Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Lafcadio Hearn was an extraordinary man with an extraordinary mind. The wikipedia entry briefly summarizes his various endeavors as a journalist, writer, and thinker (I actually did not know about his collection of Creole recipes). However, he is best known for his writings on Japan, dealing mostly with the supernatural and religious aspects of Japan. You may have seen the collection of short stories that was made into the 1965 film Kwaidan. In Ghostly Japan, he writes about myths and legends of Japan, many of which stem from a mixture of Buddhism and Shinto. One particularly curious piece was his own musings on Western and Eastern religion. He conjectures that a belief in heavenly paradise replete with a divine, benevolent being leads human beings to eventually succumb to the fate of the domesticated silkworm whereas a life based on karmic principles seeks to constantly evolve for better or worse. It is a most fitting synopsis.