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THINK

Unconscious and Incidental

2024.01.04

I am currently working as an Associate Producer at the Matsumoto City Museum in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture. I frequently travel to Matsumoto for work. Since I have a lot of luggage, I always drive there, but it’s quite a tiring journey, averaging a three-hour drive one way.

However, that time spent driving is like a treasure trove…

About an hour into the drive, my body starts to adapt, and my actions related to driving become almost unconscious. It’s not a complete unconscious state, but rather an expression that comes close to the idea that my brain functions continue without being noticed, free from any concerns.

Feeling the information from the road surface, observing traffic signs, checking the situation behind, making predictions, deciding whether to overtake or synchronize with the surroundings—these are decisions made repeatedly, consciously or unconsciously. Many drivers find themselves performing these numerous actions unconsciously, seamlessly.

In the presence of a passenger in the front seat, drivers engage in conversations while effortlessly executing these unconscious responses. Even when driving alone, individuals may find themselves generating design ideas or observing the designs of other vehicles, all while seamlessly handling these unconscious reactions.

Somehow, I can’t help but feel amazed by humans.

In the first place, unconscious reactions in humans are abundant in daily life. For instance, the act of chewing only food during meals and avoiding biting the tongue seems like quite an incredible feat. (Though, I do occasionally bite it, haha.) While pulling the tongue back after biting and feeling the pain is a “conditioned reflex,” continuously avoiding biting and managing the alignment of teeth without consciously chewing might be considered an unconscious reaction.

I have written about the unconscious in a reactive way. There are many instances where the unconscious occurs as a result of something done..

When calligraphy is written with rough strokes, the splatter of ink is an unconscious creation. In ceramics, the change in firing color due to glaze is also an unconscious result. The beautiful swirl created when pouring milk into coffee, the golden lines tracing the mended cracks of a broken teacup with the art of kintsugi, and the ripples on a lake after throwing a stone are all unconscious creations.

The list could go on endlessly, but in truth, each of these is worthy of appreciation and admiration, showcasing inherent beauty.

These are things that cannot be consciously crafted. Perhaps people seek to find beauty in those moments and creations beyond conscious control.

The foundational worldview of the Japanese, who believe in eight million gods, appears to unconsciously seek forms and phenomena that surpass what can be created on the human level. There is a perception that anything with excessive artificiality or contrivance is considered vulgar.

In a previous TV program where foreigners in Japan were interviewed about the country’s merits, one answer stood out: the word “incidental.” It left a significant impact on me. The concept of “incidental” has spread overseas, and the fact that some people consider it a representative trait of Japan brought both joy and a sense of crisis. The concern lies in the possibility that Japanese people might be letting go of the concept of “incidental.” Many Japanese may not fully comprehend this.

I aspire to enhance the potential of human expression for the future ahead. I want to explore this within the confines of my current position.

While “unconscious” and “incidental” are fundamentally different behaviors, I have a feeling that when they interconnect, new perspectives and values are born.