An interesting thing happened as I was writing my previous post. I realized that some of the feelings of goodness that I associate with Japan may be due to the fact that, throughout my early relationship with Japan, I was, without realizing it, trusting Providence to get me where I needed to go in life. Since Japan seems to have a role to play in my vocation, naturally, pursuing Japanese studies gives me feelings of consolation.
But I think there’s something more to it, something that interacts with the first part in a cute way. The Japanese, I think, are also good at trusting Providence. They’re good at saying, “I don’t know where this is going, but it seems like for now I should be doing this.” I actually have a postcard I picked up from a bunkasai in Japan that says nan to ka sureba, nan to ka naru–“try something, and it’ll work out somehow.”
In fact, I think this sense of trust in Providence was something I began to pick up from the Japanese before I ever went to Japan, back in my anime-watching days. In a clever twist of, well, Providence, Japanese culture inspired me to trust in Providence, which led me to move to Japan to pursue my vocation, and living in Japan led me to believe in God, the One who provides.
So how about the Japanese, then? How did they get so good at trusting Providence without even believing in God?
I can think of a few theories. One is that, as I’ve written before, the Japanese are good at listening to reality. The fact is that, if you throw away all your preconceived philosophy and listen to reality carefully, you will discern a benevolent hand in your life. That’s exactly the experience I had as an atheist that led me to religion.
My second theory is that the Japanese penchant for creating eminently logical (and emotionally satisfying) systems with no room for exceptions gives them, from an early age, a sense of security that translates well into a later belief that “everything will be taken care of.”
My third theory is that the Japanese have a collective sense of destiny, perhaps based on the legends of the kojiki, which gives them a sense that things are headed in a good and purposeful direction.
Finally, I think that the humility of the Japanese may also allow them to be comfortable with not knowing how something will turn out, and their culturally-reinforced fortitude encourages them to keep trying hard regardless. Moreover, as the plague of cynicism appears to be less advanced in Japan in general, the Japanese may retain more of the natural trust in Providence that any sensible person would normally have.
Whatever the reason for it, trust in Providence is a beautiful gift, and one that I have to thank the Japanese for.