The Art of Understated Perfection (2 of 2)
August 2-8 Edition
The Art of
It was soon clear that Nicholai's talent in playing Gō is far superior than anyone ever imagined.
Then one day, Otake-san discovered that his star pupil had another incredible gift denied to most.
Nicholai would go in deep meditation and return with his mind refreshed. His mystical transport takes him to a place where time does not exist.
"I don't leave. I am where my body is, as well as everywhere else," he struggles to explain. "I don’t become one with everything. I return to being one with everything."
The bond between Nicholai and Kishikawa reminds me of my foster father. Like Nicholai, I, too, am an orphan with a disdain for the superficial, a need for solitude and an unfathomably deep streak of independence. Now, nearly three years after he died, I cannot think of him without the "sweet melancholy" like one feels in a Zen garden.
That sense of enlightened sadness "characterizes the beautiful in the Japanese mind."
Kishikawa was captured when the Russians attacked Manchuria. All his attempts to achieve an honorable death were thwarted. He is set to be tried as a war criminal. Nicholai was allowed to visit him in Sugamo Prison. They played Gō, talking in terms of the game, both knowing what is not being spoken.
"I see nothing else for your honor," said Nicholai, "or mine." He touched the General's arm. "Foster-father, the game will end in two minutes. Permit me to guide you."
In Kishikawa's face ran tears of gratitude.
"I act without permission. sir," said Nicholai. "I have decided to perform a loving disobedience. I do not even seek your forgiveness."
Kishikaw smiled behind the tears. "Guide me, then."
Day of Memory
I shall never forget the time when Nicholai and Kishikawa were in Niigata, walking along the banks of the Kajikawa.
"We have enjoyed the best three days of the cherry blossoms," said the General has said. "The day of promise, when they are not yet perfect. The perfect day of enchantment. And today they are past their prime. So this is the day of memory. The saddest day, but also the richest."
Kishikawa had told the boy that he had been transferred to Manchuria, intending to commit seppuku if they suffer defeat.
"Do I have your understanding, Nikko?" he asked. "And your permission to leave you?"
Nichoilai was gazing at the intently at the river as he controlled his emotions.
"Your guidance, your affection, will always be with me," he said. "In that way, you can never leave me."