It’s tempting to think, now that I’ve returned to the Church, that I should be able to give up my attachment to Japan. After all, why cling to the glimmer of truth that I first saw here when I have access to the whole truth now?
Only, it hasn’t happened that way. I certainly tried to disengage myself from what I thought might be an excessive attachment. I read the insightful blog 1000 Things About Japan thinking that if I could put a name to what it was I liked about Japan, I could dispel the attachment. The author certainly did manage to put a name to some elusive things like Japan’s “benevolent paternalism” and the concept of amaeru (“to depend and presume upon another’s benevolence,” indicating “helplessness and the desire to be loved”). But in the end, I could only conclude that what I felt for Japan wasn’t an excessive attachment–it was love, and it wasn’t going away.
I’m comforted by the fact that even the saints seemed to think there was something about Japan. St. Francis Xavier, a 16th-century missionary and one of the first Westerners to set foot in Japan, reportedly struggled with discerning whether God was calling him to Japan, or he himself just really wanted to go. Interestingly, the qualities he admired in the Japanese are ones that I still recognize here today. They were, and still are, a reasonable and noble-minded people.
At the same time, though, I do feel as if I’ve found in the Church what it was that I was traveling the world looking for. I no longer wander through foreign cities searching for I-don’t-even-know-what and feeling vaguely disappointed when I don’t find it. I’ve gotten to the point where I can actually think about leaving Japan without feeling like I’m giving up on the pursuit of happiness.
I know now that the key to everything is love. Not “love” as the world defines it, but that greatest of loves taught by the Catholic Church, which desires to benefit another, with no thought of the self. The kind of love of which Our Lord demonstrated the perfect example when he willingly allowed himself to be tortured and killed in order to set us free.
That kind of love can be found–or practiced–anywhere in the world.