new journey.

Setting out on a new journey.

 23 minutes ago I turned 21. At 12:00AM I bought myself everything my heart desires: a plane ticket to Osaka, departing March 13th.

 I guess this means exist trace and I will pass like ships in the night. I need to sell my exist trace ticket. My ticket is for the Boston live on March 15th, at Middle East Club. VIP only, meet & greet. Ticket: $46 (39.50+7.03, I’ll let you keep the change ;]). Includes S/H. If you know anyone who might be interested, it would be doing me a great favor if you could pass it on. 

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Merry Xmas, Visualists!

So I started thinking about what I wanted to do for you all for Christmas, and, given everything that’s been going on recently, it only made sense to use this opportunity to “come out” in a sense on here. Here is a message/playlist that I recorded for you guys. Hope you enjoy it!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from SG. 

Special thanks to Roukun for helping put this together. 

Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! 

Personally, I’m approaching today from a point of its traditional values, yes, in the sense of appreciating and giving thanks for the bounty in our lives, and all of the blessings we are honored with throughout every day of each passing year. To celebrate all of this with the people you really want to give thanks for as well, is a wonderful thing.

But I’m also approaching it as something of a check-in point for myself. Probably should have done this, like, yesterday so that I can feel totally selfless today, but that didn’t happen. I think it’s important to reflect and express gratitude for yourself as well. Well, any excuse, right? [Kidding]. This year I’ve really been trying to steer myself in a new direction, and this has meant reflecting on a lot on my values and priorities, in regards to life and my goals and ambitions, and what I’m doing with myself day by day. It’s so easy to fall into habitual patterns.

It’s like, you can look into your past and pinpoint the time at which a spark was struck; a dream ignited inside of you. A dream, or probably dreams, that flared up, somehow, out of nowhere and really stuck. Dreams you thought you would see come to fruition; dreams you were sure would really come true. And you dreamed and you dreamed until you couldn’t dream anymore because you couldn’t do anymore, and like a match that you lit under a waterfall, finally you can’t protect it with the clammy palm of your hand, cupped so protectively over a whim, fizzled out, leaving nothing in its wake but years’ worth of thinking and hoping and believing and the acrid scent of smoke.

Looking back on dreams you held onto for what felt like forever. Dreams that finally locked the door on you and, pushing
you into that chair you spent so many hours sitting in and dreaming and hoping and believing, and making you decide –and
I mean really decide– whether you were going to make those dreams come true.

That’s what I’ve been working with in this second half of 2011.

Over the summer, I hit a pretty solid low point that lasted a few months. My own inability to attain the goals I was reaching for, or rather, planning on reaching for, floored me. And while it was going on, as miserable of an experience as it was, I just kept reminding myself that it was one of those true learning experiences. I didn’t know what I was going to learn from it yet, I just knew I had to trust that there was a valuable lesson in there somewhere, and if I could let go of the urge to grasp at the illusion of the solidarity of my habitual patterns, I knew the lesson would show itself to me.

And it did. Just when I thought the feeling of futility and worthlessness would go on forever, things started changing. And as I’m sure a lot of you know from experience, it’s not exactly a and then the clouds parted and the meaning of life was revealed  kind of experience. It’s a gradual process of realization — one that doesn’t have a black-and-white, clean-cut beginning or end, but one that occasionally gives you some kind of sign that you’re getting on or off an exit along the way.

Part of this process was allowing small changes. And part of being able to allow those changes was to create a space in my experience, both in the mental and the material senses, for them to emerge. And part of that was giving myself permission to give up on some of the dreams and desires I’d been holding onto for a long time — years. A lifetime. Or, if you believe in karma, which I do– then probably for many lifetimes.

I’d been hanging by a thread for a while, obstinately pushing ahead out of a sense of stubborn refusal to, in essence, give up. And this is all starting to sound pretty miserable, like I’ve been crushed by the weight of my goals and my own inability to achieve them, but that’s not what I’m trying to get at here. What I’m really trying to say is that at the very heart of this process of self-reflection, eventually you have to be straight up and honest with yourself about how you’re spending your life. Whether the goals that you’re trying to achieve are goals born out of passion and seen-through out of passion, or whether they are goals born out of passion and fought-for out of obligation.

I stumbled across a quote that I had written down in a notebook some time previously, that really spurred me on in this process. It said,

 Relaxation is who you are.

Tension is who you think you should be.

-Chinese proverb

I thought a lot about this; I applied this to my life as a kind of view to guide my decision making. And it guided me to a point where I was OK acknowledging that I had outgrown a lot of the goals and aspirations I was struggling so hard for. But even though I got to a point where I had to say, alright, it’s time to move on from this, part of me, the one that wants to see things through to the end and achieve the things I set out to do, didn’t want to let it go. It strongly urged me to “just do it, because you’ve already come so far,”, and I hesitated over it because it was logical. Like, if I shelved these dreams now, wouldn’t all the past years’ worth of work just become a waste of time?

 But then, especially as the prospect of this time of acknowledgment and thanks-giving began quickly approaching, as I just sort of let the thought hang in the back of my mind in the form of an open question, not really expecting an answer right away, I kind of came to something of an understanding of all my work up to this point.

 All the past years spent working toward the goals that I’m now putting behind me, or at least setting aside for the time being, were not a waste of time. Setting them off to the side and starting off on new ventures is not a defeat; I’m not seeing this as “losing” to myself. On the contrary, I look at all the work I have done, all the goals and dreams I have had, as extremely important steps toward the greater aspirations that are definitely going to arise out of the ashes of the original dreams.

 The dreams that I was clinging to, and the goals I was grasping for so long, have made me who I am. They are huge steps in the winding  ascent of my life. I don’t see them as failures, or even as childhood dreams that were foolish and unattainable, because I still do believe they were, or rather are, very attainable. I was the only thing getting in the way of attaining them, and in realizing and coming to terms with that, I’m able to see the necessity of all of it. And so, I am unendingly and extremely grateful for all that they have brought to my experience. They have given me tools and knowledge that will propel my progress on into the future. Those dreams of the past made the dreams of today possible, and the determination to live fully, with purpose and meaning, could, for me, only be born out of their death.

 Today I am giving thanks for that. Great, great thanks. I am thankful for the conditions I was born under, and the conditions I am living under now. I am giving thanks for the people in my experience, many of whom I am very blessed to be acquainted with, and many, many of whom I have yet to encounter face to face, but who have, regardless, contributed greatly to this life I am leading.

 I can but hope that I may return this gift to you all ten-fold. And even if it was necessary for me to abandon all of my goals, I should still hope that every day I could wake up to yet another opportunity to always, in every moment possible, be expressing gratitude for all of this.

 All that aside, or perhaps better to say “all that in mind”?, I feel like this might be a somewhat relevant theme for the day. Enjoy your holiday!

So everybody – everybody
Days we grew up are days
We will treasure
Everybody show is beginning
Curtain has risen
Make your own storyline
Dream as if you will live forever
And live as if you’ll die today

 

*Chaosmyth by ONE OK ROCK,
from the album Zankyou Reference (2011).

 

 

Secret Garden 2.0

Welcome to Secret Garden 2.0!

I can’t believe in all of the 2+ years I’ve been running this thing, it’s never had a makeover. Lately, though, it’s felt like everything could use a bit of a facelift–my blog, my life, I don’t know, whatever. I’ve been struggling to hold my interest in keeping SG updated. I buy and enjoy albums and singles, but don’t review them. Long story short, I’ve just outgrown the original, and it’s time to level up.

I’m pretty stoked on it, if I’m perfectly honest. As you can see, theme and header are brand new. Pages are now up top, and dropdowns, so there are multiple pages stacked in there… They’ve also been rearranged a little bit. A few have been completely revised. Check them out if you feel so inclined. The sidebar and widgets have also been moved around and edited– I find that it can take a few tries to get the sidebar right…So if anyone is having problems with it or encountering issues, do me a favor and let me know so I can smooth out the kinks.

There’s a lot I would still like to update, develop, and refine, but for now I’m okay with taking all of this one step at a time. It feels good to have a new face, and I’m sure the rest will follow suit.

Part of the reason I really needed a change was due to the fact that GACKT has pretty much always been the face of SG. He’s graced the header, sidebar, and pages for the past two years. This is all well and good since I have so much respect for GACKT, but on the other hand I felt like the image was misleading–to myself, as well as readers. My blog isn’t a blog about GACKT. And I realized the other day that I don’t even want to say it’s a blog about Visual Kei. Honestly, there have been a few instances in which I have felt inspired to write about something, but I decided not to because I felt it veered from the path I was trying to take. This has helped develop a sense of congruency (I hope) in content, but on the other hand, I honestly couldn’t give less of a shit about congruency right now. Seems blase.

So as things continue moving forward here, I hope to start introducing new bands into the flow. Film and drama reviews might show up after a while. I might throw some other genres, perhaps even some Asian music that’s not Jrock, in there if it’s sick enough.

All of this oh, no point in blogging because Visual Kei is idle is starting to get boring. I’d like to take a minute right now and just go ahead and choose not to let that get in the way. Just because bands aren’t releasing endless amazing albums doesn’t mean we all just pack up our headphones and throw sheets over our speakers, does it? When D’espa disbands and it seems like all hope is lost, what kind of playlists are you rockin’? I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.

 Here’s to new beginnings.

2nd Anniversary

I scheduled this post to go up today, but actually I’m writing this on Monday the 4th, around 1AM. I’ll be traveling all day Wednesday, but I wanted to ensure that something went up to acknowledge an important marker in my days as a Visualist. Today, Wednesday, April 6th, marks the 2nd anniversary of Secret Garden, as we know it on WordPress.com.

I’m sitting up awake right now for two reasons—I’ll leave it to you to judge how I should prioritize them–, the first being that I can’t stop craving the maccha ice-cream in the freezer. The second reason is that now that I only have two days left here on the west coast, I’m starting to experience a lot of resistance to heading back east.

A month is a long time, and while it has flown by for me, as I look back on it from here, the end, I can see how many shifts and changes occurred while I’ve been away. The biggest shift, and one thing I want to mention now as I did not have a chance previously, was the earthquake that hit Japan the second week of March. Although I was unable to catch the news from where I was, fortunately I have sympathetic friends who kept me informed as to what was going on, and I’m grateful to them for keeping me in the loop. One of the best texts from that week was my mom checking in to see if I had been able to hear about ‘the Visual Kei guys’ in relation to the trauma.

The articles that have been shared with me that showed even small examples of the devastation were enough to shake even an iron-clad heart.

Since the quake, I have witnessed glimpses of the Seattle Japanese community rallying to assist with the relief efforts, including gathering encouragement and spiritual support, as well as raising funds. I’ve been grateful to be in the presence of that, and party to it in whatever way. My thoughts continue to be with Japan as it gathers its strengths to restore and renew, and my thoughts are especially with the families and individuals who have experienced hardship, loss, and discomfort as a result of the quake. がんばれ日本!

In a perfect world, I would probably have canceled my ticket a week ago and started looking at apartments here; but I’ve had a month to be selfish and live in a, if not exactly perfect, then pretty damn fine little world. Now this session is up, and there are people and obligations and responsibilities waiting for me that I need to go back and take care of.

I’ve been resisting the pull of these obligations. I guess once I started thinking about returning, I became afraid of going back and getting sucked into unchanged scenery, into that low-def daily-grind of Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day. However what I realize is that everything has changed since I left. Situations and circumstances have changed. New faces will be there to greet me, and the ones who saw me off will be different people from when we said goodbye.

This has taken shape in different ways, but primarily in the form of major shifts and changes in my personal life and, particularly, my family situation. I thought I was going to come back to the same patterns and flow of habits, but now that I see what is actually waiting for me, it’s a creature of a very different breed.

It’s a beautiful thing, really. You set out on some path, real or interpretive, without really knowing who you are or, in the end, what your destination will be. Trying to see through the fog of the great-unknown is a fruitless expenditure of ones’ energy, and will get you nowhere. All you can really do is stick to what you’re passionate about, what you’re interested in, and trust your gut instincts—trust those tools to guide you through that uncertainty and the discomfort that comes with it. Trust that you’re going to wake up one morning and go to look in the mirror and realize that you don’t recognize yourself anymore, and that, in my experience, can be a really powerful moment.

I feel like I’m at a new beginning place, a crossroads. Today I concluded one section of my life, and am getting ready to face the challenges of new paths and doorways opening up before me. It seems fitting…somehow, meaningful, in my eyes, that today is the day that I open a new doorway by heading back to the east coast; the day that I start a new chapter by beginning my 3rd year of blogging on WordPress.

Right now, I don’t know what will change, but I do know it will change.

Many thanks go out to everyone who reads Secret Garden. Special shout-out to that select few of you, known and unknown, who have been reading since the very early days on Vox and WP. Thanks also to the people who support me from the sidelines and put up with all the off-blog Visual Kei ramblings.

So I thank you. Keep reading Secret Garden.

gacktpause

Monkeys, Maseratis, and Trans-Continental Crisis Management

Soaking in a steamy hot-spring, monkey-filled or otherwise, in the mountains of snowy Hokkaido would be pretty baller right now. Unfortunately, although I do live, for better and for worse, in the snow-encrusted northern mountains, where the winter is 6 months too long and about 30 degrees too cold, we don’t have any of those perks that make you think, this really isn’t so bad.

The really bad part is that, not only do you end up suffering from acute February-Blues, but come March (assuming you survive until then), you feel foolishly hopeful that the “end” is in sight. And then the blizzards set in, and you are faced with the bleak onset of nihilism, that dark moment of enlightenment, when you understand that it will never end. It is winter, forever.

That is why I, lest my roommates should come home one day to find me buried out under the back deck, do my best to escape to some marginally warmer and redeemingly more interesting part of the world. Thus, tomorrow afternoon I will be catching a flight out to Seattle, WA, to spend some time visiting friends, thawing out, and taking a break from 8′ snow-banks and frostbite.

It may not be Okinawa, but 45 degrees and rain sounds like the Virgin Islands compared to playing Ice-Climbers in real life. It sounds like a cool city, as well, and given that they were apparently the first to successfully impale a UFO, must be forward-thinking and strategic people with a tendency to accept foreign cultures.

After an uninspired couple of months, I’m looking forward to taking a bit of a vacation from reality while I’m out west, so a lot of my projects will be put on hold until I return in early April, while I party my way through my quarter-life-crisis in the hopes of returning refreshed, restored, and rejuvenated.

Ironically, in an attempt to not let Secret Garden become so inactive that it gets evicted from the internet or something, things will probably be more frequently updated while I’m away than they have been while I’ve been lazing around picking out fancy sports cars I can’t afford and don’t want, but that my trophy wife thinks I need in order to express the suffering that comes with old age and— what I mean to say is that posts will be appearing on SG every Saturday at 7:07 AM EST. Comments, emails, and @mentions will be moderated and responded to when I return in April, so if you don’t see your comment up right away, fear not- I did not send it to the spam folder. Yet.

Incidentally, the day that I get back to the east coast will also mark my 2nd anniversary on WordPress. I’ll admit, the reason I haven’t been posting lately has less to do with picking out Maseratis, and more to do with the fact that I feel like I’m not able to properly express a lot of what I think and perceive about Visual Kei on Secret Garden with things the way they are.  I’ve been turning over a lot of ideas in my head for ways to expand and change things, so we’ll see what happens.

Although I’ve enjoyed working on Secret Garden with things like this for the past few years, I think I expressed in past posts that I’m plagued by a chronic obsession with self-improvement and development, and I feel like I can always be doing better and working to improve things. This will be my mission when I return to the east coast. But in the meantime, I would like to expand a little right now and open a poll to Visualists to ask you, for the first time, what brings you to Secret Garden for the 1st, or the however-many-returns visit. Leave a vote, and if you have any feedback, insights, thoughts, suggestions, or remarks, comment below.

P.S.

What do you think?

Tadaima

It is with an intense sense of relief that I am sitting here typing this. The past three or four months have been, easily, the most hectic time of my life so far. I realize this is merely the problem of having a productive life on earth, and fully expect it to get busier as the days, months, years go by. I will accept that challenge when it arises, but for now, this time was intense enough to satisfy the morbid cravings of the last shredded remains of any over-achiever in me.

The reason that I’ve been away from blogging for so long is primarily thanks to my being committed pretty heavily to my job. Working 10+ hour days, 6 days a week while scavenging a life outside of work can start to add up fast, and during the past 5 or 6 weeks, I felt distinctly as though I was running on the final scrapings of the last reserves of my energy, and physically, all I wanted was sleep, all the time. The only thing that kept me going was the thought, I cannot lose to this.

I have a general interest in personal growth and, since my introduction to Japanese social philosophies, an avid obsession with “becoming stronger”. I feel as though this almost-academically-observational sense of perspective of my own experience, as well as that of others’, affords me a certain unsympathetic awareness of my innate human weaknesses and an ability to overcome them.

As most of my more melodramatically tragic habits are, I believe I picked this tendency up from GACKT. I thought often of the stories of him literally working until he collapsed, fell ill, etc. While these instances are examples of pushing extremes unhealthily far, the core value demonstrated within them has inspired me greatly, and I’ve carried the base sentiment in the not-so-back of my mind through this intense and hectic period.

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
-T.S. Elliot

When natural energy became replaced by caffeine, pain-killers and pure willpower, I got to the point where every day my body was telling me no, while my mind continued to say yes. In the beginning, it was a struggle to make it through the craziness of each day, and in many ways, it only got harder as the weeks went by. But also, like moving through physical pain barriers and the struggles of physical improvement, after a while I could really begin to gauge the progress of my spirit, and how much my capacity to deal with the crazy experience had increased from Day One. Of course, it’s not enough to acknowledge that you’ve grown – from the place of flexing new muscles you didn’t really believe you were building, the desire to become stronger only increases.

I think there’s something really interesting in physically, knowing that you need to stop, and yet mentally, wanting to know how much farther you can take it. In my life, at least, that’s at the root of self-improvement.

Since we’re in the last week of the year, I’ve been considering the hurdles I’ve faced in 2010, and appraising the resolutions I made, and whether or not I was able to achieve them. At the beginning of the year, I wanted to change a lot of things, and part of that was a resounding desire to overcome the things I was afraid of, to be able to overcome the things within my mind that held me back. I wanted to live my life to the fullest that I possibly could — and not in that wishy-washy greeting-card canned response way; I wanted that sincerely. This is very un-zen, and I’ll own that, but I believe at least part of figuring out how to live life fully, is to increase the velocity of your experience as much as you can. Although this isn’t really “living life to the fullest” at all, filling each moment with something and never letting yourself stop, but constantly continuing to add more to your experience is one way of feeling like you’re living life fully, and as a result, discovering, hopefully, what that desire really means.

But as you’re racing along, charging through life, trying to make the most of it, live it to the fullest that you possibly can, at a certain point it seems like it’s entirely too possible to get too lost in the moment, to forget where you’re going, who you are, what you’re working toward and why. The velocity and intensity of experience, any experience, can just completely overwhelm a person’s being, their sense of self.

When you run out of energy, and you feel like you have no strength left to muster, I think everyone has to reach a place where they can acknowledge that there is something feeding their determination. That their “sense of self” is, in fact, rooted firmly somewhere. And the more you get stretched out, the more you drag yourself along independent of that origin, that source, the more you end up on the waning tide.

Drained, exhausted, those last fragments of energy completely sucked dry, feeling sorry for ourselves, the animal need for rest, sleep, rest sleep, overpowering our vision, making us forget who we are and why we do any of it. We forget how we were even able to do any of it.

This is when you realize what your source is. You find that thing that rejuvenates you, restores your strength, reminds you what you’re fighting for. None of it is empty challenge and reaction. For some people, I’m sure that thing that gives you back the will to continue is other people, material pleasures, whatever. For everyone, it’s different. The only thing that is the same is that we all have it, and inevitably, when we’re running on that last store of energy, we return to it. Sometimes we don’t even really know what it is until we’re at the point of total breakdown and suddenly it shows itself to us.

But I believe that whether you know it or not, when you’re there at the point of collapse, some instinct or inspirational nudge leads us back to that source place. Without interrupting the flow of what we’re doing, without taking any steps back, without requiring anything other than a sudden burst of awareness, we tune into that one thing that reminds us, blindingly, of who we are and what defines us, what gives us strength and the will to fight.

Finally, yesterday I had a detestable moment of weakness. Woke up with a pretty lousy cold, and although my now well-trained mind kept telling me to get up and go to work, to push through it, my body was screaming a pretty strong no. My ravaged immune system needs a break, so I’m giving in. Drained, exhausted, feeling sorry for myself, I instinctively turned to something that my being craved more than sleep: music.

Sitting around in the dark, WHAT’S MY NAME playing through at full volume, it was like I was hearing Jrock for the first time all over again. It was like I was hearing music for the first time all over again. All the wiring in my blasted zombie brain seemed to fuse back together again. I was able to remember something I knew all along, but somehow had completely lost track of: Visual Kei and Jrock are that source place I return to when I’m at the point of collapse. Visual Kei and Jrock are what define me, what give me strength and the will to fight. They are what give me the obsession with accepting challenges, and they are what lend me the strength needed to overcome the weaknesses that arise when I am teetering on the point of collapse. It’s this sense of unwavering courage that happens when I’m led to GACKT or MIYAVI‘s music at the right moment that is something I wish I could express in words when I am asked why I am a Visualist.

++

I find that when I don’t write on Secret Garden for an extended time, when I log into my Dashboard, I always experience this strange paradox of both feeling like a complete stranger, and at the same time, like I’ve finally made it back home.

Tadaima.