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Japan: Wondering About the Meaning of Life

This post is part of our special coverage Japan Earthquake 2011.

By Kinumi. CC license.

In a matter of minutes, a violent earthquake and the following tsunamis demolished entire neighborhoods. Many now wonder what the meaning of life is if everything may change in a blink.

The concept of impermanence of things is familiar to the Japanese literature and, in these days, poet Shuntaro Tanikawa‘s famous poem “To Live” has been posted on several Japanese blogs. The popular verses, which explore the meaning of life in very simple words, appear in many school books.

生きる  

生きているということ
いま生きているということ
それはのどがかわくということ
木漏れ日がまぶしいということ
ふっと或るメロディを思い出すということ
くしゃみをすること
あなたと手をつなぐこと

生きているということ
いま生きているということ
それはミニスカート
それはプラネタリウム
それはヨハン・シュトラウス
それはピカソ
それはアルプス
すべての美しいものに出会うということ
そして
かくされた悪を注意深くこばむこと

生きているということ
いま生きているということ
泣けるということ
笑えるということ
怒れるということ
自由ということ

生きているということ

いま生きているということ
いま遠くで犬が吠えるということ
いま地球が廻っているということ
いまどこかで産声があがるということ
いまどこかで兵士が傷つくということ
いまぶらんこがゆれているということ
いまいまがすぎてゆくこと

生きているということ
いま生きてるということ
鳥ははばたくということ
海はとどろくということ
かたつむりははうということ

人は愛するということ

あなたの手のぬくみ
いのちということ

To Live

To live,
to live now, means
to become thirsty,
to be dazzled by the sun filtering through the tree leaves,
to unexpectedly remember a melody,
to sneeze,
to join hands with you.

To live,
to live now, means
miniskirts,
planetariums,
Johann Strauss,
Picasso,
the Alphs,
meeting all kinds of beautiful things,
and
rejecting carefully the hidden evil.
To live,
to live now, means
to be able to cry,
to be able to laugh,
to be able to get angry,
to be free.

To live,
to live now, means
now a dog is barking in a far place,
now the earth is turning around,
now somewhere a baby's first cry is raised,
now somewhere a soldier is wounded,
now a swing is swinging,
now “now” is passing.

To live,
to live now, means
a bird flaps its wings,
the sea thunders,
a snail crawls,
people love,
the warmth of your hands,
life itself.

[English translation found here.]


Actor Koichi Sato reads “To Live”.

Big Kuma said she read this poem when she was a little girl and explained what it means to her.

今、日本が被災した裏側でも…
この地球のどこかでも…
飢えや…貧困…戦争…
色んな事で傷ついて…
亡くなっているいる人も居るということ。
そんな中でも…
今生きているという事。

Even now, while Japan is the victim of natural disasters…
On the other side of this Earth…
There is famine, poverty, war…
Many people are suffering
And dying for many different reasons.
Amidst all this…
The meaning of life, now.
[...]

今何が自分にとっての1番かを考えた時に…。
ガソリンを給油する事でも泣く…。
食料品を買い込む事でも無く…。
日用品を買い溜めする事でもなく…。
何も出来ない無力な自分を責める事でもなく。
被災地の人に申し訳け無いと思う事ではなく。
生かされた命を大切にして…
皆で一緒に諦めないで前を向いて生きましょうよ上げ上げ
一緒に頑張りましょう!!

When thinking about what's the most important thing for me now…
It is not gas…
It is not buying food…
It is not stocking up on daily necessaries…
And it is not blaming myself because there is nothing I can do now.
Nor feeling bad for those in the afflicted areas.
It is to cherish the life that I was given…
Without blaming ourselves, we all have to live facing forward.
Come on, come on!
Let's do our best, all together!

Another blogger reflects on what those are safe can do for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami.

被災地以外の方々は何をすべきなのか。
いつも通り生活し仕事をし生きる。
ことと思います。
方向性は行政が決め、そこで手伝えることをやればいいと思う。
まずは、自らの生活が基本。

「出来る人が、出来ることを、出来るだけ」

What should those who aren't in the afflicted areas do now?
I think (they should) keep living their life and work as usual.
The administrations will decide the policy and we just need to help following what they say.
First of all, our daily life is our priority.

“Those who can (should) do what they can, as much as they can”

This post is part of our special coverage Japan Earthquake 2011.

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