The phrase is Japanese. Wikipedia calls it “a Japanese term for the awareness of impermanence, or transience of things, and both a transient gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing as well as a longer, deeper gentle sadness about this state being the reality of life.” One of Barry Eisler’s characters in A Lonely Resurrection calls it “the sadness of being human."
National Geographic Partners is a joint venture owned by the National Geographic Society and 21st Century Fox. As of earlier this year, NGP has basically taken over all the functions of the Society - publishing, content, brand, the whole enchilada. Much like Google and Alphabet, only in this case the non-profit NGS has created a mechanism to essentially sell three-quarters of itself to Fox. There are a number of levels on which this is dismaying, especially vis-a-vis the media properties of Fox in the United States. But one of them hits extremely close to home - and that is the inevitable takeover of back-office operations by 21st Century Fox. Marketing, finance, and of course IT - all being replaced with the economy of scale that comes from a major media corporation’s existing structures.
Basically, my old job is ceasing to exist. And all my old colleagues are being laid off. There will probably be packages, there will be an as-yet-undetermined date final for them, and they will go their separate ways for good. Maybe some will get re-hired in local roles, but I wouldn’t count on it - this is, in many ways, an end altogether for the old firm.
They were seven odd and turbulent years, to be certain, and the first year and a half were traumatic in the extreme. But it was where my life was rebuilt from scratch. The old crew went to work on me when I was dangling by a thread with my career in ruins and no future - when the black hole of the past had opened up all the way to the tiptoes beneath me - and rebuilt me smarter, surer, better than I had been before. You could argue that much of my troubles the last few years have revolved around trying to figure out who I am and where I’m going and what is to be done with my life. If there’s one thing I can say with absolute certainly about my time in the DMV working with my gang under that yellow rectangle, it’s this: there was never a sliver of doubt about who I was or what I could do.
So much has changed since those days. Some people out of my life altogether. Some scattered to the four winds. The old pub gone, and now the very jobs themselves gone. The place we worked is no longer the same place, and what seemed like a fixture of American life - that non-profit magazine publisher dedicated to knowledge of the world and all that is in it - is now just another media property lumped alongside the likes of Joe Buck, Bill O’Reilly and Family Guy.
I’ve said it before - treasure the things you love, because you never know when they’ll be taken from you. But that includes your memories, because sometimes the ground shifts beneath the past and the things you remember are themselves altered. This, though, is a fact, and it is indisputable: from 1997 to 2004, I had the privilege of being a giant standing in a forest of giants, and I’ll take that to my grave. There’s sadness in its transience, to be sure, but there is glory in its having happened.