As humans, we’re beset by the most obscure emotions that, more often than not, we don’t quite feel. This inability, this weird sense of inadequacy, may be unconsciously deliberate, but perhaps that’s the way we’re tuned.
We don’t fully feel the damage; yet we move on to fix it – managing rejection with anger, loneliness with distraction, pain with pretension, night with day.
So where else would these abruptly shut-out emotions find respite if it were not for Haruki Murakami’s fictional, yet seemingly very real, world? Where else would we go with our incomplete desires and imperfect fears if it were not for the circumstances, both real and fanciful, conjured by one of the greatest and the most inspiring living storytellers of our times?
Murakami turns 67 today, and the least we can do as lovers of his books is to allow ourselves to be inspired. Not by him, but by our own lives, the way he does. By learning to introspect and nudge the self for answers, for the answer to every question is within us.
And if you’re unable to find the answer, it only means you’re asking the wrong question.
It’s not about turning into Murakami, for he’d never want that. And it’s not about becoming a better person either. Better is mediocre, stuck between the good and the best.
But then, mediocre is also what makes most sense at times. Mediocre is what we attempt to peel off, mediocre is what we try to disassociate ourselves from, and yet mediocre is what Murakami’s works celebrate. The element of extraordinary in the ordinary seems real because he makes it seem so – the whims and absurdities, aliens and afterlife, the relevance of the irrelevant, all of it.
Why, then, waste time swearing by the unfailing need to be statistically normal, to be accepted, to be certified sane? To err is apparently human, though we dare not err. But with Murakami, to err is natural. What’s upside down seems right.
He will speak of the night as if the night were his friend, and make you feel hopeful about darkness. He will help you know what you’re seeking, and guide you to be comfortable in solitude. He will reinstate the confidence you may have lost by making you understand the necessity of failure.
But Murakami isn’t a teacher. Nor is he a preacher. And to a reader, his brilliance has nothing to do with how many copies of his books sell worldwide, or how many languages his works are being translated into, or whether he wins the Nobel Prize or not.
His achievements and goals are personal.
In his 2008 memoir What I Talk about When I Talk about Running, Murakami explains in detail his obsession with this physical activity, with setting the bar high for himself every time he runs a marathon. One can say that he’s incredibly self-absorbed.
But the irony is that not once does he encourage you to run. There is not a single sentence where he lectures you on the benefits of running. He simply puts forth what running did for him, as a person and as a writer, and that is inspiring enough.
Inspiration, you see, doesn’t need stirring; it is best when it is not recommended.