Thursday, March 5, 2009


I don't know if you happened to see or read about this years Academy Awards ceremomy. If you did you might not remember what picture won for Best Foreign film. If this is the case then you need to know about it.

The film is called "Departures" and it is about a failed Japanese businessman and sometime writer who, through unexpected circumstances, finds himself working as a mortician. Although I have not seen the movie yet, I have a connection to it as I have read the book on which it was based. The book is called "Coffinman" and it was written by Shimon Aoki. I read the book a few years back when it was an assigned reading of the Northampton Shin Buddhist Sangha, led by Taitetsu Unno, who also wrote the introduction to the book.

The book is a fascinating study of life and death as seen through a Japanese Buddhist lens. Toward the beginning of the book there is line which stood out. Early in his new career the author has been called to retrieve a body that has been uattended for some time. As he approaches he sees that it is infested with maggots. After initially being repulsed, he has a sort of spiritual awakening and he then confesses: "Maggots are life, too. When I thought that, I could see the maggots shining".

Wow. I have seen maggots too. My thoughts were not about their nature as shining lifeforms. But I guess that's the whole point. Pretty and ugly are our own judgements. Life itself doesn't seem to care about it. Life is unstoppable. Our end is another beginning. Even if only for maggots.

Now I must say I believe we have a much finer ultimate destination than being food for insects. But I also like the idea of someday being myself "food for life". I mean haven't I relied on "life" for my food all these years? Why shouldn't I give back a little?

So sharpen your teeth maggots! I hope to see you for lunch in about 50 years.

And I can't wait to see this film!


jasy said...

Hi, thanks for the review about the book. I have yet to read the book but i have watched the movie. It is a simple movie which depicts the pain, the emotions and reconciliation of those left behind by the deceased. Under the simplicity of the movie, you will see the layers of emotions portrayed in the movie. Do not just see it as a portrayal of Japanese culture, it will undermine the content of the movie. This movie, in my humble opinion transcend cultures and religions. A movie that one can re-watch at different point of time in life and identify the various experiences portrayed in it.Hope you enjoy the movie.

JacobFeldman said...

But wait, there's more...There is no end and there is no beginning. There only IS. You are the maggot as much as the maggot is yourself. I look forward to the movie.....and the book.

The cranky lady said...

Wow- quite a concept-although I'm having a bit of difficulty with the maggot thing-I'm sure it will make for some interesting work discussions;-) Do maggots have teeth Mike?
When I am done reading only what they make me read, for the summer I think I want to read the book-and see the movie.