When I lived in South Korea in 2008, my friend and I had a podcast. It seems as though the popularity of podcasting is peaking these days. Everyone and their dog has a podcast (and a Twitter account!). Maybe ours would have been more popular today with critical mass being achieved for the platform! There are a lot of great podcasts out there today I’m sure, but there simply isn’t enough time. Between the RSS feeds, video streaming, podcasts, news articles, blogs, newsletters, chat services, social media, and on and on, we have to pare down what we consume. Otherwise, you can listen and watch while engaged with your phone 24 hours a day and increase your risk of injury and death by escaping reality. As if you delve into another world like the movie Inception leaving your actual body vulnerable, or the Matrix, time passes at the same rate. Fortunately, or unfortunately.
Create more than you consume.
It seems that tastes are refined over time. Initially, you try anything and everything. I traveled Asia some years ago and I had been in that mood. Grilled birds on a stick? Well, I’m in Vietnam, why not? Fresh fried scorpion on a stick? When am I going to be in Beijing again? I’m still referencing those unique and strange experiences today so I don’t regret them. Fast forward to today and I won’t try candy based on the smell. Green tea ice cream? No way, I don’t even like the taste of actual green tea!
That said, there are still areas of interest that I will explore but at a deeper place in the funnel of life. I’ve already made a decision on many things. I am happy to miss out on skydiving, basket weaving, rollercoaster riding, on and on! For those I have JOMO: Joy Of Missing Out.
But I like Japan. I’ll forego most of most other countries, and rather focus on Japan. Maybe it’s like watching one movie ten times, the extended cut, the outtakes, and the director’s commentary, versus watching 10 movies once and mostly forgetting them all. Better yet, like watching the synopsis, reading the summary, or watching a season recap! But this only happened recently; I didn’t have any particular preference before, but I did always have a gut interest in Japan. And with a gut interest, I prefer to get a low-cost taste confirmation before diving in. This especially counts for 1.8L bottles of sake and 700-750ml bottles of whiskey! Do you want to spin the wheel on a bottle for between $30-$150, or have a taste of $0-$3 before buying the larger size?
One area of exploration was to check out the local Nakameguro Obon festival. I couldn’t say that I am a festival aficionado but I do like the atmosphere, sense of community coupled with fresh food and drinks served on the street. There were two highlights for me. Firstly, with most of each group of dancers on the narrow street was a flag carrier at the end. The flags are huge and I imagine that they are heavy to carry on the pole. I had seen one carrier that was struggling to keep a much smaller flag, less than one-quarter the size of the bigger flags, and he had trouble keeping the flag untangled. He certainly couldn’t put on a show with it. This caught my attention so I looked at the next group and their flag carrier, and the next performed well. But then I saw another who appeared to be the expert-level flag carrier putting on a show of his own.
Secondly, I was fascinated with a local used bookstore on this same street. I read at least 10 books per year, and I have thrown at least $100 at Japanese books after countless entries into bookstores and perusing book reviews online. There is a natural inclination to simply enter bookstores and look around. This bookstore was beyond any proportional accumulation that I had seen before. I have seen some that may have stacks of books on the ground in the corner, at the end of an aisle, etc, but customers can still manage to get through the aisles in some way or another to view books on each shelf.
Shelf accessibility seems to be a crucial aspect of any retail store. Customers should be able to navigate the store as easily as possible – especially in the modern age when you can buy anything with one-click and it will be delivered to your door within a day or so. Any book title on a book binding is already sideways and difficult to read standing straight. Add to this a used book that likely has fading from the sun or heavy usage making a worn cover or dust jacket. Add an elementary literacy in Japanese. Furthermore, this bookstore had the added layer of book perusal difficulty via blocking the physical space with bunches of books untidily stacked on one another in the middle of the aisle! You literally have to window shop half of the store. I really wanted to ask the store owner in the back “could I see that French book in the middle there, and any English books that you have?” I would normally think that I would be waiting 30 minutes or more to get the book in hand but after living in Japan for a bit I would imagine that he would say “you can’t see it now.” There is a paradoxical and almost imperceptible comfort answer sometimes that substitutes a capitalistic hunger for business growth. Maybe that’s how more than 3,000 companies in Japan have survived to be older than Canada.
What is his story? How could this come to be? Accumulation beyond practicality. Maybe the deals he is getting on these books are too good to pass up. Maybe he is using his physical location as a warehouse for his internet business. Maybe there are too many books to read and he is accumulating at a faster rate than he can read. Maybe he wants to serve the globe for any possible customer that encounters his store. I don’t know. I could relate to those reasons but I couldn’t live with this impractical situation.
There is simply too much in life in general than we have time to do. You can’t have it all. You can’t read all books. You can’t watch all movies, date all girls, try all jobs, visit every country (this is a lot easier than the others I think!), listen to every song, learn everything there is to know… there is too much in general! Today, we have the paradox of choice.
What will you spend your precious time on?