Loosely collected thoughts

In Star Trek: Generations there exists a wonderful place whose online definitions are all terrible. Here's the least terrible of them all:

[The nexus is] a nonlinear temporal continuum in which reality appears to reshape itself in fulfillment of a person's innermost wishes, accessed by way of an energy ribbon that crosses the galaxy every 39 years. The few who have been to the nexus and returned describe it as a euphoric experience, like "being wrapped in joy."

My friend Alvaro was the one who put the thought in my head that going back to Japan was like going back to the nexus: it's a place out of time where all the normal rules don't seem to apply. A place where you don't have to worry and everything magically turns out all right. It's a thought that I, before coming back here, could totally agree with. Then, after having been here for a couple of days it just felt.. alien, and not nexus-like at all. It's only now, after a couple more days, that I feel my thoughts have stabilized. In my opinion, Japan can be the nexus, if you leave your baggage at the door and let it envelop you. (And even then, it won't last very long).

Leaving your baggage at the door, that's the tricky part. I've noticed that over the past two years I've become increasingly corrupted by my experiences in Europe. Simply put, I've realized how badly people can treat you in Europe. It's something that puts you on guard, and after a while you won't be able to lower your defences any more and just relax. I've been like that ever since I arrived here.

This feeling of unrest manifests itself in many ways. For me it means that I can't allow myself to accept that I'm on holiday, knowing that I have taxes, work and a horrible estate agent to deal with. Probably another example is that I have trouble just sitting down somewhere without worrying that someone will steal my stuff or try to take advantage of me in some kind of way. You could call this a trauma, in that it is something that happens subconsciously. You need to expend conscious effort to circumvent it. Being on guard has become so second-nature for me that it's actually more difficult not to be on guard.

And circumvent it you should, when in Japan. People here are like NPCs: they don't interact with you unless spoken to, they'll never steal your stuff and they'll never pose a threat. This means you can go hiking and leave your backpack on a table while you go round the corner to buy a drink. It also means you can get shitdrunk and fall asleep between the doors of a moving train and someone will gladly pull you out and order you a taxi.

Coming from a place where you have to be on guard in public, getting to a peaceful state again is difficult. It might be more difficult for me than average considering my introvertiness and fondness to be alone at times. On-guard-places tend to affect me more than others, it seems, since I know plenty of people who enjoy the 'grittiness' of places such as London and New York. All I want is to be left alone and to have a park with a nice view where I can cycle to safely late at night when nobody else is around.

Continuing with that theme: perhaps that's really the only thing I am looking for in terms of a place I can call home. Let's define it here:

I can call a place home if I have a nice quiet place within 10 minutes cycling distance from my house where I can comfortably go to any time of day or night without having to worry about getting spoken to, interacted with or robbed.

I admit, this definition has been formed by my experiences in Japan, so it's heavily biased, but perhaps not by country. I've realized that I keep saying the word Japan, but I actually mean Atsugi, that very specific little city that is caught between the mountainy countryside and Tokyo. I don't think Tokyo would fit my above criteria, in particular the 'nice quiet place' bit, which Tokyo wouldn't have, or the 'comfortably go' bit, since there'd be tons of traffic lights and people, even late at night. Atsugi has just the right amount of people: busy enough to be anonymous, yet quiet enough to not run in to people all the time. There's tons of places that will fit my criteria, probably even in Europe. It's clear to me that I shouldn't focus on big cities any more; I'm bound to end up disliking them.

There is one more criteria that I'd forgotten about until today. It's a very silly thing to be mindful of and I hesitate writing it down here, but I will do so anyway for posterity's sake: I like to live in a place that makes me feel special. Given my mono-national background and upbringing as a Dutch country boy from the most remote farmland province of Holland, I feel a sense of accomplishment and wonder at my having lived in Japan. It's not something I ever thought I could do when I grew up, and every once in a while during my stay in Japan I remembered where I came from and how far I'd gotten, and it made me happy. It's not exactly "the further away, the better", or "the stranger, the better", but I guess they both help.

As I get older I get more picky. I go places that I like and will look for similar places in the future. I go to places that I dislike and make sure that I don't end up in such an unlikeable place again. I don't think this is a good thing. Liking one thing means disliking the opposite. I used to try and take a neutral stance towards everything but somehow I ended up passing judgement on a lot of things. I hope I can change my life in the future to be less bothered by all the things I disapprove of today. I would like to end up being happy with whatever comes my way, even if that means throwing away all the subconscious and conscious criteria I currently hold in my mind. But there is one thing I will always keep in mind, and that is the one I described above: a peaceful place to cycle to. That's all I need.

Coming back to the nexus: Japan isn't it. It's just a country. I happened to live here two years ago and I enjoy reliving my old memories by visiting the places I used to visit, but that will account for just 5 minutes of every day that I'm here. After that, it's just a convenient country filled with nice people. I can't pretend to be awestruck by it all the time. Japan has become normal to me, and it took me two years of living in London to realize it. I remember the past with fondness, in particular how I did not have a single worry in my head, except perhaps for getting a girlfriend. I've moved on since, and there's a different class of problems and experiences to deal with now. The place I used to live stayed the same, but I changed. So I guess the old saying holds true for me. You can never go home again. I guess it's time to build a new home somewhere.

Posted in Japan , Thoughts