Delving into the Intangibles


Although my desire to head off to Ueno Zoo is like a child’s, at my age I hesitate to go. I’m talking about the Panda Exhibit, of course. Why are pandas so popular? Large, fluffy white body; black fur surrounding the eyes; ponderous walking motion, the opposite of Mickey Mouse; tipping over, sitting on its buttocks and eating hard bamboo with both hands: all adds up to an irresistibly cute wild animal.

Who could imagine, judging from that bulky body, a newborn baby panda weighs only around 150 grams? I learned that pandas get 99% of their nourishment just from bamboo. To learn more, I’d be prepared to sit in the front row of any seminar that Ueno Zoo is prepared to offer in the future.

‘Who cares?’ the silent panda seems to say, deep down, to the crowds of people watching from every angle. The intangible power of nature attracts us. The animal’s instinctive innocence, its guileless behavior, makes us envious: we who cannot live simply by evaluating tangible things on the surface. I am dreaming an impossible dream in which I can be like a panda possessing such intangible power.

Are pandas used as tools for human diplomacy? I heard the ones in Japan are leased from China. I’d like to check with a lawyer or someone expert in such transactions, if they exist. Some say it’s better to return pandas to their birth place to ensure the survival of the species. A pair of pandas apparently rents for 78 million yen a year. The economic benefit to the renter is said to be 20 billion yen. Pandas don’t complain about being fed on nothing but bamboo and Sasa kurilensis. Oh, how adorable they are!

Someone said that a panda has a rather ferocious face, if you disregard the black ring of fur around the eyes. But how can he say that for sure? Perhaps he’s a computer graphics geek or something. I want to earn 20 billion yen just by painting black circles around my eyes, lazily lying on the ground, and, of course, eating Sasa leaves as my staple food.

Many “How to Feel Stress-Free” type of books have been published recently. But reading them doesn’t guarantee a result. So when I am feeling down, I prefer to think of the panda, a creature of absolute innocence, and fancy that it might be an animal that has perfected Laozi's philosophy.

Pandas from the mountains of Sichuan Province, China, seem to me to be an infinite source of spirituality. So, recently, I find myself more and more attracted to the thoughts of Taoism, which originated in the homeland of the panda. The deep, generous state of mind suggested by the natural appearance of the panda, complete unto itself, with no need to add or subtract anything, has lately become my role model.

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