Saturday, January 25, 2014


Moving Backward as Progress

Donald Richie (1924-2013), The Inland Sea (1971; rpt. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2002), p. 18:
And it is not just the pollution, the smog, the death of forests and oceans that I seek to escape from. It is the future. In Japan, for the moment, the past still lives. But already in the larger cities one is aware of the pressures of affluence and overpopulation, those twin ogres, one seemingly benign, the other already wrathful, that are killing the world.

Along with too many people and too much money have come the ills that now afflict America, Europe, Japan alike. And while I can accept the crowds, the autos, the television, I cannot accept the diminution of humanity that follows—the sensationalism, the cynicism, the brutality.

Though I am not interested in the humane disciplines, not interested in humanity itself, I am interested in people, some of them. and I believe in them, a few of them. This may not make me a humanist. It certainly makes me a romantic. Perhaps that is why I chose this land to live in. Certainly this is why, now that it is too crowded for me, too unhealthy, too like the land I came from, I want to move onward.

Or rather, perhaps, backward. As one leaves the city now, one moves backward in time, back to places no more crowded and only slightly less spoiled than they were a hundred years ago, places where history lives and superstition is truth. It is no paradox that this is the only progress now.

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