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Friday, June 22, 2001

BILINGUAL

Finding an oasis of calm in the sound of silence


By TOSHIMI HORIUCHI

In tandem with rapid technological innovations, the number of artificial noisemakers in the world continues to multiply, invading the quiet of our time and place.

People appear unable or unwilling to control this growing noise pollution, to sweep away the weighty shadows that modern civilization ceaselessly casts upon life. And this reality gives rise to a serious question that tarnishes the dignity of human life: "Are human beings really wise?"

To soften such a pensive mood, Satoshi, a knight of the pen, walked out into his flower garden in the early summer sun. The flowers were, as usual, captivating butterflies and bees.

He rested on a rock of reflection and gazed at the garden. He felt his inner sky gradually clear and brighten.

After a few minutes, a yellow butterfly alighted upon a sweet pea right before his eyes. The butterfly gently sipped nectar from the flower, and the sight reminded Satoshi of a poem written by haiku master Takahama Kyoshi (1874-1959):

chocho no monoku oto no shizukasa yo the sound while a butterfly's eating -- such quietness -- Translated by T. Horiuchi

"Everything is so quiet that one is able to hear a butterfly's voice, a sound one can only perceive in the depth of the soul," Satoshi mused. "Such a mysterious sound polishes silence to perfection."

Satoshi reflected on the beauty of noiseless hours that refresh and relax the mind and heart. Suddenly, the butterfly flew to Satoshi's knee. He held his breath and gazed at the tiny creature. It seemed almost as if its eyes wet with tears.

"What are these tears expressing?" he asked himself. With that, the butterfly flew out of sight.

In his sudden aloneness, the lucid voice of English poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744) rose up in Satoshi's heart:

Where'er you tread, the blushing flow'rs shall rise, And all things flourish where you turn your eyes. -- Pastorals, "Summer"

Thus, turning his eyes in every direction, Satoshi pondered the butterfly's tears.

Through subtle interaction of the heart, mind and senses, he grasped two possibilities for the tears: grief over a nonflowering reality outside the garden and joy at the flowering reality. Satoshi finally concluded that the tears reflected both grieving and rejoicing.

At this point, he perceived in his heart Japanese poet Mado Michio's voice singing a song titled "Cho cho (Butterflies)":

When butterflies sleep they fold the wings. In this way the insects become half, are so small as to hinder nothing else. Such a modest posture inspires us to wink at and whisper to the world, "Shh!" lest the faintest sound should disturb their sleep. -- Translated by T. Horiuchi

Satoshi also remembered that the British poet William Wordsworth once called out to a butterfly with these words:

Come often to us, fear no wrong; Sit near us on the bough! We'll talk of sunshine and of song And summer days, when we were young. -- "To a Butterfly"

As Satoshi listened to the flower with his inner ear, he sensed himself become a flower; and as he saw the butterfly with his inner eye, he sensed himself become a butterfly.

"Happy are those," he considered, "who relish the beautiful spirit that lies hidden in something small, just as the butterfly relishes the nectar hidden in a small flower. This kind of spirit ignites within oneself the songbird that sings with tears of glee."

Looking up at the sunny day, Satoshi rose from his rock of reflection and strolled once more in his garden, his heart warming to every bright vision. The lovely spirit rises on the wings of a butterfly to new heights, loftier beauties, views of wonder and delight in order to open flowers of sweet peace in daily life.

Suddenly, the noise of cars rushing past reminded Satoshi that he had been roaming along a boundary between reality and reverie. Nonetheless, he valued the dawn of his new inner life.



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