Bataan, Osamu Dazai, Paradoxes, and Story Ideas…

About a month or so ago, I visited a resort in the province of Bataan, Philippines, which housed a lot of these historical buildings literally taken apart and rebuilt piece by piece!

Like anywhere I go, I have a hard drive’s worth of photos and videos from that trip, but here’s an example of one of those buildings: the one I remember the most, actually!

I took this photo from our hotel lobby’s window the day we arrived, and I didn’t know it then, but that house right there has a lot of history-!

I took a raft ride around the waters you see there on the second day, and this house was one of the stops: there were eight of us total in the boat, but I was the only one who waltzed into this house itself~

(All the shots below are stills from my video walking around, so I apologise in advance for the quality (u_u))

A plaque right at the entryway named the home as Casa San Juan, originally from the province of Batangas. The story goes that the house was owned by a prominent member of the Philippines’s Liberal Party, with a bunch of former presidents once having met in these halls!

The doors were shut, so I spent a few minutes trying to film through their glass, but eventually I got permission from our guide to actually enter the place! He did invite the others to come in, but the darkness apparently turned them off—and I really can’t blame them:

This foyer in the ground floor was the only room in the house with much lighting—I did get approval to head upstairs too, and up there were rooms with all sorts of preserved antiques, but the darkness made getting any good shots a bit of a nightmare…

Most of the upstairs looked like this: only narrow sunlight creeping in, and the floorboards creaking like me stepping on them was hurting them (>_<)

Now there weren’t any insects or ghosts or kaiju or whatever up there—but because of how quiet and preserved everything was, I felt like I’d entered a time machine into the past, except with everybody from the era gone.

It’s like a liminal space in a way—It was clearly a house to me, but everything was so antique, dim, and dusty that, somewhere in my mind, I stopped seeing it as a home and more of as an exhibit.

But that’s my question here: for a house so historic and beautiful that it was dismantled and rebuilt piece by piece, is it still a house now that it’s basically just for display?

Since it was rebuilt, is this technically the original house, or is it just a replica constructed with the parts of the original?

“What did he mean by ‘society’?”

Osamu Dazai (太宰治) is one of those classic authors I’ve always found fascinating…

Having read his works in both his native Japanese and the translated English, there’s something about how he writes that feels more personal than a good number of his contemporaries: “No Longer Human” made me wonder a lot about whether I was reading the thoughts of his protagonist, Ōba Yōzō (大庭葉蔵), or rather, him.

People familiar with his life will say it’s a mix of both, which I feel is the most appropriate answer! But there’s a quote regardless that’s always stuck with me since I first read the book:

“What did he mean by ‘society’? The plural of humans?”

Osamu Dazai (太宰治), No Longer Human (人間失格)

Just taking it literally… it’s an interesting thought, isn’t it-?

As I’ve been taught, to define society, you’d need to have a pattern of social interaction within a large group in a specific place—If we use this kind of definition, then no, it’s not really the ‘plural of humans’, but… it’s a matter of perspective, right?

If another group came along to define society differently from us—who are we to really say their definition is incorrect?

This takes me back to that house in Bataan: I feel like asking whether it’s the original or not is more of asking what you think “original” means in the first place!

I think our definitions of these common words are pretty similar universally, but the nuances always find a way to differ from culture to culture, so when I ask which house is the original… am I basically turning a subjective definition into an objective one? Is that why it’s so hard to answer?

O-Okay I’m… veering really far off topic here-!

But what about you—do you also find yourself just half-awake at 3 AM with these kinds of questions just clouding about in your head?

I think you’ve probably heard of the Ship of Theseus paradox: that’s basically what this question is at its core, and… okay I’ll admit- I love paradoxes—!

But this question about originality’s something I’ve extended into a different thought…

“Last year nothing happened. The year before nothing happened. And the year before that nothing happened.”

What makes you you?

I’m not a biologist so take this with a bit of salt but—I read once that humans shed our entire outer layer of skin every 2-4 weeks.

So if on a cellular level, our parts get replaced basically every second, then who are we cellularly?

If somehow, someone invented a program that could wipe and reset our brains like a bricked phone, would that post-reset you still be you?

Honestly my answer to these as of now is just… who cares!

It’s not like an answer to these will make the world better or something—but it’s these kinds of thoughts that really fuel my book ideas lately…

Ennarin, in my current project, is an amorphous being without any real form or lifespan who has also lost all their memories—so how different does that make them from their old self?

At what point are two things so different that you kinda stop counting them as the same thing?

If you saw me rant about Oblique Strategies a while back, I’ve always loved these meaningless, vague questions or statements that could just propel ideas for fictional works…

Identity is something of a reoccurring theme in my projects—I’ve had short stories of people literally discarding their past self, or losing the will to live after losing their past self, others encountering a vision of their past self completely unlike them- I’ll definitely put some of these up on this site in the future~

But dragging ideas like these as inspiration’s still kinda new for me…

I talked about my first two books before, but my third attempted novel after them’s a whole different story I’d like to tell you about next week!

I’ve read a few times that every good book has something to say—Personally I think this is kinda nonsense as a rule, but as like a guide?

I love it~

So, on Monday next week, I’ll tell you all about how I completely ignored that thought in the face of two familiar foes of mine: overconfidence, and laziness!

Lotsa love to you ‘til then, and as a bonus, here’s Azur Lane Bataan in the province of Bataan!

(might speak more about my Philippines trips in the future~ as I write this from home, the scenery of the country’s still endlessly fascinating…)

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