Sunday, June 10, 2007

It's About My Perception

I haven't forgotten my promise to "bookend" (and yes, I coined it; it means to give some kind of a closer to something I started; part 2 of 2,) my post about the local calligraphy school. I've been thinking about it, which turned out to be some kind of a self-analysis, which became rather boring, but here it is.

First of all, I've never met the woman who runs the school, so for all we know, she could be just the loveliest person, a credit to my country, counterbalancing my brashness. So my gripe has to do, mostly, with my own perception of certain things about my culture, upbringing, experiences.

Next, did you read about the Iraqi calligrapher who was killed recently? It's not just me, but in parts of the world, good handwriting, stylish calligraphy, whatever, still commands respect and reverence. It's like martial arts; it's spiritual as well as aesthetic/athletic; therefore, I have a hard time sympathizing with someone who purports to teach Japanese calligraphy as an art form; calligraphy is more spiritual than just leaving black lines on paper. Still, I know after years of training, some people get the spirituality of martial arts without having grown up in the culture, and I'm less bothered by martial art school, so this probably comes from the misogynistic side of my background.

Next, the woman who operates the school prances around town (well, she's kind of graceful, really) in kimono; I can see this is a great marketing technique, (and calligraphy teachers do still wear kimono in Japan from time to time), but to me, it just perpetuates the Hollywood/Geisha image of Japanese women, and, well, give me a break!! There's probably a "guilt" factor, too; the guilt I feel for not becoming a lithe, plant-like woman you catch in the corner of your eye, but never really see or hear; my Dad's kind of woman, and what the Sisters at my school aspired to mold us into.

Then there is the small matter of my horrendous handwriting, in any language, so the school is a reminder of my not-so-chipper school days. Beautiful handwriting was as important as the content, so with essays, I felt defeated even before I started. Until my seventh year, when a teacher found my writing rather entertaining.

It's all about my perception; I come from a conservative extended family; my parents were liberal and education-mad; my school was a prestigious, old-fashioned Catholic school. I've not only lived in Japan, but studied and observed its history and culture from both the Japanese and Western perspectives. And I've often been labeled "unique", "difficult" or "well-read" (not necessarily a compliment when it's said of girls) by other Japanese, family or otherwise, because I have opinions and I voice them.

This subject is now closed.

1 comment:

  1. We see everything through the filters of our own experience. You see the kimono as cheap marketing; I might see something novel, exotic, exciting.

    The hunter ignores the beauty of the bird (and yes, it's currently duck-shooting season in NZ) but sees primarily what's beneath its feathers.

    I think to really get a handle on this, it's important to check out the substance of what she is doing -- seems to be spending a lot of time teaching kids which can't be bad, but yes, I'm sure there's a marketing aspect, too. Her rent can't be cheap!!!

    As for being prepared to speak your mind: you go girl.

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