Monday, January 4, 2016



Cecile Pineda will be talking about Apology to a Whale: Words to Mend a World and signing books during the month of January:

January 17: Silk Road House, 1944 University Avenue between MLK Jr. Way & Milvia in Berkeley Sunday, January 17 from 1 to 3 PM. The event is wheelchair accessible, but space is limited. Please call first to reserve your place at (510) 981-0700.

January 23: San Francisco Mime Troupe, 855 Treat Avenue at 22nd Street on San Francisco, Saturday, January 23 at 2:30 PM. Space is limited. Please call first to reserve your place (415) 285-1717.

January 24: Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, Cedar at Bonita Streets, Sunday, January 24 at 7 PM. The evening is a fund raiser for the Drone 4 whistleblowers. The event is wheelchair accessible. For information call (510) 841-4824.

Copies of Apology to a Whale may be ordered at Wings Press.


It’s a new year. No guarantees the planet has better news in store. Certainties that the Pentagon won’t provide much in the way of good cheer, neither to peace-loving Americans (no that’s not an oxymoron), nor to people worldwide, and certainly not to people of color. 

Could a short visit to another language offer some new ways of thinking? The linguist, Benjamin Whorf. observed that compared to Hopi, English has all the subtlety of a bludgeon. Ever since my Apology to a Whale project got me hooked, I’ve been looking more deeply into how the force of language shapes a culture, and how it affects Being in the World.

A visit to a few heavy lifting Japanese expressions might lend New Year resolutions some weightier meaning. The 11 words that follow may suggest new relationships to nature; to appreciation for others and for all things good; to recognition of beauty and transcendence from the smallest bowl to the great wheel of sky we call the universe; and to entering the realm of acceptance in life. They evoke vast complexes of meaning. English has no words for them. Here they are:


Forest-grazing is the clumsy English usage for what the Japanese refer to simply and elegantly as shinrinyoku. It describes that need for the wilderness in which to find peace, and the stillness that comes of experiencing deep silence.

The Japanese use komorebi to refer to sunlight filtering through the leaves.

Kogarashi is the name for the chill wind that announces winter coming. Unlike the classic name Boreas, the Japanese name the winds according to their gifts.


Kintsukuroi  refers to the art of repairing broken ceramics using silver or gold to join the shards, but encompasses awareness that the object becomes even more exquisite for having been broken.

The Japanese lend mutability its correct poignancy. Monoaware literally means the pathos of things, not just their impermanence, but the soft sadness that lingers at their passing.

Beyond words has its Japanese expression. Yuugen evokes awe and mystery beyond words of the universe itself.


Shoganai in Japanese literally means “it can’t be helped,” but far from evoking discouragement or despair, it acknowledges the need to accept things beyond human control and suggests the freedom from guilt, and regret that allows moving on.

Wabi-sabi  pinpoints a whole way of living that uncovers beauty in life’s imperfections, and leads to a path of acceptance for the natural cycle of life from its beginning to final decay.


Before a meal, the Japanese say itadakmasu!  Although its literal meaning is I will have this! it acknowledges the person who prepared the food, the person who served the food; and it includes appreciation for nature and for life itself. (It also includes everything else related to eating, maybe even thumb sucking.)

The Japanese themselves acknowledge heavy lifters by saying “you are tired.”  But otsukaresama embraces lots more feeling.  It recognizes the hard work that led to  that tiredness, and it expresses thankfulness for the work itself.

I am indebted to Marie Sugio who must be tired after offering such poignant insights into Living Well 

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