder the author)

People I once knew I hear about only in stories.

In person never could I see them… all gone leaving me behind.

From hear about to being talked about… just how many years away for me?

みな【皆】〔副〕<ADVERB:all, each and every>

ひと【人】〔名〕<NOUN:the people, persons>


むかしがたり【昔語り】〔名〕<NOUN:an old story, history, legend>


なる【成る】〔自ラ四〕(なり=連用形)<VERB:become, turn into>

ゆく【行く】〔自カ四〕(ゆく=連体形)<VERB:come to, get to, learn to>

…all the people [that I knew as friends] are getting out of sight, out of this world, into memories of good old days



まで【まで】〔副助〕<POSTPOSITIONAL PARTICLE(TIME):till, until>

よそ【他所】〔名〕<NOUN:not my personal business, something happening to someone else>

に【に】〔格助〕<POSTPOSITIONAL PARTICLE(MANNER):like, as, the way>

きく【聞く】〔他カ四〕(きか=未然形)<VERB:hear it said that, overhear>

む【む】〔助動マ四型〕推量(む=連体形)<AUXILIARY VERB(FUTURE):will, shall>



らむ【らむ】〔助動ラ四型〕現在推量(らむ=連体形係り結び)<AUXILIARY VERB(QUESTION):I wonder>

…but just until when would I hear others mourn the dead as someone else’s sad stories [I myself would soon be one of those to be mourned by others]

《minahito no mukasigatari ni nariyuku wo itsu made yoso ni kikamu to su ramu》

■mourning those who have gone, or crying over yourself being left behind?■

 However cheerful your possible afterlife may be, no one likes to die, or even likes to see others die to go to a possibly better place than this. If you have perfect faith in the afterlife, why mourn those who are going there? The answer is simple ― you don’t mourn the dead; you are crying “I’m left behind alone!” You don’t cry like that in your youth in the middle of plenty of friends on your side ― you simply pity the dead for going out of our party; you start to cry for yourself only when you find your side being outnumbered as you grow old, with fewer and fewer friends around, less and less energy or enthusiasm left inside. When you see poems of lamentation, listen carefully to discern for whom the bell tolls.

《ほどもなくたれもおくれぬよなれども とまるはゆくをかなしとぞみる:hodo mo naku tare mo okurenu yo naredomo tomaru wa yuku wo kanashi to zo miru》『後撰集(Gosen-shuu)』哀傷(Lamentation) No.1420 by 伊勢(Ise)程も無く誰も後れぬ世(it won’t be long before everyone goes out of this life ― it’s only a matter of time)なれども(be that as it may)止まるは行くを悲しとぞ見る(those who stay behind cannot help feeling pity for those going out)

・・・This one doesn’t mourn the dead or cry out of loneliness for herself ― it may be suitable as mourning at funerals, but quite a tasteless piece of poetry… perhaps she is too young for real lamentation, or she is surrounded and loved by too many people to feel lonely, fortunately for her.

《よのなかにあらましかばとおもふひと なきがおほくもなりにけるかな》『拾遺集(Shuui-shuu)』哀傷(Lamentation) No.1299 by 藤原為頼(Fujiwara-no-Tameyori)世の中にあらましかばと思ふ人(of the people I’d really love to have around with me)亡きが多くもなりにけるかな(more and more are gone, leaving fewer and fewer behind)

・・・This is the authentic lamentation of an old one.

《もろともにながめしひともわれもなき やどにはひとりつきやすむらむ:morotomo ni nagameshi hito mo ware mo naki yado ni wa hitori tsuki ya sumu ramu?》『後拾遺集(Go-Shuui-shuu)』雑(Miscellany)No.856 by 藤原長家(Fujiwara-no-Nagaie)諸共に眺めし(together we used to see it)人も(she has been gone now)我もなき(I shall have been gone, too)宿には(the deserted mansion of loneliness)独り月や澄/住むらむ(to be only inhabited and illuminated by the changeless moon we used to see together)

・・・A sad and lonely TANKA, even lonelier than the series of sighs by 恵慶法師(Egyou-houshi)(cf: 《すだきけむむかしのひともなきやどに ただかげするはあきのよのつき:sudaki kemu mukashi no hito mo naki yado ni tada kage suru wa aki no yo no tsuki》集きけむ昔の人も無き宿(on a deserted house with all inhabitants gone)にただ影するは秋の夜の月(only the moon shines as gently as before)); but I wonder where those “人も我も(she and me)” have been gone?… out there?… together?…. alone?… with no memories of the past?… anyway they’ve been gone, whether into the world of death as “peacefully endurable eternity” or back into life in here in a series of wholly/partly/vaguely forgotten rebroadcast as “desirable eternity”. It’s fortunate that both of them have been gone without leaving either of them behind. To come to think of it, this poem is not so sad or lonely as its author apparently intended it to be, don’t you think, Sayaka-san?

《なきひとをしのぶることもいつまでぞ けふのあはれはあすのわがみを:naki hito wo shinoburu koto zo itsu made zo kyou no aware wa asu no wa ga mi wo?》『新古今集(Shin-Kokin-shuu)』哀傷(Lamentation) No.818 by 加賀少納言(?藤原為盛女?:Kaga-no-shoushou, possibly the daughter of Fujiwara-no-Tamemori)亡き人を偲ぶることも何時までぞ(how much longer should I mourn the dead myself?)今日の哀れは明日の我が身を(my lamentation of today will be somebody’s mourning for me tomorrow)

・・・This is a perfect example of a very handsome piece of poetry totally devoid of any authentic pathos, seen in abundance in the so-called “新古今時代(Shin-Kokin period)” ― Sayaka-san was totally right in reciting “Repetition or imitation can never exceed the original; there is something that can only exist once, never twice” ― in the uniquely original world of authentic TANKA connoisseurs, that is ― recite and rewrite it as you will when forced to say something at someone’s funeral: no one is going to blame you for “rebroadcasting” so long as your plagiarism speaks for them all.

Having an English-speaking self within you is just like having a conversation partner like Sayaka-san/Jaugo-san beside you.
We provide you not with actual conversation partners, but we enable you to engage in intellectually enticing conversation with Sayaka-san/Jaugo-san(…no mean feat, isn’t it?)
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