A letter to your thirty-year-old self

Burgundy (2014)

You are not as competitive as you think you are. Perhaps when you are young, you thrive on challenges but as you grow older, you realize that life already has its own challenges. You might have enjoyed mooting or debates in class but in reality you realize how you hate  arguing as you find that  arguments are  counter productive. You definitely dread confrontation and not a fan of aggression whether passive or otherwise.

You think the conventional path is safe, in reality there are no safe paths. You have enrolled yourself in law school by default as you do not know what you want to do with your life and you want a secure living. I do not think you want to use law to make a difference in this world. You might find that you dislike any form of  injustice, but you realize that justice is an elusive word as you grow older.  Ultimately law may help to keep some order in a society but it is the minds of the people that need to be examined  and that is a tall order.

In today’s highly competitive legal market with overabundance of lawyers, you have to figure out how to build your personal brand. You either must know how to network or be the one who has the stamina and tenacity to litigate in court  or you can plod through documents  laboriously and churn out pages and pages of pedantic and long  legal texts and documentations that must  hold up in court in the event that parties end up in litigation. As lawyers you have to be dispassionate and are expected to  always hold your chin up and keep your  cool and show that everything is under control even if it is  not going well.

You have an affinity for words thus law holds some attraction for you but you are not  one for legal jargons. Legal reasonings can be intellectually stimulating in the beginning but after a while you will find that they are  very dry indeed. After a couple of decades of practice, you would realize that while it is interesting to look at legal issues, dealing with fellow lawyers can be a real pain as they are usually nasty and most of them have to win their cases at all costs even if it means to mislead or have no qualms in bending some rules.

You have a secret desire to be a writer but you feel that you have nothing to write about. Then you realize your mind is constantly churning out stories and you wish you could sit down somewhere and write them all out. You imagine that you would have a blast telling stories for a living but you lack courage and conviction. You think you are free to choose what you want to do with your life , you are never free as you will never try hard enough to be free. Perhaps that is the way you are comfortable with .

 Kafka on the Shore” is a page turner. As I raced through the book and when I reached the end, I found that I had to read it again. Haruki Murakami’s writing is never straightforward and there are so much metaphysical stuff that it requires some  thinking to figure out the story and even then there still leaves questions unanswered. Kafka Tamura, a fifteen year old boy beyond his age runs away from his father and on his birthday, he steals his dad’s cell phone and money from his study and packs some bare necessities in a backpack before setting out his journey. Kafka is the  name he has given to himself and he decides that Shikoku, south of Tokyo,a far off town is the place he will be heading to. When he arrives at Takamatsu, he has done the research and is armed with all the information about the libraries in and around Takamatsu. Ever since he was little, he has always loved to spend time in the reading rooms of libraries. During his escape, he looks for the Komura Memorial Library, a private library that belongs to an old wealthy family and has since been open to the public. He has seen a photo of the building with its elegant reading room in Taiyo magazine. Kafka befriends the androgynous librarian, Oshima  who empathizes with his situation and the former offers him a job and lodging at the library.

Hey, you’re back,” Oshima says. He says at my backpack dumbfounded. “My word, do you always lug around so much luggage with you ? You’ re a regular Linus.”

I boil some water and have a cup of tea. Oshima’s twirling his usual long, freshly sharpened pencil. Where his pencils wind up when they get too short I have no idea.

“that backpack’s like your symbol of freedom,” he comments.

“ Guess so,”I say.

“ Having an object that symbolizes freedom might make a person happier than actually getting the freedom it represents.”

“ Sometimes,” I say.

“Sometimes,”he repeats.”You know, if they had a contest for the world’s shortest replies, you’d win hands down.”

“Perhaps.”

“ Perhaps,” Oshima says, as if fed up. “ Perhaps most people in the world aren’t trying to be free, Kafka. They just think they are. It’s all an illusion. If they really were set free, most people would be in a real bind. You’d better remember that. People actually prefer not being free.”’

Kafka on the Shore is a mind-bender. There are two stories that run parallel and eventually converge. The second story is about Satoru Nakata who lost his memory after waking up from a coma in 1944. Nakata together with sixteen fourth grader fell into a coma when they went looking for mushrooms in the jungle. While all the other students woke up unharmed after a few hours, Nakata did not wake up  till a few weeks later and when he woke up, his memory was completely wiped out. He  lost his ability to read while before he used to be a brilliant student. When he became a grown man, he had to rely on government subsidy and earned some pocket money by being a cat finder as he has gained the ability to communicate with cats. Both the young Kafka and the old Nakata are reclusive and fiercely independent and they seem to head to Shikoku separately. Along the way, they meet companions who are willing to assist them along the way. Nakata forges friendship with Hoshino, a truck driver who meets Colonel Sanders, in his white suit in their quest for a particular rock. Colonel Sanders claims that he has just decided to take on a familiar shape of a famous capitalist icon as he does not have any form. He is a metaphysical conceptual object and to perform a real act, he needs someone with substance to help out. Colonel Sanders told Hoshino,

 I’m kind of an overseer, supervising something to make sure it fulfils its original role. Checking the correlation between different worlds, make sure things are in the right order. So results follow causes and meanings don’t get all mixed up. So the past comes before the present, the future after it. Things can get a little out of order, that’s okay. Nothing’s perfect.  If the account book’s basically in balance, though, that’s fine by me. To tell you the truth, I’m not much of a detail person…….

Kafka on the Shore deals with the subconscious mind and in the realm where cats talk, fish falls from the sky and the spirits can slip out of the human bodies, Haruki Murakami weaves a story about a fifteen year old boy, his hatred for his father  and how his world was changed  by his mother and his sister having  abandoned him when he was four years old. Here is a snippet of the conversation he has with his alter ego, Crow.

‘“ But she abandoned me. She disappeared, leaving me alone where  I shouldn’t be. I’m finally beginning to understand how much that hurt. How could she do that if she really loved me?”

“ That’s the reality of it. It did happen,” the boy named Crow says. “ You were hurt badly, and those scars will be with you forever. I feel sorry for you. I really do. But think of it like this: It’s not too late to recover. You’re young, you’re tough. You’re adaptable. You can patch up your wounds, lift up your head, and move on. But for her that’s not an option. The only thing she’ll ever be is lost. It doesn’t matter whether somebody judges this as good or bad-that’s not the point. You’re the one who has the advantage. You ought to consider that.

I don’t respond.

“It all really happened, so you can’t undo it,” Crow tells me.

 “She shouldn’t have abandoned you then, and you shouldn’t have been abandoned. But things in the past are like a plate that’s shattered to pieces. You can never put it back together like it was , right?”

I nod. You can never put it back together like it was. He’s hit the nail on the head.’

So often there are things that happen beyond our comprehension and the choices we made for reasons we cannot fathom. In life we all come from somewhere and heading somewhere and we cannot have all the answers just like when we read Murakami’s novels, we can just ride with the stories and see where they take you as we never know what will come next just like the way life is.

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