|FATHER AND SON|
The liturgical season known as Advent–the four weeks leading up to Christmas–has begun. In a season where we celebrate a God who assumed human flesh and came into the world as a baby–poor, in exile, surrounded by scandal–I’m thinking of the work of the Japanese writer Kenzaburō Ōe. In 1994,Ōe was awarded the Nobel Laureate in 1994 for creating an “an imagined world, where life and myth condense to form a disconcerting picture of the human predicament today.”
And yet the most helpless, the least efficient, the most unlikely to carry on the family name–the Ōes went on to have two more children—became in some sense the unlikely “star” around whom the family constellated. In spite of terrible suffering and struggle, this developmentally disabled child, curiously, in unexpected ways, by virtue of a process that nobody could have imagined or willingly undergone even if they could have imagined it, became a perverse source of strength. Kenzaburō Ōe went on to write novels, essays, and memoirs around the central theme of his disabled son–this Great Fact, this “personal matter”–that has shaped his work, thought, and life. And though the story would have been just as “miraculous” otherwise, Hikari Ōe turned out to have an uncanny facility for music, and is now a successful classical composer.
Ecce homo–behold the man–said Pilate when Christ stood before him in solidarity with all the lonely, all the poor, all the unlucky, all the aged, the unborn, the deformed, the weak, the unwanted; bloody, scourged, bound, wearing a crown of thorns, and above all, silent. It is Christianity’s most central tenet: that the individual is to be treasured. That a single act of love can and does save the world. That the fate of all mankind can hinge upon the awakened consciousness of a single soul—and that every soul therefore matters.
LOVIS CORINTH, 1925
Q: Your son became a composer. Your family—your wife, your children and yourself—in caring for him over time identified his ability to communicate. Tell us how that came out.