On remembrance: atomic bombings and 1,000 paper cranes. (+ Atomic Blonde.)

I know that this title seems all over the place. It’s just that today is August 8, 2017.

Two days ago, it was the 72nd anniversary of the United States’ atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Tomorrow will be the 72nd anniversary of our atomic bombing of Nagasaki. These, as we know, were the first and last nuclear attacks in wartime history.

We’re familiar with the official justification for the attacks: Japan had to be stopped before more lives were lost, American, Japanese, and otherwise. The bombs were dropped, Japan surrendered, and WWII ended.

While debate continues as to the ethics of the atomic bombings, there’s another, less-familiar controversy regarding a possible “hidden agenda” behind the decision to launch the nuclear attacks on Japan. Some historians believe that the bombs were actually dropped in order to intimidate the Soviet Union (thus beginning the Cold War), and that Japan didn’t surrender because of the bombs, themselves; rather, they surrendered because of the post-August 6 Soviet invasion.

This theory has always fascinated me. (War fascinates me, in general, but that’s a topic for another day, perhaps.)

Reflecting on atomic bombs and the Soviets and the Cold War, then, I found it funny that the espionage action film Atomic Blonde, whose plot centers on Soviets and the Cold War (the film’s title quite possibly a nod to the atomic bomb “hidden agenda” theory), dropped in U.S. theaters the weekend before the atomic bomb anniversary weekend.

Even more interesting to me, personally, Atomic Blonde’s release date landed pretty much on the anniversary of the Atomic Bomb memorial service I’d attended at my hometown Buddhist temple 20 years ago. The film’s release date was July 28, 2017, and the memorial service date was July 27, 1997.

Yet another happenstance: I went to see Atomic Blonde the weekend following its release weekend. By sheer coincidence, I saw Atomic Blonde on Sunday, August 6… the 72nd anniversary of the first atomic bomb attack.

Then there’s the fact that nuclear weapons dominate our global concerns these days. We’re looking at atomic bomb anniversaries, atomic bombs in the news, and Atomic Blonde in the theaters.

All of this has had me thinking of Sadako Sasaki and her 1,000 paper cranes.

Sadako was two years old when the first atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, where she lived. 10 years later, she developed leukemia as a result of radiation from the bomb. She started folding paper cranes with an aim to create 1,000 of them, wishing for recovery and for peace in the world. In Japan, it’s said that folding 1,000 paper cranes can make your wish come true.

Sadako remained in the hospital for 14 months, then passed away at the age of 12. One account of her story says that she surpassed her goal of folding 1,000 paper cranes. Another account says that she did not, but her friends and family completed the project for her. Regardless, no superstition was going to undo the devastation of the atomic bomb. Since Sadako’s death, the paper crane has become a universal symbol of world peace as well as a symbol of good luck and longevity.

As explained on the origami resource center’s page,

Sadako’s friends and classmates raised money to build a memorial in honor of Sadako and other atomic bomb victims. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial was completed in 1958 and has a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane. At the base is a plaque that says:

          This is our cry.
         This is our prayer.
         Peace in the world.

 

****

About six months ago, I found my Atomic Bomb memorial service program as I went through some old papers. I’d forgotten that I kept it. I took this pic to share it with you (sizing it large enough to be readable when clicked):

 

Atomic bomb memorial service program, pic taken on Sunday, August 6, 2017 – the 72nd anniversary of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima, Japan

 

After I found the program, I put it in this old frame. It sits near my butsudan, where I can see it every day as a reminder and a visual point of meditation on peace in the world.

By the way – to end this on a lighter note – I really enjoyed Atomic Blonde.

My Double Phobia Dilemma

Good morning, and welcome to Embarrassing Confessions Tuesday on my blog. (Looking through some recent posts, I noticed that such topics are starting to become de rigueur here.)

Snippet of a mock interview:

Interviewer: You went to war, and you were ambushed. Would you say that was the bravest thing you ever did?

Me: No. The bravest thing I ever did was watch Wall-E.

I have two phobias: claustrophobia and roach phobia. Guess which one is more debilitating?

I’m petrified of roaches. I can’t even look at a picture of one without having a physical reaction. When I started writing this, I thought about checking online for an officially recognized medical term for roach phobia, but I couldn’t because I was afraid that the search would pull up roach images, and my eyes do not need to be assaulted by roach images popping up all over my screen. That’s why I’m going to continue calling it “roach phobia,” and that’s also why I took a picture of Ramsey for this post:

 

Ramsey, the unroachiest thing I could find to photograph for this post.

Ramsey, the unroachiest thing I could find to photograph for this post.

 

Scorpions, snakes, spiders, bees and other flying, stinging critters? They don’t bother me. No fear. Tall, rough-looking transient guy wanders off the street past the inattentive front desk person and waltzes into the women’s locker room at the gym? I’m on my feet, furious, in his face, ordering him out. No fear. A sewer roach? Sends me screaming into the hills. Sheer, unadulterated terror.

Dead roaches freak me out almost as much as live ones. The sight of an upside-down roach carcass makes me cringe, hyperventilate and feel phantom sensations of little roach feet skittering up my ankles.

Let’s touch on my other phobia for a second. Since I started working at my job, I’ve more or less conquered my fear of elevators (a sub-phobia of my claustrophobia), because the elevator is the only way up to my department. Once you’re up there, you can use any of several hidden staircases to descend… but going up, the elevator’s your only ticket.

I’m happy to report that I’m now able to ride an elevator without clinging like a fool to other people in there with me (I have been known to fasten myself to strangers in elevators, barnacle-like), but I wouldn’t say that I’m comfortable in elevators. They still make me nervous, and I still don’t trust them.  Throw in the fact that I enjoy the exercise provided by stairs, and obviously, I prefer taking the stairs whenever possible.

My point, you ask?

For several weeks, I’d been in the habit of exiting my office building using the hidden stairs… until last week, when I noticed, in the stairwell, on the floor right in front of the door going out to the street, a rather large, dead roach. On its back. Legs in the air. A roach carcass so old, it’s turning pale (maybe from dust) and somewhat blurry around the edges. Let me repeat: In the stairwell. In front of the door. The door that you have to go through in order to exit.

So NOW, every day when it’s time to leave work, I ask myself:

Elevator or dead roach?

And I have to decide. There’s no other way out of the building. Do I take the elevator down every day, increasing my chances of getting stuck? Or do I step over a large dead roach every day (which necessitates looking at it, which is excruciating) as I exit the stairwell? And is it just me with these kinds of ridiculous dilemmas?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all about self-improvement. While I’ve made tremendous progress with my elevator phobia, the farthest I’d gotten with my fear of roaches was watching Wall-E,  and I was proud of it… hella proud of myself, in fact, for getting on top of my visceral reaction to the, um, casting of that movie. It doesn’t matter that it was animation and the roach was widely considered to be “cute.” A roach is a roach, and there’s no such thing as a cute roach. When the roach appeared, obviously a main character who would endure the entire film, I resolved to sit there and watch the entire movie, anyway. Not only did I manage that, but I even ended up finding it brilliant and actually really enjoying it! This was truly a measure of progress for me, I’ll have you know.

After I noticed the dead roach in the stairwell at work, I continued taking the stairs down for the next few days, but I soon decided that the elevator was the lesser of two evils. If something happens and I get trapped in the elevator, chances are high that I’d be rescued in good time. But looking at a roach every day so I can step over it? No, thank you.

Now, the absolute worst thing that could happen would be getting trapped in the elevator with a roach.

Excuse me while I go find some wood to knock.