Decentered Connection

Some connected thoughts about connection.

My friend Aki suggested that while in Tokyo I should see the cherry blossoms in Ueno Park.

The next day I walked through Oppenheimer Park and saw the cherry blossoms pictured above. In my mind the trees in Oppenheimer Park acted like a magical conduit. Like they were tangibly connected to the trees in Ueno Park. Like the roots of the trees in Vancouver and roots of the trees in Tokyo went down into the ground and touched somewhere under the Pacific Ocean. It’s a bit weird now that I write it down, but that was the kind of wordless impression I got.

That afternoon I read an email from Miran, one of the artists travelling to Fukushima. She was writing to the other Japanese artists travelling to Fukushima, wondering about visiting a fishing village. She wanted to see Fukushima from the ocean. Her reason being that I will be participating in this artist in residency, and my perspective is from the other side of the same ocean, and she wanted to see Fukushima from the ocean.

I was struck by a couple of things. First, the notion that the ocean has no borders. Well, really, there are no borders anywhere, other than human constructions, but the Pacific Ocean seems to forcefully assert its borderlessness.

Second, what an important and beautiful gesture this is on the part of my Japanese hosts and friends. When I go to Japan I will be de-centred. I move away from my power and agency in the world for the sake of human connection. At the margins of my experience, where I have less power, I’m forced to not rely on power as a mediating force. I’m forced toward a more elemental and bare human interaction. A move away from the centre, however slight, helps me gain my humanity. My full self is, paradoxically, my fully connected self. I can’t ever be fully me if I stay at the centre, disconnected. I can’t ever be fully me if I refuse to let go of my power, my agency.

When I’m in Japan I don’t have access to the agency in the world to which I’ve grown accustomed. It puts me in a childlike state. That’s a good thing. It makes me open, receptive, full of wonder, slightly vulnerable.

How important then, this hospitable act on the part of my hosts, to move toward me and my experience, toward my ever so slight vulnerability. Not only is there no trace of leveraging power, my friends actually let go of power, let go of the agency to which they are accustomed—literally home, solid ground—for the sake of joining me in a third place, the Pacific Ocean. From that third place we share an experience we couldn’t have shared had we remained in our respective here and there.

It’s literally true, and it’s a picture of what’s true.

What will it mean to encounter Fukushima in an ocean that defies our attempts to draw lines, where painted borders dissolve like so much foolishness. What will it mean to encounter Fukushima from our shared ocean, on our shared planet?