Different Perspectives

challenge-49-ghosts (1)

I came across an interesting article on ghosts today, as if on cue from the universe. I have done a slightly different version of an Erasure poem. The prose constitutes of excerpts taken from the source article, without disturbing the order of words or meaning. The poetry (in italics) has been added by me to lend perspective .

It is a prose and poetry sandwich.


Jikisai Minami had thought about death since he was young, wondering how such a thing could possibly exist in the world, and obsessed by the idea that though he hadn’t ‘started’ himself, he nevertheless had to live with himself. He discovered the dead as what he calls ‘a very real presence’. ‘They really exist,’ he tells me, as we speak inside one of the temple buildings. ‘Just as powerfully as this table – sometimes even more so. It’s completely different from them existing in memories.’

different physical states

do not obliterate

reality of existence

vapor and water

are but one

in spirit

The daughter thought that if she talked about her dead mummy, her father would be sad, so she held it in and kept quiet. The father, too, kept quiet about his wife, so as not to upset his daughter, so neither of them spoke about the person who had meant the most to them. It wasn’t getting them anywhere. The mother was still too real a presence.

ghosts hanging between us


of acceptance

of how real they are

despite ardent wishes

that they did not exist

Talk of ‘spirits’ or ‘souls’ is often too trite, too easy, he says. Instead, he makes a distinction between the real and the virtual. The virtual can be switched on and off. You remember someone by ‘conjuring them up in your mind, on demand’. The real is very different: a person is there whether you like it or not – ‘regardless of your actions, intentions, or feelings’. A person who is alive but totally unknown to you is not, he suggests, real in any meaningful way. And yet someone who is dead can exert enormous power – and this applies not just to loved ones.

what we think


the rest of the world

is a myth

Minami is talking about more than memory, bidden or unbidden, or about legacy, within a family or within a nation, becomes clear when he applies his analysis not just to talk of the dead but to the living too. Grief or ‘survivor’s guilt’ – especially after a tragedy on the scale of the 2011 tsunami – contains, he argues, an important reflexive element, which can be easy to miss. Sufferers encounter afresh, or perhaps for the first time, the problem of their own existence. They face the question not just of why someone else died, whereas they are still alive, but why they are alive in the first place: ‘They don’t know why they’re here; they don’t know why they were born; they don’t know why they will die. It’s directly linked to basic existential angst.’

tyranny of life


of feeling alien in your skin


of not being

in the same state

as your loved ones

The living aren’t that real a presence … You being yourself is an extremely fragile proposition. You can’t say that the living are real and the dead are virtual. They’re the same. There’s no real basis for either. They’re not particularly real and not particularly virtual. From my point of view, they’re the same.

what is real to me

is a shadow

for another


of other realities

wisdom evades both

But are the ghosts of Japan now firmly embarked on a one-way journey out of the land of the living – banished not to some other world, but into an oblivion of consumption, irony and eventual indifference? Is a recalibration of that balance; the kind of deep cultural shift happening, that becomes visible only in retrospect. Whether or not such a shift will happen, when, and what it will look like if it does, is a mystery in its own right.

unanswered questions

unsolved mysteries

how real is reality

how virtual is perception

is recalibration permanent

or just a passing

state of being?


Source article:

Ghosts on the shore

Cover pic credit: Scott Flockhart


Linked to

Reena’s Exploration Challenge #Week 49

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