Eastern Fire, Western Fire
While in Okinawa, my host (the man with the fan) and a few other travelers that I met sat around a fire drinking beer and talking about life.
“This is a Japanese fire,” my friend explained to me. “It’s not an Australian fire. When you go to Australia, they make mountains out of logs so big that their fires tower above the people and explode like suns in the darkness. In Japan, we just usually just make humble fires out of a few small pieces of wood.”
He spoke smilingly and wasn’t putting down the Western way of doing things by any means, he was just saying it as it is. But this taps into something deep within the Japanese culture; a sort of minimalistic frugality and artistic/poetic value in poverty. In the West, we place more of an emphasis on the external than the internal. It isn’t the job of the individual to feel good and warm in the cold; it’s the job of the fire. So we pile it high and keep piling it high as it dims down. We satiate our hunger with food.
In the East, it seems that more of an emphasis is placed on the internal. The cold and the warmth swirl and the high notes and the low notes of the experiences are felt together as a spectrum. Perhaps there is something to be gained from an experience of the cold, rather than just snuffing it out and blinding out its experience with fire. The unpleasantness of the cold isn’t dwelled upon so much, it’s just experienced as it is, as the humble warmth that is provided by the coals in the fire are slowly and continuously fanned through the night.
The same principles are used when barbecuing food on a grill in Japan. But this talk of fires extends beyond fires, you know. This sort of mindset extends into all ways of life.
This also brings to mind methods of medical treatment that have been developed in the East and West throughout the years. Modern western medicine seems to seek above all the alleviation of undesirable symptoms with chemicals, i.e. external means. Traditional Eastern medical treatment, however, often focuses on the mind and internal body for cures, believing that roots of physical diseases are most often non-physical in nature. Western medicine is quite effective in its job of alleviating symptoms, but unfortunately this is sometime all that it does. Perhaps there are other roots to problems that are overlooked if they are not listened to and blinded out.
Different ways of playing with fire. Obviously, there is something to be learned and enjoyed from both.