I had just left my house on Friday night when I turned onto Packard Ave and couldn’t tell if it was snowing or not until I saw the glow of a street lamp.


Snowflakes fall

Illuminated by the lamp

At night in winter


This week we focused on the guiding ideas for the rest of the course, evanescence and form.  The importance and ubiquity of cherry blossoms and cicada shells were emphasized to introduce the concept of evanescence, and these two natural occurrences seem to encapsulate the notion of constant change.  This is central to Japanese culture, especially from the perspective that we will take (which I understand is only one approach, and wonder how much that will shape the way I learn).   It was interesting to read how evanescence is sort of related to eternity in a sense, with historians recording and reporting the historical record believing in the “the centrality and eternality of the present” (Kitagawa 58). I think form is natural counterbalance to this notion that seems to have developed in order to give some form of meaning to life, unpredictable and impermanent as it may be.   We also talked a lot about animism and the non-symbolic nature of the sacred, which I think is a little bit tricky to grasp from a Western perspective.  I am interested to see where the weekly poetry project goes, since I get the principles behind waka/tanka but don’t quite fully understand the appeal of that style of lyricism yet. It also seems like a trick of some sort, with the act of doing the assignment seeming more important than the content itself. I’m guessing that we will figure this out the further we go into things.  I like the idea of the Japanese finding beauty in sorrow, and on a whole there seems to be a lean towards some (objectively) kind of depressing guiding concepts in this course.  This start makes me really interested to see how these concepts will connect to more current cultural phenomena, like the somewhat bizarre facets of pop culture that Japan is known for today since they seem unconnected so far.


-Madeline Moe

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2 Responses to Quiet

  1. Laura Sabia says:

    I like that idea of form as counterbalance to evanescence. I thought the nature of the relationship between these two cultural elements to be more along the lines of this: form is used as a means of comprehending or coming to terms with evanescence (rather than returning us to equilibrium when we are thrown off by the chaos of accepting that everything is perpetually changing). We use the familiar, even militant following of patterns and rules as a way of navigating through the chaos that is inherent of the world. You’ve definitely made me think here!

  2. Ben deButts says:

    In regards to your mention of the Western perspective and the lyricism of these poems:

    I have to agree completely with the disconnect that exists there. In having some sort of “moment” with nature, my first inclination was to describe it artistically with meaningful adjectives and what effectually became a Western poem. I think the reason why it is more difficult to understand these Japanese poems is the difference in languages. It seems to me at least, (knowing close to no Japanese) that Japanese words invariably have more depth and ambiguity then the concrete English ones. This means the translations and our attempts to grasp the allure of them often fall short.

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