At a recent camp, I took along a novel to read as my evening leisure pursuit. The campsite was rustic, with just the bare amenities and no entertainment except the surrounding forest which was gorgeous. The novel was Blue Light Yokohama by Nicolas Obregon (UK: Penguin Random House, 2017). Somewhere at the beginning of Chapter Six I encountered a phrase that captured my attention by its sheer beauty.
Perfect purity is possible if you turn your life into a line of poetry written with a splash of blood.
It was a quote from a reissued edition of Runaway Horses, a book by Yukio Mishima (New York, NY: Vintage Press, 1990). Thank God there was 4G coverage at the campsite and I had a data plan so I could find out more about the author. Here is help from Wikipedia:
Yukio Mishima (三島 由紀夫 Mishima Yukio) is the pen name of Kimitake Hiraoka (平岡 公威 Hiraoka Kimitake, January 14, 1925 – November 25, 1970), a Japanese author, poet, playwright, actor, film director, founder of the Tatenokai, and nationalist. Mishima is considered one of the most important Japanese authors of the 20th century.
How he ended his life was sobering.
On November 25, 1970, Mishima and four members of the Tatenokai, under pretext, visited the commandant of the Ichigaya Camp, the Tokyo headquarters of the Eastern Command of the Japan Self-Defense Forces. Inside, they barricaded the office and tied the commandant to his chair. With a prepared manifesto and a banner listing their demands, Mishima stepped onto the balcony to address the soldiers gathered below. His speech was intended to inspire a coup d’état to restore the power of the emperor. He succeeded only in irritating the soldiers, and was mocked and jeered. He finished his planned speech after a few minutes, returned to the commandant’s office and performed seppuku. The assisting kaishakunin duty at the end of this ritual (to decapitate Mishima) had been assigned to Tatenokai member Masakatsu Morita, who was unable to properly perform the task. After several failed attempts at severing Mishima’s head, he allowed another Tatenokai member, Hiroyasu Koga, to behead Mishima. Morita then knelt and stabbed himself in the abdomen and Koga again performed the kaishakunin duty. This coup is called “Mishima jiken” (三島事件, “Mishima Incident”) in Japan.
I read this alone in my room in the middle of the jungle. I vaguely remember reading about the incident when I was in Form 4 (grade 10), but the full import of the man, his philosophy, and his gruesome end, wouldn’t have meant much then. I never did any formal studies in Philosophy or Literature but I now see his beautiful quote in the light of his end and agree with those who saw nihilistic themes in Mishima’s writing. Alone in the jungle, I was first ambushed by the beauty of the quote and then I felt deep grief as I read about how his life ended.
I posted the quote on my Facebook page and a number liked it, moved as I had been by its beauty, I suspect. One person said the quote was “dark”. And I thought, yes, but it’s still so beautiful. So, in a Yoda moment, I wrote “Be careful of darkness even if it’s shrouded in beauty”.
I think the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes would have appreciated Mishima. The writer says often enough:
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.”
(Ecclesiastes 1:2 NIV)
Often life feels like that but the human heart still yearns for meaning and beauty.
Last night I was at a friend’s surprise 40th party. Here was a celebration of life that was a showcase of the fact that life has meaning when it has love and purpose, and when it is not short-changed by death. So, indeed life is meaningless if the Christ story is not true. But Christ did come and He supplied the blood when He died on the Cross for us. His blood turned the broken lines of our lives into poetry. In the noise and rush of Christmas and year’s end, we choose to remember this and find fresh faith and courage as we face a new year. Let us continue to allow Him to edit the lines of our lives with His blood.