Collected translations of Maaya Sakamoto news, essays, interviews, and articles


IDS! Newsletter #21
IDS! Newsletter #21

Essay #15: Groups

Theme from Comet, member #06133

Whether seeing a movie or going shopping, I like being alone.

The reason I’m not much for group activities comes from my feelings of not wanting to disrupt my own pace. When I say this, I tend to hear from others comments of “How strong of you” or “How stoic of you.” But in all honesty, I think at the heart of the matter, the most fundamental reason is “because it’s easier.” While I can’t say for certain that taking the easy way is in all cases bad, there are countless things you cannot gain unless you take the hard way.

I feel that sharing time with others is something that tends to use up a lot of energy. Without realizing it you put tremendous thought into how you act, decipher the emotions behind the words based on the other person’s eyes or voice, express your feelings while tailoring them to a multitude of situations, whether you are talking to someone above you, someone you have just met, someone you don’t get along with, or someone you love…and on and on. When you try to seriously interact with someone, I feel a large degree of strength is actually necessary for it.

In places where many people gather, the sense of the multitude of feelings from that multitude of people swirling together becomes even stronger. For every person of the type who feels drained of energy and tired from being in the midst of that, I imagine there are also some who actually absorb it and become even more animated, and I am clearly the former. It’s certainly not as if I hate people; just that I’m awkward, or to put it better, not skilled in dealing with others.

Yet when sharing a refreshing round of drinks at a wrap-up party after finishing off a project on which I was fortunate to work with good friends, or when I drop in on a gathering of friends whose personalities mesh well with mine and exchange smiles and laughter with them, even someone like me cannot deny that I honestly think of how wonderful it is to have friends. This sense of community, of accomplishment which I could not have tasted were I all alone: this is a wonderful spice of life.

For example, as I write this text I am in the midst of the performances of the musical “Les Misérables” in Nagoya, which is another “group activity”. And not only the actors, but the staff are included as well, giving quite a large number of people. Since the first time I played a role in this production was in 2003, this year marks my seventh as Éponine. For me, with my personality, to have appeared for this long in the team competition that is a musical is something that even I find a little surprising and novel.

But there are not words enough for me to tell of the host of things I have learned from this musical. In my first year, my mind was crammed with thoughts of the importance of the role I had been given and the solo number I had to sing. I have a feeling that the only things that showed through were my thoughts of I have to get it together, I have to try harder. Yet as I added to my number of appearances, I realized that the area of my thoughts devoted to “me” had been eclipsed by the area devoted to “us” or “the production as a whole”. The fact that the roles are multi-cast and change daily is also a source of inspiration. Depending on the actor playing Marius opposite me—this one is the big brother type of Marius; this one is the naïve Marius; this one is the passionate Marius—a slightly different mood comes across. And when that happens, my interpretation of Éponine naturally changes to match each one. I discover the kind of direction to my acting that I could not have even imagined if I were picturing it in my mind alone, and as I read my partner’s every breath I can enjoy the unique chemical reaction created on that day and moment. There I find a new side of me in an encounter brought by the presence of another.

The reason being alone is easier is that no one interferes with you. There is no need to change your pace to match others’, no need to wear a fake smile or put up a facade. But in the course of interacting with someone, there is without doubt an unknown world you can know only by having passed through the repetitions of such tedious tasks as the occasional disagreement, worry, and exchange of feelings.

Comet, who chose this theme, also has trouble working in large groups, and suggested this word together with a message telling how in groups that come together naturally there always seems to be someone she doesn’t get along with and how this leaves her somewhat weary. If I could offer something from my 29 years this spring, which puts me into the range of being Comet’s older sister, it would definitely be “That’s where you’ll find meaning.” There is no such thing as a world where everyone has the same values as you. For people of varying personalities and varying perspectives to gather in the smallest of organizations, the tiniest of neighborhoods, or even a single family is an ordinary sight in our society. And I believe that those people who you feel don’t quite fit with you are the very ones who can become a sort of mirror to reflect your own self. If you shut out everyone who differs from you, those connections are cut, and I doubt you would develop any further. But if you carefully examine where and how you differ, it will be a good chance to gain a renewed understanding, both of the other as a matter of course, and of yourself as well.

And while it would be superb if you could reach a mutual understanding, even supposing things do not go all that well, if you can feel at peace with the idea that this Earth is made up of many different people leading their lives atop the same planet, you may find yourself filled with more and more feelings of generosity as you learn to enjoy yourself in the midst of a group.

I too have my heart set on learning to think this way.