Not a Travelogue, Only a Mission Statement

The bamboo grove in Arashiyama, near Kyoto
The bamboo grove in Arashiyama, near Kyoto

I woke up a little past midnight this morning. Since arriving from Japan a few days ago, the time difference hasn’t been kind on my working habits. I’ve woken up at 3 or 4 AM, read blogs and written, and showered before dawn has even started.

I’ve thought about how to write a post-trip update. I don’t care for travelogues; my friends write them often after their own vacations, but it’s too dry a format for me. I prefer impressions, but too much happened in two weeks to summarize nicely.

I’ve had some frustrations since my return. Besides my flip-flopped sleeping habits, the weather here is much warmer and more humid, the land flatter, the buildings shorter, the people inhospitable impolite. Getting around is comparatively more difficult. On the other hand, understanding what everyone says, and being able to read every street sign or piece of literature, is some compensation.

No, I won’t be writing a 4,000-word travelogue, or a week-long series of essays about things I learned on the trip (although I considered that!). Instead, here’s one thing I decided, with what I encountered or learned that led me to this.


The Tao of the Dark Crystal, Part 2

What was sundered and undone
Shall be whole, the two made one. . .

Aughra, The Dark Crystal

Still from

December 1982.  Jim Henson, Brian Froud and the rest of those at Jim Henson Productions hoped that the premiere of The Dark Crystal would bring high fantasy films into the popular spotlight and prove to be a success.  It was, but only a modest one, eclipsed by a children’s film that no one in Hollywood had paid attention to: Steven Spielberg’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.

But despite E.T. and other films making 1982 a remarkably crowded summer for blockbuster movies, The Dark Crystal did modestly well, earning $40 million on its $15 million budget. The Dark Crystal is notable that it wasn’t based on an existing property (an aspect it shares with E.T.).  Henson and Froud developed the world and the story of the film from scratch; it had a piece of Henson’s heart at its core.  Henson was deeply spiritual — raised a Christian Scientist, was later influenced by Eastern religion — and the film reflects his beliefs.


The Tao of the Dark Crystal, Part 1

The world knows beauty as beauty,
So there is then ugliness.
The world knows good as good,
So there is then the bad.

Tao Te Ching, trans. A. S. Kline

I first saw The Dark Crystal when I was three on HBO.  I remember being mesmerized and frightened in equal amounts, although I had little idea of what was happening.  I remembered a young elfin boy wandering through a dangerous, mystical world, pursued by black crab-like monsters.  The film left such an impression that I rediscovered it at a Wal-Mart twelve years later in the discount bin, having never seen it since my first viewing.  The fright and the amazement returned, and with it a great deal of appreciation for the thought and passion put into its inception.  This was the film that ignited my love of fantasy, put me on the road to writing fiction in my spare time, and led me to explore alternative religious traditions.

And it wouldn’t have existed without the creator of the Muppets.