Ever felt like abandoning, yes abandoning, your pointless stressful little jobs, bidding ‘goodbye to all that’, and shooting off to the white mountains, or getting yourself one of them canal boats, or perhaps settling down on a remote island, and spending the rest of your days dangerously close to nature, fighting the elements, the procrastination, the ennui? Thoughts like these are far from illegitimate for your average middle-aged gaijin teacher in Japan. As a friend of mine recently put it, ‘I've turned into a gaijin gypsy roaming from campus to campus with piles of paper and books no one is interested in’. A recent, and what seemed at first a surprising, departure of another friend to South America, coupled with my own visit to Okinawa few weeks ago, prompted me to seriously reconsider own current state of affairs. It’s not that I am in deep shit or any particular predicament at the moment. It’s all to do with ‘mid-life’ existential crisis and the usual thoughts and moods that accompany it — come to think of it I’ve always been attracted to all things existential, particularly in my formative years.

There is a Swedish proverb: ‘Those who wish to sing, always find a song’. I take this to stand as a broader metaphor, applicable to songs of various operative moods — ‘existentialist’ in this case. Well I ran into this short docu-video on the Guardian online last month, which introduced us to one Ante Vukušić, a meteorologist who has lived and worked on the mount Velebit, Croatia, for the past 37 years. In the 5-minute video we get a glimpse of this fascinating mountain range of extreme weather patterns, of the astonishing richness of wildlife (there are, for instance, over 2000 plant species — the whole of UK has 1180!), a place where you can meet a bear, a wolf, a lynx, a fox or a marten, a place where you could be snowbound for weeks on end, a mountain range where each peak has a unique view. And so, for the purely existential reasons this largely ignored clip (so far only about 70 hits on youtube) made quite an impression on me, even to the point of finding myself writing an inspired poem. Then an unexpected association crossed my mind, as I somehow remembered Auggie Wren, a character from the movie Smoke (1995), played by Harvey Keitel. The movie has to be one of my all-time favourites. Anyway, for me the link between the two men was instantly obvious and rather fascinating (despite Ante’s ‘I can’t grasp the idea of living in a city’), and so I challenge you to find it, and let me know the results — post a comment/email. First, here is the Velebit national park clip:

And here is that amazing photo album scene with Keitel and William Hurt, as the latter is perusing Keitel’s ‘life’s work’ with Auggie’s precious ‘you’ll never get it if you don’t slow down my friend’.

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