Many lives are lived at the ever-shifting confrontation between objective reality and natural inclination - the conflict between our given circumstances and our inborn qualities. It is that tension between the perceived limits of our particular situation and the urgings of our personal needs and imagination that defines us as intelligent, energetic human beings.
Some of us live in a continuing state of transition, or compromise, between what seems possible or prudent and what is desired. While wishing for the peace of constancy, the lure of another sky pulls us onward. Sometimes we sacrifice that which we cherish to satisfy the urgent desire for change.
Most though shrink from such moral ambivalence and prefer a clear choice: do we defend and reinforce the social environment we know and trust, ignoring inner stirrings, or do we strive to achieve our full personal potential, even at the cost of upsetting existing structures? Are we conservative or are we progressive?
In my own life I have found it impossible to declare myself for either camp. While respecting tradition and often seeking harmony, there have also been moments when I left the familiar path for the open road.
One such moment occurred in 1974 when at age 42, after living and working in Japan for 24 years and growing deeply attached to the country, I decided after much soul-searching to leave both Japan and banking and start a new life in England as a writer. It was hardly a decision of world-shaking import, but as I had come to see Japan as the embodiment of the epic struggle between deep-rooted tradition and 'breaking the mould', I was persuaded that this young man's tale might well have some significance beyond the merely anecdotal. The result was a book, published in 2005: The Magatama Doodle, One Man's Affair with Japan, 1950-2004. (Click <here for details).
If I had to sum up my personal philosophy of life in a few sentences, it would run something like this:
1. We are on our own. There is no cogent God to guide or judge us. The deities we worship are human creations. But even if it is not 'God-given', man's spirituality is as undeniable as his corporeality. Therefore we owe respect to those who need organized religion as long as they respect others' need to be different.
2. Prejudice against the unknown, though often understandable, must be resisted, both out of humanity and for our own enrichment. A degree of pluralism - within the necessary and unavoidable constraints of, and respect for, a given national reality - enhances the quality of a community's life, and must be protected, encouraged, and handled responsibly by all concerned.
3. Shaping our lives in keeping with our talents and inclinations is a first duty and the primary key to personal fulfilment - greater than financial success or blind loyalty. But - genius permitting - this quest must be tempered by reasonable attention to family and social responsibilities.
4. Life's energy and meaning is to be found neither in total repose nor in aimless restlessness but in what I call a Moving Equilibrium: the never-ending quest for the apparently unattainable balance between movement and inner stability, between the dynamic and the static.
The first tenet is explored in a long poem, A Fool's Confession. The second is the subject of my whimsical song, The Ballad of Hope Hill, which has been set to music and performed in Holland. Both will be available in book form.
The other two may be the subject of separate essays to be posted here in the future.
H2H Publishers is a private imprint of Hans Brinckmann mainly to publish mainly his own works of fiction, poetry and non-fiction in English, Dutch and/or Japanese. His associate is Hiromi Mizoguchi.
No manuscripts should be submitted without contacting us first.
'Showa Japan: The Post-War Golden Age and its Troubled Legacy'(Tuttle, September 2008) explores the post-1950 part of the Showa era, Emperor Hirohito’s long reign, which ended in 1989 with his death. That was also the end of Japan’s spectacular economic bubble. The book examines the impact of this era – now a beacon for nostalgia – and its aftermath on every aspect of Japanese society. Featuring period and present-day photographs and a wealth of factual information and personal reflection, this book is a portrait of a Japan that once was, as well as a blueprint of one that might be, if lessons provided by a rocky past are well learned. For further information and how to order, click here.
'Noon Elusive and other stories' (H2H ©©2006 - IBSN 1-4120-5555-5) is a collection of 7 short stories. An American architect in Paris, a Balkan parachutist, a Dutch diplomat in Japan, a New York heart surgeon, an English undertaker - the characters are as colourful as they are diverse. What they have in common is that they are all in the throes of personal crisis - mild and manageable, or severe and harrowing. Consciously or not, they are all in search of the high noon of life.
'The Magatama Doodle, One Man's Affair with Japan, 1950-2004' (Global Oriental, 2005 - IBSN 1-901903-73-7). Part personal memoir, part professional flashback, part socio-cultural commentary, this is a chronicle of Brinckmann's experiences during his twenty-four years (1950-1974) of living in Japan as a 'reluctant banker'. With an epilogue in which the author touches on some of the changes that have taken place in Japanese society since the mid-Seventies.
These books can also be ordered from Amazon.com.
After reaching the position of area executive, I left banking and retired to Buckinghamshire in 1974, to write and to continue my Japanese studies. Economic necessity forced me to return to banking two years later. I worked in Curaçao, Amsterdam and New York, where, incredibly, I chaired the Institute of Foreign Bankers and a foundation active in Dutch-American cultural exchange. In 1986 Queen Beatrix saw fit to make me an Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau for ‘cultural and professional achievement’, notably in Japan and the US. In 1988, aged 56, I quit banking for good and since then I have been writing fiction, non-fiction and poetry and contributed intermittently to the Op-Ed pages of Dutch newspapers, often on Japan-related topics. I live, with my wife, in Tokyo and London.