Around the World by Remote Control
The other day, something made me think about
Anjin-san, the English ship pilot who came to Japan about four
hundred years ago, and who is now quite famous as a result of the
best-selling novel 'Shogun', in which the main character was roughly
based on his experiences. Anjin-san's voyage to Japan from Europe
aboard a tiny sailing ship took many, many months, and only a few of
the crew members actually survived the extremely arduous trip. He
never made it back to England, and spent the remainder of his life
here, almost completely cut off from any contact with his native
land. How he must have longed for news from home!
On the other hand, my trip to Japan some years ago
only took about 10 hours or so, and of course everyone on board
survived the adventure! Perhaps like Anjin-san, I too will spend the
rest of my life here, but unlike him, I do not have to 'give up'
communication with the rest of the world if I do so.
The thing that started me on these reflections was
my radio. I had been sitting in my workshop carving one of my
woodblock prints, and at the same time listening to an interesting
series of programs. I started with a music program from NHK here in
Tokyo. I then switched channels on my cable radio to pick up a show
from a popular music station in Los Angeles. After that I moved on to
New York where I spent an hour or so catching up on local news, and
then wrapped up my travels by listening to a current affairs program
from the BBC in London. All these programs were being broadcast
'live', and came 'crystal clear' through the cable into my room.
During the course of the afternoon I heard various announcements:
"The time is now 10:00 PM" ... "Here is the 2:00 AM news" ... "In a
few minutes it will be 7:00 AM." I had to keep a careful eye on my
own clock, to keep track of what time it really was!
What would Anjin-san have thought of such things?
With a mere flick of my finger on the remote control unit sitting on
my workbench, I am flashed around the globe. The vast distances are
simply erased. Of course to him, this would all be just 'magic' -
completely beyond belief. And you know, I have to confess that I too
have somewhat the same feeling. Even though my 'rational' mind
understands how it is done, with radio, satellites, fiber-optics,
etc., it still remains a mystery. To hear these voices from afar at
the same moment as they speak ... yes, it must be magic.
So although my body is sitting here in a small
workshop in Tokyo, my mind can roam around the world ... Truly I feel
very fortunate to live in an age that contains such wonders.
Anjin-san, gomen ne!