The Cicada World

By Michael Chu

I was walking to mail service on Friday afternoon and saw the outskirts of Medford when I was near Olin.

Beyond the hilltop,
Houses behind winter trees,
Ah, left unexplored.

Professor Inouye kept mentioning evanescence and form in the first two classes. Having been to Japan a couple of times, I understand that form is a big part of the culture but evanescence? I had no idea. It is not until that I saw Dōgen’s and Yakamochi’s poems that it made more sense. “In this cicada-husk world there is no permanence” (Lecture 1/23). Our identity is not constant but is constantly shedding and changing. The “epithet” of the cicada, or rather, utsusemi, further conveys the brevity of mortal life (Inouye 19). This line also reminds me of the depressing scenes in the media where Japanese samurais or soldiers are willing to accept the evanescence of life and sacrifice themselves. Although evanescence does seem depressing, it is the acceptance of the fluid change and fragility that makes “sadness beautiful” (Lecture 1/23). I actually never thought that evanescence and form would go together. This paradoxical nature has gotten me to think a lot this past week. What a thought-provoking class.



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