An apology to Cape Palliser

Click here for Japanese translation (日本語)

Being present in the moment is difficult for me at the best of times. With the Japan move just days away, trying to do just that has been nearly impossible. A month or so ago, while aimlessly surfing Reddit, I accidentally read an article titled ‘We Aren’t Built to Live in the Moment’. I say accidentally because as a rule I never go out of my way to read anything other than food labels and fantasy novels. This one however had me captivated from the start. The title resonated with my own internal struggles so I skimmed over the first few lines and just kept going.

Written by a group of psychology experts at the University of Pennsylvania, the article argues that what makes us unique from the other species on our greeny-blue planet is the ability to contemplate the future. Furthermore, planning and calculating future prospects is not something we should avoid in favour of the modern society’s mantra of being ‘present in the moment’. The authors go into some detail to explain their theory, using a number of peer reviewed studies in an attempt to strengthen their position. While there were a bunch of takeaways from this piece, mine was that maybe my own internal struggle to keep the brain locked in the present doesn’t actually have to be a struggle to begin with. Perhaps, allowing the brain to satisfy its evolutionary job description – contemplating that which is yet to come – has its place after all.

On my recent ‘farewell’ trip into New Zealand’s wilderness I was reminded of that very article

After climbing some 250 steps up to towards the remote lighthouse, I stand looking over the dramatically scenic Cape Palliser bay. My eyes uselessly pleading with the brain to steady its thoughts on the otherwise jaw dropping, raw natural beauty sprawled out before me. Holy s*&@ balls is it beautiful. Wind-swept cliffs sliding into the ocean, very distant and equally titanic snow-capped mountains of the South Island peaking over the Cook Straight, colonies of docile fur seals lounging nonchalantly among the thickets – I am seeing all of it and so very aware of how special the experience is. Under different circumstances I would be touched by the profound work done here by mother nature, what she had been carving and shaping away at over an eternity. But alas, today I am feeling nothing, not in the moment. Detesting my attempts at distraction, the brain is adamant on planning the future. Leaving only enough grey matter currency for the most necessary daily functions, like breathing, eating and reading food labels.

I start running through a mental checklist of things left to be done before my departure, which is now in 6 days’ time. Tasks like finding appropriate Omiyage (gifts) for my future supervisor and colleagues, sorting bank accounts, what to pack and how to pack it, the logistical breakdown of my entire trip to come etc. Did I forget something? Oh god, I forgot something…

Cape Pelliser (1)

Zero future planning from these guys

Realizing I can’t truly appreciate the natural magic in front of me, I throw in the towel. Cursing the brain and vowing to take my revenge someday. My revenge of course will never be realized, darn thing is smarter than me. Feeling defeated. Apologetically offering my farewell to the vista, and in a way to New Zealand, turning what is remaining of my attention inwards to planning. The brain satisfied with its unavoidable victory carries on with what it had evolved to do so well, every ounce of its energy hell bent on what is to come.

In 3 days’ time, I will be in Japan. The resources my brain so freely used to contemplate the future will be diverted to processing the immediate environment. The future it had stubbornly planned towards for so long would have finally arrived. There will be no more planning or theory crafting – instead, learning and adapting, ducking and rolling, surviving. How exciting! Life in Japan for a non-Japanese speaking foreigner is full of challenges I am told.

Flying out of Auckland New Zealand, I will be arriving in Tokyo and joining roughly one thousand of my colleagues participating in the JET Programme. We will be taking part in a 3 day ‘orientation weekend’ at the Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku.

JET Programme takes on participants every year from many countries around the world, including; Australia, the UK, USA, Canada, Ireland and many more. I am expecting the weekend to be packed with workshops, forums and making new friends with other equally excited fellow JETs. The well run JET Programme uses the orientation weekend to prepare incoming English teachers with last bits and bobs of information and support material right before shipping us all on our merry own way to whatever wonderful and unique part of Japan we have been assigned to.

As for me, following Tokyo Orientation, the plan is to board a flight heading south for Kochi City on the island of Shikoku. Here I will finally get to meet my predecessor Alex, who will kindly be picking me up from the airport. Although I have been in regular contact with Alex via Skype, email and Facebook, this will be the first-time meeting face to face. Alex has been working in what will soon become my role. Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) at a small town elementary and junior high school. He has been in Japan for 3 years and has had some very good things to say about life and work in Japan, and specifically the town I will be working and living in. As for the town, I think I will postpone the reveal in favour of a proper introduction worthy of the place. I promise to include photos. Hold tight, it won’t be long. My next update will be from Japan, a mystical place where I won’t have to read food labels, because I cant.


ごめんね、ケープ・パリサー (An apology to Cape Palliser).

今、この瞬間を生きる」ことは、絶好調の時であってさえ、僕にとっては至難の業です。まして日本への旅立ちをほんの数日後に控えた今であれば、ほとんど不可能に近いと言っていいでしょう。一ヶ月ほど前でしたか、ニュースサイトのRedditを何となく眺めていた時、たまたま「今この瞬間を生きるようにはできていない、人間という生き物 (We Aren’t Built to Live in the Moment)」という記事を読みました。ここで「たまたま」と言ったのは、だいたい僕は食品の成分表示か、ファンタジー小説ぐらいしか書かれた物を読んだりしないからです。そんな僕が、この記事には最初から釘付けになりました。題名そのものが、今抱えている悩みにピッタリだったのです。そういうわけで、はじめの数行をざっと見、そのまま読み続けることにしたのでした。











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