It has been a while. I have tried to write on some of my observations about travel, music, and the stuff over which I tend to muse, but life has been going at a pace lately I am just not accustomed to. This is a good thing, though! Both academic and professional responsibilities have reached new levels of importance. The schedule I have kept to fulfill those responsibilities has been maybe the most challenging yet, but the rewards have been almost unimaginable. Having just completed likely the most exhausting week of my life managing a UK tour for the Japanese acts we were so lucky to work with, it is safe to say that my business partner and I have been on quite a high. After decades of uncertainty regarding where in the music business any modicum of satisfaction could be found, operating within a niche with previously untapped levels of dedication and emotional investment is the happiest I have ever been in my relationship to music, as a professional and as a fan. As an academic, my access to particular scenes of profound intellectual interest is also at an all time high and the first signs of true progress on the daunting road to a doctoral degree and the likelihood of a subsequent monograph are beginning to manifest. I feel like my work in those realms is of consequence, deeply appreciated, and personally gratifying. I owe it all to Japan.
As I write this just before my next jaunt “home” to Japan, I should be riding that wave, but the last two trips have been emotionally challenging. This upcoming journey is no different. Since October of last year, my relationship with Japan has become a dichotomous affair as the country is simultaneously home of joyous and painful circumstance. The two worlds seem to increase in their respective intensity and as this occurs, distance between the two grows. As mentioned in a previous post, if home is where the heart is, home is where the heart can be broken. There is no return to Japan now that is not clouded by the latter half of that statement. Distracted by my responsibilities I am usually capable of remaining at the pinnacle, but the pit looms below and I am always aware of its presence. It is a long way down.
I write about this not as a man in need of venting emotional dirty laundry, that is what councilors are for, but I write as a traveler, researcher, and professional who is challenged by a place which still feels so much like home, yet at times seems dead set on repelling me due to the reminders at every turn of the one aspect of my life which is not what it should be. The question is, how do I counter this? I need Japan to regain its glory but as of now it stands as a monument to the distance between the pinnacle and the pit.
Japan is cemented as not just important for me, but essential. The country, in many ways, saved me. It provided direction and focus at a time when it was sorely needed. It offered so many things which filled voids in my life, voids I didn’t even realize at the time I had until the nebulous vacancies were filled. As a traveler, the desire to always be on a plane, always be on the move, is not a quenchable thirst and choosing other places to roam as frequently would be a disservice to my passions and related responsibilities at the pinnacle, and I would always feel the lure. There are gears in motion. They can’t be stopped now, and I don’t want them to. But that damn pit…
This is something others in my position have dealt with. I read a book not long ago about particular challenges in the field for ethnomusicologists when it comes to these types of interwoven disappointments and a kindred spirit made himself known. Involved with research in South Korea he too had every aspect of his life—personal, professional, academic—intertwined. When a similar fate to mine befell one of those aspects, his macro relationship with the country of his passion was irreparably damaged. I fear I may be in that same boat. How do I avoid that? Maybe the better question is, CAN I avoid that?
These are the things on my mind as I pack and prepare while deluged with comments from the well-meaning wishing me a great trip. Those comments do actually help. It’s a reminder that I live my passions. I do not live any aspect of my life dispassionately, so to feel a passion waning just a bit is worrisome. A dispassionate life is no life at all, and engaging something dispassionately is a waste of time, a waste of life. But when that distance manifests, it is acutely felt. It’s disappointing and disheartening. But that damn pinnacle…
That’s the key though, isn’t it? The emotional highs exist because a life with passion makes reward possible. The lows exist because a life with passion carries risk. I would rather exist in a state of passionate engagement with everything in my life to reap from it the most joy imaginable rather than dampen my experiences because I am too afraid of risk (emotional, material, whatever…). But when the damage is done, how the hell do you undue do it so that the heights of passion can be reclaimed? I need that reclamation.
I wear around my neck the symbol of fashioned gold and diamond that was dropped into the pit. I carry it with me out of a foolish insistence on keeping a promise not to give up on someone. It’s a promise I still keep in the face of no hope whatsoever, but maybe it’s more than that. I don’t want to give up on Japan. There’s just too much at stake. Maybe it will be when I step off the plane. Maybe it will be when I’m back in a record label’s offices in Tokyo. Maybe it will be when an artist says “thank you.” Maybe it will be in a livehouse on some random night. If I stick it out, that moment of reclamation will come. I hope.
I don’t suppose I have much of a choice but to wait. Hell, maybe that’s the solution. I can just wait forever if I have to. Hope of reclaiming the pinnacle is worth living in the pit once in a while, and at least hope is something over which I can maintain a bit of agency.
Besides, I’m not the giving up type. It’s a fault as much as it’s a virtue. It will be worth it, though. I hope.
Enough musing. I have a plane to catch.
Song of the day: From the Pinnacle to the Pit by GHOST