Ruth Ozeki Event

Event Correspondent: Katie Fairchild

“Portland is a town of readers and eaters,” Ozeki began. “You are my tribe.” Which is exactly why Silk Road Review attended acclaimed novelist Ruth Ozeki’s talk at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, hosted by Literary Arts. In the lobby of the historic building, we got to promote our past issues, as well as our upcoming Asia issue, for which we are still taking submissions. We were also eager to support Ruth Ozeki, who had already wormed her way into our collective hearts through her brilliant writing. Just as we suspected, Ozeki endeared herself to all in attendance from the moment she opened her mouth.

Ozeki’s most recent novel, A Tale for the Time Being, is about a 16-year-old Japanese girl and her journey of self-discovery. It is about time-being. It is about connection with one’s family, which in protagonist Nao’s case means connecting with her 104-year-old anarchist feminist zen Buddhist nun of a Grandmother and the ghost of her kamikaze pilot Great-uncle.

And what exactly is a time-being? Ozeki addressed that in her talk, which was part of the annual Portland Arts & Lectures series, co-sponsored by Pacific University. Ozeki primarily referenced Dogen Zenji and his concept of “uji”. She explained that uji has many different translations and meaning based on inflection. For us and our context, it means “time being,” but Ozeki says that it is a word that refuses to settle. The word has a spirit of its own. This is especially apropos when put in the context of A Tale for the Time Being. People, places, spirits, and the concept of time itself are all fluid. Why would language be any different?

Ruth Ozeki has one of the best endings to a lecture of all time. She led over 2,000 people through meditation. Not only was the audience obediently quiet, but they were actively engaged in the art of mediation for a solid five minutes. I don’t think I’ve ever been more relaxed than I was in those moments. Even the person next to me, who had been less than thrilled to mediate, turned to me at the end of the session and said, “That was exactly what I needed.”

Overall, Ruth Ozeki’s talk was phenomenal. How great was it? you may ask. You’ll just have to take my word for it, at least for the time being.