“So instead, in this room in this Buddhist temple, in this Tokyo suburb, I say the Kaddish for Ignace von Ephrussi who is so far from Vienna, for his father and his mother, for his brother and his sisters in their diaspora.”
– The Hare with the Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal.
A cherished cultural practice outside its original home is paper thin, cheap.
Maybe it has meaning for you and you hold on to it tearfully; it has no meaning for anyone around you. But therein lies its value, you argue. It is mine and it is me.
It is bits of paper floating away in the wind. Maybe you are too, I’ll give you that.
Culture is collective belief, you argue – it is always immaterial and nonlocal. How does it matter where I am, as long as I carry it with me?
Yes, it is within you; but its invocation is its sure transformation into confetti – a bright and pretty spectacle for people around you. Meaningless.
But the meaning is in the moment of practice; it is in the act of doing from memory. It is in the feeling that I am from somewhere else, and that they know me there.
Yes, but memories fade and feelings change. Paper thin, waiting to disintegrate.
And so what if it is paper thin? Paper lanterns, paper boats, paper daisy chains:
all fragile and beautiful.
Yes, and in the end you must crush them into dusty cupboards until they disintegrate, or allow them to float away like you,
anchorless and meaningless.