Pensée et Existence

“How many years has it been since I last travelled on my own?” Taeko began to wonder and muse a lot, while strolling like a flâneuse along the shopping street of Gion at Kyoto.

With both lives of her parents claimed in a traffic accident at the age of seven, Taeko had thus been adopted by the elder brother of her father; she had developed a pessimistic outlook on life, which was always ephemeral, feeble. Certainly not cold-hearted, her uncle had yet been trapped by traditional values, and between Taeko and him was an eternal unpluggable abyss.

When fifteen, and simply in her first year of high school, she had had high enthusiasm for reading, and had aspired to apply for some national universities in future. Her uncle, having heard her confessions, began to wince, his face clouding over with anxiety.

“What has it to do with a girl who studies that much? Non-sense! Your task is to get married early and have children, don’t you understand?”

A taste of disgust for the words of her uncle still lingered around her mind. Can a mere generation gap give rise to such a great discrepancy of values? Thus she swore, more strongly than ever, to live alone after graduating from high school.

In order to hoard sufficient money to fulfill her plan, she had worked part time, and had studied hard for the rest of time. Three years of her efforts had proved not to be in vain, for she was at last admitted by a Tokyo national university. Upon receiving the letter of admittance, Taeko was so delighted, as though those seeds she had sowed now sprouted, and blossomed beauteously after years of meticulous care. More pleasure and joyfulness followed at last, she thought, despite all the agony she had faced.

Majoring in French literature, she immersed herself more in reading. The famous adage of Descartes “I think, therefor I am” used to be her motto. “However trivial human being was”, she believed, “every living shall give a meaning if one never cease to think”. Yes, men are all weak, but just as Pascal said likewise, “men are contemplative reeds”. Thus Taeko held unshakable belief that living is meaning.

When she was a sophomore, at an informal gathering, a third-year Chemistry student called Fujii caught her first sight, so they started the relationship. But a year later, he sought a breakup with her out of some incomprehension reason, a reason called “my-heart-has-turned-cold”.

That was the first time she began to be suspicious of her own faith. “Can my existence be proved if I persist in thinking?” She was bewildered, “Am I the only one who is thinking? Even though I think as I am, isn’t there no way for the others to know it?”

Almost in her mid-twenties, Taeko suddenly stood still on a bridge hanging over a vast expanse of river. For a while, she was gazing intently at the thick clouds floating along the distant heaven.

[First written in Japanese on 9th April, 2016 by James; rewritten/translated into English on 22nd October, 2016]

[Featured image taken by James on 4th April, 2016]

[思考と存在]

こうして一人旅ができるのは何年ぶりだろう。妙子は、フラヌーズ(flâneuse)のように祇園の商店街を歩きながら、色々を考えはじめた。

七歳の時に交通事故で両親を亡くし、父の兄に引き取られた妙子にとって、命とは、脆くはかないものだった。伯父は決して薄情な人ではながったが、伝統的な価値観に縛られており、妙子との間には、埋めることのできない大きい溝があった。

妙子が十五歳の頃だった。彼女はまだ高校一年だったが、読書好きが高じ、国立大の文学部を希望するようになっていた。しかしそのことを伝えると、叔父の表情は曇った。

「女の子が、そんなにたくさん勉強してどうするんだ?はやく結婚し子供を育てるのが君の役目だろう」

今でもあのときの伯父の言葉には、嫌悪の気持ちを抱かざるを得ない。やはり、昭和生まれと平成生まれでは、価値観に大きな隔たりがあるのだろうか。妙子は、高校を卒業したら、必ずや一人で暮らすと強く心に誓った。

彼女はお金を貯めるためにアルバイトをし、それ以外の時間は勉強に励んだ。最終的にこの三年間の苦闘は無駄にはならなかった。東京のある国立大の合格通知を受け取ったとき、彼女は、まるで何年もかけ丹精に育てた花がやっと花を咲かせたかのような、深い感慨の念を抱いた。苦悩の量だけ、喜びはひとしおだった。

フランス文学を専攻した彼女は、いつもたくさんの本を読んでいた。かつて彼女は、デカルトの名言「我思う、ゆえに我在り」を、座右の銘としていた。たとえどんなにちっぽけな人間だとしでも、しっかり考えれば自らの存在の価値があると信じていた。人間は弱いが、パスカルの言った通りに「人間は考える葦である」からこそ生きる意味があると信じようとした。

大学二年のとき、ある食事会で、化学を専攻している一学年上の藤井という男性に出会った。妙子は彼と付き合い始めた。一年後彼は、心が冷えた、という到底理解することのできない理由で彼女に別れを告げた。

その時彼女は自分の信念に疑念を持った。本当に考えれば考えるほど、私が存在している証になるのか、と。考えているのは、私一人だけではないのか。例え思考を有しながら生きていたとしても、私以外の人にそれを知る術がないのではないか。

二十代の半ばに差し掛かった妙子は、突然、広い川に架かった橋の上で立ち止まった。彼女は、遥か遠くの空に浮かぶ厚い雲をしばらくじっと眺めていた。

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