At the Dawn of the New Year
- New Year Greetings -
As we greet the new year of 2006 I look forward to sharing wonderful days with you.
As we entered the third year since the passing of our founding Director General Mrs. Yoshiko Nomura, we will organize the Nagano Regional Conference in March this fiscal year and in November we will be convening the 9th International Forum on Lifelong Integrated Education.
The International Forum can be seen as a symbol of Mrs. Nomura building bridges from east to west and sowing seeds of Nomura Lifelong Integrated Education around the world out of concern for the future of our children and for the world. The 9th Forum will be one of deep significance as it represents the next generation carrying on the mission from Mrs. Nomura.
Since taking on the responsibilities as her successor, the International Forum was naturally in my sights, but to be honest, just thinking about it made me tense to the point of fainting. Midst such tension, I have started the New Year considering what we should inherit and what we have already inherited.
As housewives engaged in volunteer work we are frequently away from home, and I can easily guess that many of you experienced a very busy New Year. For myself, having been born after World War II and in an era of high economic growth, with all the labour-saving conveniences we have at hand, I could feel that part of me wanted to get through the New Year without much fuss. Ultimately, however, our New Year was colored by my wish to inherit traditions and culture of Japan and to pass them on to my son. I learned through television programs and other media that customs of preparing special New Year dishes and purifying our homes with Shinto straw ropes each have its own meaning. I was then reminded what Mrs. Nomura told us over and over again, the spirituality of the Japanese people in "seeing spirituality even in plain objects", not to mention the traditions and customs that are an unconscious part of our daily life.
Especially for the generations to follow our post-war generation, in the absence of recognition of the true value of such traditional culture, the unilateral pursuit of convenience and rationality means that we have developed a trend of discarding such culture as something bothersome. I am therefore grateful for being taught to appreciate the value of our traditional culture.
In her work "Dappled Sunlight Beneath the Trees", Mrs. Nomura wrote that when the first three days of New Year ends and the time comes to put away the lacquer wares used for serving New Year's spicy sake and the tiered boxes in which food was kept, she had done as she had been taught, to wash them in tepid water and carefully wipe them three times with a cloth. Although this was a time-consuming task, she did not want to neglect it because it meant preserving traditions of old.
Mrs. Nomura expressed the thought that at present people avoided anything that was troublesome, involved physical activity or took time, and there was a tendency to consider better anything that produced a result faster. Yet, perhaps society of the future would need the opposite. In a society where technology prevails she noted the need for us to think beyond the present and our unsustainable way of living and focus on the truly important, and the true meaning of affluence.
This New Year, I felt truly happy for being able to take time out from the pressures of my normal duties, to cook and clean up for my family. It even occurred to me that for me to be able to appreciate every "moment" was in itself a cause for joy. I also thought that to pass on this spirit to the next generation would certainly be something of great significance.
Another thought I had was to express my heartfelt sympathy to the people in the northern part of Japan who have been overwhelmed by the snowfalls despite the forecast that we would have a warm winter. In fact it had been the heaviest since the end of World War II.
Modern man uses science and technology to best advantage in his endeavour to make more accurate predictions. But we live in perilous times of dramatic changes where those predictions cannot keep up or where situations are unpredictable. It is not just the abnormal weather. Socially too there has been a string of unimaginable occurrences. Even so, people still continue analysing the situation and our world.
At the level of individual lives, we make predictions and plans to be enrolled into this or that school or to get a job in this or that company. At the level of national policies, predictions are made whether or not people might be attacked if they make this move and that is why they reason they need arms, and even they need nuclear capability. There is a tendency for nations to approach these predictions in a negative way. When negative consequences are presumed, we tend to consider ways of dealing with the situation on that premise or give up. We seem not to attempt to change things for the positive.
When we think about it, however, forecasts and predictions apply to the future. No matter how much thought we give to predicting the future, these are only notions.
We have been taught that our future is the accumulation of our present consciousness. Denying "now" will only produce a negative future and while it is important to plan and forecast, our lives in reality do not go as planned or forecast. I think what is important is for us to think how we should personally handle adversity when it occurs.
Of course, what I am speaking about applies to me personally at this moment. As I mentioned earlier, the very thought of the International Forum makes me extremely nervous. Of course I tell myself "I've just got to do it", but at the same time I find myself in a dilemma. No matter how much I think about it or agonize over it, all I can do is progress step by step, day by day and to face reality squarely.
I asked myself, "What for am I having the Forum and what is my purpose?" It occurred to me that my purpose was myself. That is to say that my purpose is for me to grow as a person through the experience of convening the International Forum.
No matter how high a hurdle it was my hurdle, that no one else could clear. It was a task that only I could perform. And in so doing unknown qualities could be found and eventually passed on to other members of the society and the world. When I looked at it in this way, I felt a little at ease.
Even in Japan which was thought to be a very safe country, suspicion and mistrust are rife. Considering ways to handle this within a dangerous society only leads to greater suspicion, and increases mistrust and insecurity. I think that such insecurity and siege mentality have produced a tendency to give up on the future. Society, however, is a product of what each one of us creates individually so it falls to each of us to change it. The very fact that we are suspicious and cautious means that it is important for us to concentrate on different aspects of humanity.
That is to say, we human beings are endowed concurrently with unlimited potential for bad as well as unlimited potential for good. The potential for good cannot be exploited if we give up. Developing that potential for good requires continuous perseverance and effort. We owe our existence to continuity. Because we have the innate strength it can always be exploited and we are constantly given the opportunity to draw it out.
Modern man may think more about the future than the present but I would like to be a person who can do her absolute best for "now". Because I believe that our own awareness of living "now" the best we know how should create a better environment and future. I trust you will join me this year in just such educational endeavour of character-building.
(10 January 2006)
Nomura Center for Lifelong Integrated Education
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