Monday, November 17, 2014

The School for Writers - a short story

The school for writers

Dear student

I welcome you to my school.

I am pleased and greatly honoured that you wish to learn how to write from me. Your parents must be commended for encouraging you. They love you and understand your eagerness to write.

But I must warn you, dear student, that the teaching here is not of the manner you expect.

If you seek awards and recognition, then travel to Tokyo or even Osaka. There are wise teachers there, with university degrees, who will help you to write and be acclaimed by the mindless men and women who live in cities, lurching from day to day, wishing to clutch a story that they can believe in.

The experience of life is what must guide your hand. Suffering is your pen, not just a brush and ink. Forcing oneself to write is contemptible. Once you have experienced pain, have experienced profound sorrow, then your hand will rise, the pen will appear and the paper will surge forward in acceptance. Why should it matter that the ink is white?

You have not heard of some of the greatest writers of Japan. Of that I am quite sure. In your textbooks, you read about Kusuke and Wakayama and Dazai and their creations. They wrote and were respected, you have been told, by even the Emperor.

But have you heard of Sakaguchi or Zeami or Enomoto? Most likely not. And do you know why? Because no bookstore has sold their books or has even heard of them.

I knew Sakaguchi well, and so, when you visit me, you shall stay in the room named after him. He had nothing that he could say was his. He truly had nothing. He meditated for twenty years at a stretch. Peace. Complete peace. The wildest of men calmed down in seconds in his presence. When he opened his eyes, we knew he was enlightened. The paper that waited to be written on crumbled, unable to bear the weight of his stories. He was a very great writer.

And Enomoto. He was blind. His world was within him. We could not access it. We saw him stumble, reach out, groping for support. None ventured to help him because he detested help. He fought light, he fought demons. He was crushed from within. Who could have understood his stories had he written them? But the blind read his stories and were comforted. Do you understand?

I command you to suffer and be deprived, my dear boy. I shall teach you, but after your experience in suffering. Your soul must be scarred by red hot coal. You must be broken from within and then you must come to me, your sensei, and bow. I shall watch you suffer and shall not help you. But when you come to write, I shall tell you how to express your sorrow in words of fire, made with the ink of your tears.

Welcome loss. A writer must be naked. The world must greedily strip of you of self esteem, of everything you own. You must feel the most wretched loneliness. You must feel like a dying tree in a desert, termites eating you from within. And then the words will emerge. It is not important that the words be written in kanji. They may be in a language and script that only you know and that you wish to forget. I shall be by your side and teach you how to do that, my dear boy.

Look in the library, my dear boy. There are many books, do you not see? These are the stories my students wrote. Not one book may leave this school, for no one shall be able to see them and read them.

Neither will you find a student in this room. I have sent them away to experience pain. I watch them for afar, happy to see them grow stronger with pain.

I shall applaud you then, dear boy, if you do as I say and return and read the books in my library. My school will be proud of you. I shall tell other parents, quite like yours, that I helped you because you were willing to suffer and live in agony. Your parents agreed that my fees for teaching you how to write are really quite modest.

Sensei Takagi

No comments: