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Whom to Believe?
|by H.N. Bali|
What Really Did Happen in 2004? - Part I
Ramakrishna said: Listen to a story.
We − and my reference is to the universal human “we” − are fond of telling stories, and we can’t resist seeing ourselves as actors at the center of narratives we construct. Understandably, our natural perspectives are subjective, and our first inclination is to adopt a vicarious stance − to sympathize with one or another actor in a story, and to believe the messages of our senses. The so-called objective and critical views are indeed perspectives we adopt, are nothing but constructions on a base of subjective perceptions. We interpret the evidence of our senses, guided by received wisdom, by culturally-defined interpretations arrived at by personal interpretative filters we maintain in our own wetware − the new name, these days, in computing for the human brain.
As Concept and Meme
It’s rare indeed for any film’s title to become permanently ensconced in English language usage – and of all the films that too the production of Japan − then still recovering from the ravages of a humiliating defeat in the Second World War that the country was trying to forget. The phrase it gave rise to was “one of those Rashomon situations.” To a large number of well-informed people (only a miniscule fraction of whom might have ever seen the movie) it means – “he says one thing, she says another, the third guy says something else, and who knows what reality is anyway?” The phrase has deeply infiltrated all cultures.
And now back to the film. It opens on a woodcutter and a priest sitting beneath the Rajomon city gate to stay dry in a heavy downpour. A commoner joins them and they tell him that they’ve witnessed something disturbing, the story of which they then begin recounting to him.
The woodcutter claims he found the body of a murdered samurai three days earlier while looking for wood in the forest; upon discovering the body, he narrated, he fled in a panic to notify the authorities. The priest says that he saw the samurai with his wife traveling the same day the murder took place. Both men were then summoned to testify in court, where they met the captured bandit Tajomaru, who claimed responsibility for the rape and murder.
Tajomaru, a notorious brigand, claims that he tricked the samurai to step off the mountain trail with him to have a look at a cache of ancient swords he had discovered. In the grove he tied the samurai to a tree, and then brought the samurai’s wife there. She initially tried to defend herself with a dagger, but was eventually “seduced” by the bandit. The woman, filled with shame, then begged him to duel to the death with her husband, to save her from the guilt and shame of having two men know how she was dishonored. Tajomaru honorably set the samurai free and dueled with him.
The samurai’s wife tells an altogether different story to the court. She says that Tajomaru left after raping her. She begged her husband to forgive her, but he simply looked at threateningly. Nonetheless, she freed him and begged him to kill her so that she could get rid of the deep sense of shame. He continued to stare at her with a look of loathing. His expression disturbed her so much that she fainted with dagger in hand. She awoke to find her husband dead with the dagger in his chest. She attempted to kill herself, but failed in all her efforts.
The court then hears the story of the deceased samurai, told through a medium. The samurai claims that Tajomaru, after raping his wife, asked her to travel with him. She accepted the offer but asked Tajomaru to kill her husband so that she would not feel the guilt of belonging to two men. Tajomaru, shocked by this request, grabbed her, and gave the samurai a choice of letting the woman go or killing her. (“For these words alone,” the dead samurai recounted, “I was ready to pardon his crime.”) The woman fled, and Tajomaru, after attempting to recapture her, gave up and set the samurai free. The samurai then killed himself with his wife’s dagger. Later, somebody removed the dagger from his chest.
Back at Rashomon gate (after the trial), the woodcutter explains to the commoner that the samurai’s story was a lie. The woodcutter had actually witnessed the rape and murder, he said, but just did not want to get too involved at the trial. According to the woodcutter’s very different story, Tajomaru begged the samurai’s wife to marry him, but the woman, instead, freed her husband. The husband was initially unwilling to fight Tajomaru, saying he would not risk his life for a spoiled woman, but the woman then criticized both him and Tajomaru, saying they were not real men and that a real man would fight for a woman’s love. She spurred the men to fight one another, but then hid her face in fear once they raised their swords. They were visibly fearful as they began fighting. They began a duel that was much more pitiful than Tajomaru’s account had made it sound, and Tajomaru ultimately won through a stroke of luck. After some hesitation he killed the samurai, who begged for his life on the ground, and the woman fled in horror. Tajomaru could not catch her, but took the samurai’s sword and left the scene limping.
At the gate, the woodcutter, priest, and commoner are interrupted from their discussion of the woodcutter’s account by the sound of a crying baby. They find the baby abandoned in a basket, and the commoner takes a kimono and an amulet that have been left for the baby. The woodcutter reproaches the commoner for stealing from the abandoned baby, but the commoner chastised him. Having deduced that the woodcutter in fact stole the dagger from the scene of the murder, the commoner mocked at him, “a bandit calling another a bandit”. The commoner leaves Rashomon, claiming that all men are motivated only by self-interest.
Types of Chameleons
Chameleons are famous for their quick color-changing abilities. However, it’s a common misconception that they do this to camouflage themselves. In fact, chameleons mostly change color to regulate their body temperatures or to send out signals to each other. And since chameleons can’t generate their own body heat, changing the color of their skin is a way to maintain a favorable body temperature. A cold chameleon may become dark to absorb more heat, whereas a hotter chameleon may turn pale to reflect the sun’s heat. Another manifestation of the universal law of self-preservation!
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08/18/2014 19:42 PM
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