People Help The People: In The Attempt

Birdy、歌詞(Lyrics)『People Help The People』日本語訳(Japanese translation)

We’ve been thinking about the state of being “In The Attempt.” The theme revolves around subjects such as the act of reaching out, the restless feeling of incompleteness, a life on hold, and {Read more…} “People Help The People: In The Attempt

Birdy、歌詞(Lyrics)『People Help The People』日本語訳(Japanese translation)

Zwei Welten and Thomas Mann: In The Attempt

Thomas Mannトーマス・マン『トニオ・クルーガー』日本語訳(Japanische Übersetzung)

Do you ever get bewildered by the conflicting aspirations pulling yourself in opposing directions? Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by contradicting ideas of conforming to the wider society while hoping to keep tied to where you are so that you feel secure and authentic? Thomas Mann(1875-1955), famous for his novel Der Tod in Venedig (Death in Venice), explored this theme strenuously in his less known short novels.

Ich stehe zwischen zwei Welten, bin in keiner daheim und habe es infolge dessen ein wenig schwer. (…) Sehnsucht ist darin und schwermütiger Neid und ein klein wenig Verachtung und eine ganze keusche Seligkeit. Tonio Kröger by Thomas Mann


Our existence is an amalgamation of contradicting beliefs, realities and aspirations. What Thomas Mann tried to do in his short stories was to step further in his attempt to illustrate heartbreaking inner conflict of young artists: The nature of artistic self-consciousness and inner suspicion that the artist must be an outsider relative to respectable society.


He examined these issues through a series of dichotomies. He explored the youthful disillusionment by contrasting it with the happiness and blithe naïveté found in many of people. The protagonists are envious of innocent vitality their counterpart enjoy but proud of his insights, philosophical profundity and aesthetic sensitivity.


We sometimes find ourselves craving for, if not envious of, what we don’t possess but our counterpart does while taking pride in what you have and who you are. Deep down you are wishing to live a more laid-back life while energized by intensity of your professional pursuit. To the contrary, you might be interested in throwing yourself into more challenging, vibrant business while hoping to stay around with a relaxed, intimate and like-minded circle of people. There is a dash of contempt for those on the other side, which keeps you from leaving behind what is comfortable and familiar for you.


Creating dichotomy between art and life as well as intellect and nature, he explored the ramifications of this separation and portrayed protagonists as the agent of reconciliation between these facets of existence. In one of his short stories, a young man reaffirms his faith in humanity and love for life as his alienation is surmounted at last by his love for humanity. It was ultimately a quest for some kind of balance and wholeness for human values that would be personally sustained.


Maman: In The Attempt

Louane、歌詞(Paroles)『Maman』日本語訳((Traduction japonaise)

In her song called Maman, Louane, a 20-year-old French singer, sings about how we pass dull, tedious days in resignation and desperation. We sometimes feel so trapped in the net of circumstances that we get passive-aggressive. We get to express indirectly our negative feelings of anger, distrust or frustration by procrastinating, showing indifference to what’s going on around us, or distracting our own attention from what really matters. Then we are led into a cul-de-sac, where we are getting weary of reaching out for what we should be.

In this song she calls on her mother to help her make sense of what she is. She knows this is not right but has no idea what to do. There is good rhyming throughout the lines, but some of them don’t seem to have as profound meaning as listeners would expect. This disappointment listeners experience, however, is the very emotion we are truly exposed to on a daily basis.


Louane – Maman

ホテルで 駐車場で
悩みから 逃れるために
街では 心は 青ざめてる

憂鬱の底から 電話口から
すべてがまた始まる 春のように

地下鉄は 夢を詰め込んで進む
高層ビルは 私たちを見下ろす
まるで 檻の中の小鳥のように

ねえ ママ
わたし 頭がおかしくなりそう
探し求めてる でも何を どうして

バーは 人でごった返している
でも 心は乾ききっている
約束は 交わされる
すぐ 捨てられる約束が

Bitter Sweet Symphony: In The Attempt

The Verve、歌詞(Lyrics)『Bitter Sweet Symphony』日本語訳(Japanese translation)

Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve is one of the great songs on bittersweetness of life. This anthem, along with the symbolic music video, brings home to us the inevitable fate of death despite all of our longings.

The Verveの”Bitter Sweet Symphony”は、生きることの甘酸っぱさを歌った90年代のUKロックを代表する一曲ではないでしょうか。このアンセムは、様々な憧れがあるけれども、死という動かしがたい運命へ人は歩いてゆくということを、象徴的なミュージックビデオと共に伝えています。

We hope to follow a path we want, but quite often we have no choice but to follow the path we’ve ever been down because we always have certain constraints. Your employers, organizations, family members, your own physical, financial or social constraints wouldn’t allow you to choose to make a change. You feel all the more frustrated and powerless against circumstances.


L’irrationnel, la nostalgie humaine et l’absurde qui surgit de leur tête-à-tête, voilà les trois personnages du drame. Le mythe de Sisyphe by Albert Camus

The song contrasts our inevitable fate and our human longing. We have no choice but to walk toward “the places where all the veins meet” – death – because it’s ” the only road I’ve ever been down.” It’s inevitable truth. It’s beyond our control. It’s not a matter of your willpower. It leads you to get trapped and confined in a way that you feel “I am here in my mold.” But at the same time, the knowledge and experience you have acquired as you get old encourage you to believe in a possibility that “I’m a million different people from one day to the next.” We want to believe that it is our human intelligence and imagination that make it possible to understand human existence in terms of multifaceted composition and to see things from several points of view.


He walks on. It seems that he doesn’t do anything about avoiding obstacles on his way or changing his speed. Just as loss and separation, trouble and hardship, all comes out of the blue, fate is beyond our control. He just walks on while people raise their eyebrows, he knows he runs into trouble and he has no idea how to avoid it. Some of the stumbling blocks can be anticipated but that will not help us to avoid them. We just walk on.


Between his desire to be different and circumstances that tie him to the present situation, he feels trapped and decides to pray, saying “tonight I’m on my knees.” It’s not what he always does. He desperately needs some solace, someone who recognizes him. “But the airwaves are clean and there’s nobody singing to me now.” Fate doesn’t allow you to run away from tormenting truth. Then he walks on, occasionally bumping into obstacles, at a regular pace. Time passes precisely and mercilessly – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year – till the end.


The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony

これが人生 甘酸っぱい ひとつの交響曲
毎日をあくせくと 金銭の奴隷となり 迎える終局
これが 自分の知る唯一の道だ さあ行こう
全てが導かれゆく その場所を 君は知っているだろう

無理だ 変えられっこない 無理 無理だ
がっちり 決められていて 身動きがとれないんだ
でも 変えようがないんだ 無理 無理なんだ

祈るなんて自分らしくない でも今夜は跪こう
この苦しみと響きあう音に 耳を澄まそう
鳴り響くメロディー 空っぽの頭 これが自由
けれども 反応はなし 歌いかけてくれる人はなし

Where is My Mind: In The Attempt

Sunday Girl、歌詞(Lyrics)『Where is My Mind?』日本語訳(Japanese translation)

Albert Camus is considered to be a philosopher of absurdity. But it seems that the concept of absurdity is pretty much misunderstood. Absurdity does not mean that life is meaningless, pointless or hopeless. It’s not just a philosophical concept. Rather, it gives us an explanation to our flesh and blood feel of struggling through life.


Mais ce qui est absurde, c’est la confrontation de cet irratiionnel et de ce désir éperdu de clarté dont l’appel résonne au plus profond de l’homme. Albert Camus – Le mythe de Sisyphe

Absurdity, as Camus defines it, does not refer to the irrational itself but to a contradicting human desire. We know too well that many things in life come up in a random way but we are obsessed with finding meaning, logic or reason behind them. Our life revolves around a certain circle of supportive and beloved people, some of whom will be gone sooner or later. Even when we want to and make some efforts to follow a certain path of life, life gets an unexpected turn. Nonetheless, we desperately seek the value and meaning in those practices and events in life. That is what Camus calls absurdity.


The following song is a really good example of challenging our desire to seek meaning.

Sunday Girl – Where Is My Mind

その足は宙に 頭は地面に
頭はぺっちゃんこ だって 頭なんて空っぽでしょ
そして自問する いったいどうなってんだ?

小さな魚たちだけが 教えてくれた
必死に 何か言っていた 「コイツが鯉です」

大海原で見たんです そいつは泳いでいたんです

The Myth Of Sisyphus: In The Attempt

Albert Camusアルベール・カミュ『シーシュポスの神話』日本語訳(Traduction japonaises)

Our day-to-day challenges are really exhausting such as feeling disappointed at the results after all the efforts you made, another problem coming up right after you solved one, tragic incidents happening all around. Our life and efforts sometimes seem to be a meaningless run on the running-wheel. In exploring the topics around “In The Attempt”, or ubiquitous human efforts to reach for something that is out of sight, this sense of meaninglessness starts to loom over our prospects. Let’s consider this problem by looking at the key concept in “Le mythe de Sisyphe” by Albert Camus.

Les dieux avaient condamné Sisyphe à rouler sans cesse un rocher jusqu’au sommet d’une montagne d’où la pierre retombait par son propre poids. Ils avaient pensé avec quelque raison qu’il n’est pas de punition plus terrible que le travail inutile et sans espoir.  Le mythe de Sisyphe by Albert Camus

The biggest pain of the punishment can be explained by the fact that although he is well aware of his unrequited effort, he never stops his labor that is of no use. How despairing it is to see the rock rolling down the hill after your reaching the top of the hill. However, Camus made a logical turn. The point is, Sisyphus doesn’t climb the hill only once but endlessly. You would be disappointed to see the rock rolling down once you reached the top, but what is more painful is that you know that tragedy inevitably happens and, nevertheless, you are enforced to perform the duty ceaselessly.


(…) A chacun de ces instants, où il quitte les sommets et s’enfonce peu à peu vers les tanières des dieux, il est supérieur à son destin. Il est plus fort que son rocher. (…) quand l’appel du bonheur se fait trop pesant, il arrive que la tristesse se lève au cœur de l’homme: c’est la victoire du rocher, c’est le rocher lui-même. (…) Mais les vérités écrasantes périssent d’être reconnues. Le mythe de Sisyphe by Albert Camus
(…) 頂上から神々の巣窟まで戻って行く度ごとに、シーシュポスは運命を制圧していた。転がる岩に勝利していたのだ。(…) 幸せの呼び声を重圧と感じるとき、哀しみが人の心に湧き上がる。それは岩の方の勝利だ。岩の重苦しさそのものだ。(…) しかし、この重い真実は、認識されることで消滅してくれるのだ。

Sisyphus is aware of a recurrence of torturing duty, but he makes an intentional decision to face the futile. That’s his triumph over fate. Our everyday life is full of these fertile practices – what you worked hard for bears no fruits, what you created is soon to be crumbled, what you believe you kept in mind is gone. But if you do your best, create and remember something while understanding all will be gone anyhow, you will feel that you are focused and committed and that it is nonetheless meaningful and valuable.


Il y a deux sortes d’hommes, ceux qui subissent le destin, et ceux qui choisissent de le subir. Le Coran

This passage tells us the value of resigning yourself to fate and choosing a rough and thorny path, instead of wailing over merciless fate. Through our everyday existence, we could choose a life in which you always stop to think about the consequences of your choices, do conscious decision-making and face an uphill struggle, instead of following a beaten path. We could also follow an unorthodox but ethical lifestyle with little modern convenience of well-commercialized goods and services.


Fate, for Camus, is no doubt our inevitable truth: death. In terms of literal death and loss of something, only after do we resign ourselves to fate, we can say “all is well”. Anything you do care about will be gone sooner or later. Only when are you aware of this truth, caring about something starts to bear true meaning and value. Being aware of the truth is not a tragedy but a euphoric leap.


A Glimpse of Humor: In The Attempt


We are more or less exposed to minor nervous breakdowns on a daily basis. We sometimes feel weary of and overwhelmed by an enormity and gravity of powerlessness or futility. It might be that you hit the rock bottom, that you get stuck in the middle of nowhere or that you are lost and low from total lack of confidence in yourself. Quite a few ancient poems bring home these painful feelings, some of which are so pathetic that we are even taken aback. Do you remember a waka by Izumi Shikibu and Princess Shikishi? Her words were of almost heartbreaking pathos. But there is an occasional glimpse of humor in the ornate and solemn facade of the ancient anthology. Here is a surprisingly humorous waka from Kokinshu, one of the greatest anthologies from the 10th century, singing about despair.


よのなかの うきたびごとに みをなげば ふかきたにこそ あさくなりなめ
yononakano ukitabigotoni miwo nageba fukaki tanikoso asaku nariname

Each and every worldly concern
Would drive you crazy and you might as well throw yourself into the valley
But, wait a minute, see how its bottom comes up and up at every turn

辛いことがあるたびに身投げしていたら 深い谷も浅くなってしまうよ

It seems that this sort of sarcastic humor has not been fully accepted and established yet here in Japan. This country has taken a keep-calm-and-carry-on attitude. As resigned and patient to fate as we seem, we sill have something more to learn from what was written more than a thousand years ago.

Life on Hold and Princess Shikishi: In The Attempt


Take the initiative, make a difference and move your life forward. These seem to be a golden rule of our time. We are forced to stick to it. We are actually able to live it out. Motivational songs and books abound. However, there are and were some people who are not allowed to make choices on their own life. Let’s look at a waka by a woman who wasn’t allowed to, or decided not to, step forward while struggling to keep her voice unheard.

日に千たび 心は谷に投げ果てて 有にもあらず 過る我が身は
hini chitabi kokorowa tanini nagehatete arunimoarazu suguru wagamiwa

Thousands of times a day
Throwing myself into the abyss of despair
Letting my life rot away
My whole existence is forever on hold


Princess Shikishi (1151?-1201) was born into the imperial family. Her father was Emperor Goshirakawa, who was a great historic figure at the time of the two clans of the Minamoto and Taira clashing and gaining more political power over the aristocratic central government. Imagining life at imperial court may involve daydream of outrageously lavish housing, food and clothing. But her life was different. For as men who were not in line to the Imperial Throne were enforced to become priests, so there were unmarried women who were chosen to serve the shrine.

Grief permeates her poems. How despairing it is to go by a strict set of rules imposed on every aspect of life, be enforced to stay unmarried and shelve life opportunities, and be left with no alternative but to forsake the world and let her life rot away. It is believed that she had a persistent longing for Fujiwara no Teika, who edited “The Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets” and Honen, who created Jodo Buddhist sect and taught people the importance of faith in Amida Buddha over ascetic practices. But her love was unfulfilled and had nowhere to turn.


The main purpose of this series is to illustrate the significance and value of whatever “in the attempt”. The interest centers mainly on being unable to achieve or choosing not to achieve. We are still inspired by a composite of a state of helplessness, what is believed to be worthless, whatever beyond the bliss of attainment and accomplishment and an irrestible longing for worldly fruits of living. Despite our frantic worship of taking the initiative and speaking up, the fact that a voice is unheard doesn’t mean that the voice doesn’t exist in this world. Her words that she wrung out and put into poems seem to prove this point.


Astray and Izumi Shikibu: In The Attempt


Izumi Shikibu(978?-?) is one of the greatest woman poet in Japanese history. She was the contemporary of Murasaki Shikibu, who is best known for her 54-chapter epic novel, the Tale of Genji. Her waka is characterized by overwhelming sentimental tone in view of the time she lived. She went through a lot of relationship issues, like those described in fairy tales or films, such as romance crossing over differences of social rank and subsequent scandal, and another with her ex’s brother and sudden painful losses of loved ones. But whether having knowledge of her background or not, we all find her songs and herself endearing through her works.

She is well-known for her sequence of affairs at the court. She got married at the age around 18 or 19 to Tachibana no Michisada, who soon became governor of Izumi. While in her marriage, she was in love with Emperor’s son, Prince Tametaka, who died young in the middle of their relationship. After her divorce, she was then courted by Tametaka’s brother, Prince Atsumichi, who also died a few years later. The first ten months of this affair are described in her semi-autobiography, a composite of prose and poetry, Diary of Izumi Shikibu. After having started serving at the court, she married to Fujiwara no Yasumasa, an acclaimed governor, who was about 20 years older than her. It is at this point that she wrote the following waka with the prefatory note saying, “When my lover started getting distant, detached and coming over less often, I visited Kibune and saw fireflies flitting here and there over the creek.”


mono omoheba sawano hotarumo wagamiyori akugare ni keru tamatozo miru

O Fireflies flashing over the stream
I thought of you as my soul straying out of my body
While heartbroken, lost in thoughts


And this is something more than a lovesick song. The first question to be discussed is “soul leaving your body”. It was believed that the soul is capsulated in the body but it flushes out of the body at times of deep and pensive thought. That is called “Akugaru (leaving and yearning)”. How can these stray souls make out the right path then? She had the answer in another waka.


kuraki yori kuraki michini irinubeki harukani terase yamanohano tsuki

We are to walk in darkness
Towards the realm of craving and cluelessness
O the moon peeking over the hills in the distance
Let your heavenly light shine before us

煩悩の暗い道から また暗い道へと入って行ってしまうのだろう
山の端で光る月よ この道を照らしてください

It is believed that she composed this waka in her early 20’s. It sounds like she was anticipating suffering in her later life, where her soul burned with the pain of unassuaged longing. The moonlight symbolizes the Buddhism truth that reorients people from spiritual defilement towards liberation. Those she loved were gone in the middle of romantic relationships. All her longing was on hold and adrift in darkness just as fireflies flitting about. She knew that she had to do something to get back on the right track; but, as the same time, she knew that there was nothing to be done about it. All she had to was look upon the moon and make a prayer.


Another point to be made here is about her second husband, Yasumasa. Some critics argue that Izumi Shikibu didn’t have a happy marriage with him. She composed the song of fireflies when he didn’t frequent her place. Let’s think about their state of love in his shoes. He knew that she was madly in love with brothers of noble family consecutively, which was a huge scandal at the court, and he also sensed that her love and longing were still directed towards those two old lovers, not him. He was great at business, but deep down he would probably feel confused, try to distance himself, pull back. So he was seemingly less interested in their own relationship. This obviously makes for a good amount of angst on both parties. Probably both needed to deal with their own feelings in a way the other just don’t understand. This sounds a universal relationship issue, but that state of uncertainty and hesitancy is the very arena where people care about each other and try to step into vulnerability and possibility beyond.


What makes her poems so attractive is that her life can be seen as a composite of sense and sensitivity, faith and fear, bravery and fragility. Stepping forward while knowing you never get back on the right track, awkwardly reaching out a hand to grab hold of truth, shuttling between two different attitudes towards life, consuming time caring about someone. All that we do in longing, caring are in the attempt.



Incompleteness: In The Attempt


Many songs and literary works have been made in any corners on the planet in history by human longing for home. Home is not just tangible but more psychological and the notion of home is conceivably tied to reminiscences, the act of reaching out, and a restless feeling of incompleteness. We’re going to figure out how to describe these attempts by examining their value and meaning.

Home often takes shape with nostalgia or on being away from it, associated with homeland. Home doesn’t necessarily refer to a physical environment but to feeling anchored and feeling right within your own skin and mind. Home is not a certain existence as people come and go. It is some space for you to fit in in this world where something is always missing. Home can be remembered in relationship to others and can be found in the vision and the process to achieve it. As our existence is constantly exposed to uncertainty, home emerges in the loneliness and in the attempt.


Pilgrimage in Japan is centered on its process and experiences and thoughts you get along the way rather than its goals. You put yourself in the balance between comfortable, pleasant memories and expectations of achievement.


Some points in our life, we all get stuck in the middle of this state of incompleteness between having left something behind and having yet to do. Quitting your job, breakups. It is, however, these experiences that make a big difference in your life. When learning something new, you get excited about broadening your horizons but, at the same time, you feel desperate about your goals in a good distance. In relationship with others, we often get bogged down. We feel hopeless when our love, thoughts or care are all like a question without an answer. However, there are still hope and significance in the attempt at understanding between human beings in a narrow sense and between cultures broadly.


Significance of the attempt lies in the state of this dear “incompleteness” of ours, where both the past and the future are in sight rather than focusing just on this moment or on things withing your arm length. It’s like a jump up into the air. With your feet off the ground and your hands holding nothing. Does it sound too romantic? We’re going to look at examples illustrating this in the next posts.