David Yun: Moscow Trip and Thoughts, Nov. 2001

How are things with you? The whole world seems to me in the dark side. Men in power are still killing people. The earth lost the warmth of peaceful peoples. But my trip was not an escape from this unspeakable world of men. I want the light of a spring from your island, dacha of Florida or the light of a bungalow in Thailand, warm and peaceful. I am asking very little, but a satisfaction only in imagination because it isn’t coming or satisfied in reality. And so I imagine there must be many tourists away from a cold winter enjoying the tropical ennui, all intoxicated by the delusion of the unfulfilled selfishness. What do you think is the antithesis of that delusion? Is it to walk around the empty Red Square in the cold light of pure snow, which never really dissolved in the warmth of the proletariat, and experience the light from a dead star in a dizzy reversal of unsublimated emotion as the unfulfilled sensitivity to open oppression? To be sure, for the loss of light from its history, the world is deely ailing. I am already over here in California. Here too is a severe weather alert issued by the weather forecast of the state. In fact, I find Berkeley seems colder than in Moscow! In Berkeley where I reside, it is only 7-10 degrees, which is perhaps unusual in late November and in early December, while in Moscow it was -10--0 degrees. This seems to show the difference in lifestyle, depending on which we may feel cold or warm. Sometimes, I even feel cold on a summer street in Berkeley. But I really did not feel cold in Moscow. Perhaps, I had the spell of hot blood in my heart, burning. Like a child, I continuously walked around the snowy streets in the freezing, all confusing winds of Moscow. Inside my hotel, it was 22 (72 F) degree warm. A small room with a tall ceiling and two separate beds, a bathroom was enough for us (the Russian lady and I) to feel comfortable. Yes, comfortable! We placed ourselves in a modest medium between a traveler and the Moscow resident, between extravagant and frugal. The choice was in fact forced between the pity of the traveler and the guilt of the Moscow parvenu, if you like in consideration to the average Muscovite's lifestyle ($3/day) and the purpose of the trip. The first night was exception. I had to stay in a more spacious room ($55). When the Russian lady secured a new room for the half of the price, she came back to me and told me so in a vindicated tone of voice and I looked at her bluish eyes in an embarrassing drop. It was as though money was the barometer of an old man’s conscience. The first night incident was telling, however, because someone else took my reservation (The hotel explanation was that I was late by 4 hours arriving at the hotel at 9 pm, because my plane was delayed.) It seemed, the words of reservation in Moscow do not last one day. They are contingent upon the cash, just as virtually the mode of everyday life in Moscow is. I learned something there. Money on the spot means real to the business in Moscow, not the word, like any other place! Money is mightier than the word: the demonic spell all over again. There, we stood dumbfounded trying to compose ourselves. Reality stripped us of the dressing and challenged our wits. We had nothing on but the words to argue with the hotel management for over an hour in vain. An old memory struck me on the back: yes, the speeches given in the past life by the Party leaders and chairmen of the Soviet. They would last up to 6 hours in so many words, so many applauses. Perhaps Russians forgot all and forgave all; Party would fill the head with its words, but not the empty stomach. Therefore, the sin of the Party was in the process of transforming history: to the dictatorship of the moral-aesthetic anthropology. Such transformation was surreptitiously accompanied by the suppression of the instinctual relationship between the head and the stomach of the proletarian history, which made the sovereignty of its idea an ideology, and an escape from it was to seek a permanent power of the rulers (Stalin on until M. Gorbachev). With which language itself gave in to their assertions; the words like revolution and proletarian dictatorship were sold out cheap as they are today. Was this possibly their lesson? In the end of the struggle, the stomach wins over the superiority of the head (the Party had a thousand eyes, whereas the individual had but two.)? The mistake is when the stomach is full, people tend to think the head is full too. After all, Nature abhors a vacuum. While the reverse is never true, the rate of digestion differs; the incongruity of the mental and the physical produces injustice from which such long speeches arose. However, the Party did not make any mistake about the classic stomach of the masses. A mistake (As late Mao pointed out to his peasants, a mistake, especially historic one, we pass unnoticed until it is too big to correct) was about its expansion occurring outside, with which “Each to his need” could not catch up without bending and breaking the back of its own principle. This is the modern, rapacious stomach produced by the advanced Capitalist state and superficially animated by its thirst and greed, which ate up the natural one.

At any event, I liked the Russian woman who accompanied me. She argued about the failed hotel reservation with another woman at the front desk for me. They argued without an express animosity. I liked their attitude toward the exchange shaking their head like a dissatisfied chicken beating on the earth, which most money-conscious Americans would immediately give up and move to another. The woman talked and talked over an hour, as if there was no other place to stay over the night but determined to stay over right at the front desk! She would not move on until the other lady at the desk feel responsible and make an offer for a compromise. The traveler was impressed by their patience, uniquely Russian, while he was getting impatient with their odd exchange that seemed to him was not so very different from the discontent the Muscovites showed, which he observed inside the subway trains and in their streets, not trained by the meaningless, professional smile, like the Japanese. Finally, the lady told us to go to another office and try on another building, which might have the room for us. We finally gave up the reservation and started looking for another in the dark, cold street. So the recourse to an emergency measure taking the spacious room in another place. Once in the room, it was warm and I forgot all about the unpleasant bustle in the pale dark office. Apparently, Russians do have an infinite patience in comparison to our demand for immediate gratification in the American streets. They seemed to know that Russia has a lot of natural resource, like oil somewhere under the ground, and yet all windows of our hotel are of double window to protect heat from escaping. Indeed, a sort of asceticism, not yet liberated from the popularized materialism (e.g. against our thoughtless consumption of goods) could be perceived even on the snow-covered streets. Muscovites loved to walk, and nearly everyone, young and old walked to the subway station from their flats, not much talking but walking in the grave steady steps. They must have strong legs and big, heavy hearts.

Right now, in my living room, the thermometer shows 7 (46 in F), and I feel cold. But I still resist turning on the heat. The idea of homeland, which says that there is no place like home, seems rather strange now, if only this resistance makes me feel home everywhere! Nevertheless, there is an uneasy memory or thanking. For past 30 years in America, I experienced the sentiment whenever I go out to the street. I was not able to get rid of it, nor was I successful in seeing its figure in full: the sentiment of a traveler that I am a mere tourist; home is always elsewhere. All attempts to negate this kind of myth would avenge the practical life, a making of another myth, that of the goal. But it never really dissolved. It was there in the passing glances of pedestrians. Now I seem to have failed to impress my street that I am not a tourist, and tried in vain to make my flat home. As you know, it is not easy to deal with the silent glances of the people on any American street, which seem to remind me of my origin, “Where are you from, or else you are a tourist, are you not?” Never mind making yourself at home, especially when your soul is weak, alone and poor. The poor soul, when it takes resort to the strength of a powerless minority, would have to pretend the tourist on the street again to join the crowd in the allegiance to the antithesis of the rich, where the rich maintain the relationship with their dwelling place like a well-served hotel. If Russian patience of asceticism (e.g. Solzhenitsyn says ‘Bread with peace rather than a pie with trouble.’) aims to abolish the rampant, popularized materialism in America by reminding her of the people who are dying of starvation in the cold, and that there are people who indulge in an exclusive privilege at the same time, what then? This consciousness seems to take away any special privilege from me. Perhaps, it may make the soul less guilty of my being-there that is there with no reason than the secret that is shot and wounded in freedom. I heard V. I. Lenin lived for others in his attempt to realize the idea of homeland for mankind, not for himself. This comes to me as the greatest insight of human totality as never before. Only I ask one little addendum to the idea. It is that if mankind is ever to experience the claim to being animal rationale, we must wait in patience and resistance until the world of men finally resolves the problems by way of reason, without the lazy resort to force, without murdering people of different ideas. The nutshell of this resistance may be, to put it in a vulgar term, to say that I don’t believe men intelligent as long as they kill other men and children, even where killings are considered as an offering to God for the sake of the survival of the strong. (In fact, the very idea of the superpower and its execution of the weak and powerless can only be interpreted as the identity of the power with God’s order whose rite demands human sacrifice: back to Nature.) The real question is how long do we have to wait? If this sounds to you too naпve to conceive such a thing, I can point out to you your self-contradictory position, which forces you to give up reason in entirety. You cannot assert anything human without the very ground of reason as all humans live according to reasons, while knowing that it is impossible to derive from the very reason any argument against murder. Well, this is just a beginning. And so, I would like to visit Moscow again, and join the march of fellow travelers, and someday if not someone be able to deliver a speech at the Red Square. To be sure, it is a dream, not just a name but also a big dream of being, and I need a big, heavy heart to hold it. There was a long row of names engraved on the Kremlin wall, of the individuals including a few English names, who donated one million dollars or more to the state. The Russian lady, Tatiana said to me, “You can do it, too. And your name will be there.” She smiled. But I am hoping a "resurrection," man’s homesickness to arise again from the death of contemporary men living without history. I know I am rather old, past the time relevant to the freedom of my epoch, and feel like a walking shadow, perhaps too old to embrace a future. I possess no collateral of a young man's insight or the myth, which would not unconsciously overrun the mythic poiesis of an Old man’s truth, the bringing-forth of his homesickness. Perhaps I can no longer "love" a particular woman in the magic exaggerations the young can do to the glory of the individual particulars. However, I can offer to the people the universality of the idea, a corrective if you will, of the failed aspiration to human totality and restore its spirit to human history once again. The Star on the top of the Kremlin's clock tower (3000 Lbs) may shine again, and its light may reach the eyes of a lonely pigeon that lives on the top of the Golden Gate post, and finally come home... Nevertheless, in Moscow, it seems that my solitude which is in fact aged over 15 years old, fermented for long in a protective angst, turned to the self-intoxication of a pure fool. This fool’s motto that says, “my life is my secret, ultimate burden of my freedom, which to lighten is to make my life my own creation,” fell silent, fell apart pitifully, and he felt broken into pieces by the glance at the mute, closed lips of Lenin’s mummy. It never occurred to him that the solitary life of a soul could have been that fragile. I would think that the solitary soul including discursive thought is protected from all magic and temptations as long as it is structured in language. Now I have no idea how to put the pieces together without the guiding light of a future. i.e. without the sense of history, which the present world seems to impose upon every living person so as to live in isolation, satisfied with whatever you get from the world with the guarantee that there is no higher consciousness of history because what you get is what the world gives. It is to say the same thing; this great deathlike sleep in complacency and self-abandonment and the pure fool’s illusion have the same origin: homesickness... Such is my afterthought of the trip, up to the first night in Moscow. Maybe, later I will be able to tell you about “tomorrow” or the next day dictated by the night with Tatiana. Should Russia’s tomorrow and America come to pass someday in the name of global unity, maintaining the integrity of a man and a woman in the vast difference, could I expect her to gather the broken pieces and make the earth a site of love bed for the solitary life of a pigeon?...

David Yun Japan