Shinkansen tickets, artistic lap dance, drinking in moderation

On the Shinkansen to Nagoya.

The brain - and this is not at all an original observation - is a strange thing.

So here I am on this blazing fast train, Osaka to Kyoto in fifteen minutes (really - left Shin-Osaka 14;23, now stopped in Kyoto 14:38). Am I worried about a fiery crash? No, I was worried that, even with English available on the ticket machines, I wouldn't be able to figure out how to buy a ticket. (Shinkansen tickets are this weird two-part deal, one for the distance, one for the means by which you travel it.) But I puzzled it out. Hurray for me.

Stayed out late last night for Liz's sayonara party. She had to change her performance plan: renting a projector would have been prohibitively expensive, sort of defeating the whole chairtable purpose of the gig. So she decided to auction off a "lap dance". Well, seeing as it's all for a good cause, when the first few bids were low, I decided to it bump up a bit. Somehow David and I ended up tying with winning bids, and a round of rock-paper-scissors came out in a tie (two scissors), so we both chipped in 5000 Yen (about $40) and got to be participants in the show. (It was a PG-13, experimental improv "lap dance", not really the sort of thing you see at the "gentleman's club", more of a hoot than a turn-on. Fun.)

Lying on my futon this morning, bit of a hangover, looking at the bookshelf, seeing the Bukowski collection I brought...thinking of the precept forbidding intoxication. Now there's an interesting thing to trace, how that hit the Taoists who wrote things like "When he had his wine, his poems wrote themselves", and the sake-drinking Japanese; seeing sake offerings in Buddhist temples here, even. (And of course there's our sake-loving buddy Ikkyu. And the tanuki figurines I've seen in Zen temples.)

Emerson wrote:

It is a secret which every intellectual man quickly learns, that, beyond the energy of his possessed and conscious intellect he is capable of a new energy...there is a great public power on which he can draw, by unlocking, at all risks, his human doors, and suffering the ethereal tides to roll and circulate through him; then he is caught up into the life of the Universe, his speech is thunder, his thought is law, and his words are universally intelligible as the plants and animals. The poet knows that he speaks adequately then only when he speaks somewhat wildly, or, "with the flower of the mind;"...or as the ancients were wont to express themselves, not with intellect alone but with the intellect inebriated by nectar. As the traveler who has lost his way throws his reins on his horse's neck and trusts to the instinct of the animal to find his road, so must we do with the divine animal who carries us through this world...

This is the reason why bards love wine, mead, narcotics, coffee, tea, opium, the fumes of sandal-wood and tobacco, or whatever other procurers of animal exhilaration...Hence a great number of such as were professionally expressers of Beauty, as painters, poets, musicians, and actors, have been more than others wont to lead a life of pleasure and indulgence...

But never can any advantage be taken of nature by a trick. The spirit of the world, the great calm presence of the Creator, comes not forth to the sorceries of opium or of wine. The sublime vision comes to the pure and simple soul in a clean and chaste body. That is not an inspiration, which we owe to narcotics, but some counterfeit excitement and fury. Milton says that the lyric poet may drink wine and live generously, but the epic poet, he who shall sing of the gods and their descent unto men, must drink water out of a wooden bowl...

So the poet's habit of living should be set on a key so low that the common influences should delight him. His cheerfulness should be the gift of the sunlight; the air should suffice for his inspiration, and he should be tipsy with water.

The Buddha used an analogy of a man afflicted with leprosy, who could only gain relief from his pain by standing so close to the fire as to almost roast himself. If he is then cured of his disease, he would find the flames now too hot.

It's not a matter of denying pleasure, but of training ourselves to become sensitive to it. The Buddha was a greater lover of sunsets; can we imagine that he took as much joy and pleasure in watching a beautiful sunset, as we might take in an evening of fine food and drink and lovemaking? And since sunsets come each day, does this perhaps not seem advantageous?

But, I don't think that necessitates prohibition. Certainly many people are able to be sensitive to life's small joys and pleasures, and still have a glass of wine now and again. The complete prohibition may be been the result of cultural conditions: if there were few responsible drinkers in his culture, the Buddha may have seen it as an all-or-nothing affair, an attitude not shared in China or Japan.

So, where does that leave me and my hangover? Well, I didn't even get drunk last night; it was just that I started at 6 with a beer with dinner, then maybe 5 drinks over seven hours at Sam and Dave's; over the hours enough to leave me dehydrated and with some metabolites in my bloodstream, but not enough to get the ol' BAC up to intoxicating levels (though I wouldn't have tried to drive anywhere, had I a car.) But let's say that I had gotten stumbling.

I've often said that moderation is a fine thing - if used in moderation. Sometimes, as an old karate sensei of mine put it, you've got to go 200 miles an hour with your hair on fire in the fast lane. If you're looking for enlightenment at the bottom of a bottle, you're unlikely to find it. But approached right, a night of drinking and dancing and carousing can be a form of shugyo, training to carpe diem (or perhaps rather, carpe nocternum).

I still maybe should have had one less drink and one more glass of water, though.

Anyway. Now in Nagoya, time to kill before black belt clinic, I'm going to try to get out to Inuyama and take a look; who could resist "Dog Mountain"?


Well, got there a little late to see much of the castle. Got some photos from the outside, though, but not much to see. Still a nice little walk. And hey - I'm in Japan. Anywhere I go here, anything I do here, is part of the adventure.

Hey - I'm in the Universe. Anywhere I go here, anything I do here, is part of the adventure.

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