I hit a stage where everything had to be symmetrical.
My steps, left and right, had to be balanced. If I trod on a crack with the left foot, I had to tread on the next with the right.
I started believing my actions were connected to the cosmos. I needed to achieve symmetry to retain the balance within our universe.
In fact, I think I started believing that I had super powers. Probably from watching too much Doctor Who.
I also had a game I liked to play with paper clips. I would magnetise them, and drag them around on a placemat on the table in a complex choreography, also with the emphasis being on evenness.
I’ve never told anyone about this game before, but I could play it for hours.
Then in 2007, a teacher at a school I was working at in Japan asked if I would like to come to Tea Ceremony. I was curious. I had no idea of what exactly it was. In high school, I formed a close friendship with an exchange student, Jun. We didn’t understand each other’s languages well, but we bonded. And I found out that he knew Tea Ceremony. At one point I asked him to show me, but he said it wasn’t possible. This was incomprehensible to me, but left a strong impression.
So when I received the invitation, I felt I should go at some stage, because I knew Tea Ceremony was important in Japanese culture, and hey, that’s what I do. But I kept putting it off. Seemed a bit of a hassle.
Eventually I could no longer refuse, so I went along to watch a lesson and drink a cuppa.
And it was incomprehensible.
There were so many rules–sit here, do this at this time. But hey, that’s Japan and that’s ceremony. It made no sense. Folding cloths, cleaning things, nasty tasting tea.
The main event was over, and things wound down, as the host cleaned up the mess. Then at one point, she scooped a ladle of cold water, and poured it into the kettle.
There was a whoosh as the cold water hit the hot. The whole room faded. There was silence. Less than that, there was negative sound. There was nothing. Just a pillar of steam, and a memory of an echo of a whoosh. And all tension was released. And nothing mattered. There was no world outside of the four paper walls and no earth below the tatami floor.
Then it was over, five seconds later.
After the lesson I was told how often lessons were, and how much I would pay.
And I thought I was obliged to agree.
I was the Anthony who couldn’t say “no”.
Very early into my lessons, as I struggled to fold cloths the right way, turn bowls the correct direction and see the invisible lines on the tatami to place objects (my teacher would always reposition things, for no apparent reason), I started to feel a connection to the obsessions of my childhood.
I felt the beauty in the patterns that were perceived but not overt. I saw the movements–walking, hand positions, posture–were like the ballet I did for nine years as a child.
And I realised I had been destined to this meaningless beauty.