Morning tea with Spinoza (Yamaguchi)November 25, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ☁️ 18 °C
One night I camp in a park next to a majestic five storeys pagoda. I feel blessed with this spot, all the more that the site stays open all night : I can watch the beautifully litten building and visit some temples while on my way to do the dishes. I even enjoy the luxury of choosing among three toilet blocks ! I elect my favorite : the one with large mirrors, clean sinks and... plugs ! Despite the relaxed atmosphere for camping in Japan, I set up my tent discreetly, between a zen garden and some bushes, so as not to disturb anyone.
In the morning, in a bright mood after a good night of sleep, I have my breakfast comfortably seated in a wooden shelter. A couple arrives nearby and starts doing some harmonious (and sometimes odd) Tai Shi moves. An eye contact and a smile with the lady, and here she comes to start a chat with me. Her English is really good and she seems like a thoughtful and interesting person. Since we still have things to say to one another after a few minutes, she kindly invites me for a cup of tea. Here I am, pushing my bicycle through the narrow streets of Yamaguchi to reach their home, instead of getting started with my day. Why not? It is not as if I had an appointment anywhere...
The lady, Keiko, is a self-taught potter. She shows me her workshop overlooking their garden. You can feel her inner joy and unboasting pride of creating beautiful objects. The man, Osamu, is a Spinoza scholar, probably one of the top-end specialists of Spinoza in Japan. Looking at his desk and at the bookshelves, I feel dumbstruck at my own ignorance. I would never have imagined that so many books had been written on Spinoza's philosophy and feel ashamed for not even being sure which country he was from and in which language he was writing... Shit, my philosophy classes seem like ages ago. Wikipedia reminds me of a few facts : Spinoza was neither Italian nor Swiss, as the name might suggest, but from Holland, originally from a Portuguese/Spanish jewish family, who had to flee the Spanish Inquisition. And he was writing in...Latin ! Like most intellectuals in 17th century Europe. But this was not an easy guess since this dear Baruch was fluent in "hebrew, aramean, spanish, portuguese, dutch and could also write in french, german, italian and ancient greek" (!). He almost became a rabbi but was soon expelled from his community at the age of 23 while he was starting developing his own philosophical stance, inspired by such major thinkers as Descartes, Hobbes, Leibniz.
But anyway, during our tea I cannot even recall 1 or 2 titles of his works, so I carefully avoid the topic so as not to make a fool of myself. Instead, we gently talk about Japanese vs French culture (they lived in Paris for a while), travels, food... while tasting delicious red bean sweets. I leave them light-hearted in this wonderful sunny day. The flawless cycling lane along the river, edged by multicolor autumn leaves, creates a perfect setting for my ride. Today, everything seems smooth and effortless. I feel myself powerful and flexible, highly adaptable to what will come up next. Could this be the art of joy described by Spinoza ? 😊Read more