Transience

by Benjamin deButts

I was reading on a bench near the prez lawn when there was a strong breeze.

 

Winter silence-

A gust disturbs

Moments later, gone

 

 

This past week in Japanese culture the focus was mostly on what we are going to learn—obviously evanescence and form being the focus. Both play a fundamental role in the culture of Japan and I think so far have fit nicely into what I knew of Japan beforehand. In visiting Japan, the most striking difference to me was definitely the formality of everything, the great example being the Japanese Railway man politely asking the drunken businessman: “Honorable Passenger. Are you getting on? Or are you getting off? (Inouye, 3). We learn that this formality can be traced far back into the roots of Japan when Confucianism made it’s way to the island, stressing the importance of “order and hierarchy” (Inouye, 18). Buddhism, too, reached the island where the Chinese word, mujo, came to signify the impermanence of things (Inouye, 22). In a place that was already fascinated with the transience of life (as evidenced by the Man’yoshu’s use of utsusemi, or cicada shell), the Japanese were quick to adapt their previous experiences to this new culture (Inouye, 23). Thus ancient Japan coalesced all these influences into a pretty interesting outlook of a chaotic world. I particularly like the “localness” and “non-symbolic understanding of symbols” Kitagawa describes. I think what really attracts me to it is the appreciation and closeness to nature. Here in America, there are naturalists and fanciful nature writers sure, but nature isn’t quite as embedded in our language, history, (and soul?) as Japan. The simplicity of marking a part of nature with a rope to designate its sacredness is something I find really beautiful.

 

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