Crossing the Charles River Friday evening on the Red Line.
City lights –
The frosty river.
How is it that evanescence and form – two seemingly opposite concepts – came to be two of the most central elements of Japanese culture? The tension that exists between the two seems to be inherent. (Inouye 1) Is it an attempt by society to impose order on the ever changing world that it observes around it to make sense of it? Or is it based on an acute awareness of the constant forms that exist in the world, even one constantly in flux? I have yet to decide. The imposition of form on seemingly everything in Japan is apparent upon arrival – the ubiquitous uniforms, the bowing (with the angle of the bow depending on the circumstance), and the clear divisions of space demarcated only by lines (sometimes invisible). Hierarchical form can even be observed in the Japanese language (which is fluid and alive) – the nuances of which take much time and work to grasp as a foreigner. (Lecture 2/16) The discussion of mujō – impermanence – in class reminded me of what my mother says every time I tell her about some human tragedy. She would simply sigh and say something to the effect of such is life –無常 (wúcháng – in Mandarin) . On another note, the statement by Kitagawa that the native Japanese religious tradition is based on a nation-centered perspective as opposed to a universal one is interesting. (Kitagawa 52). I wonder how it plays into the theories of nihonjinron that would arise later in history and the navel-gazing that Japan is often criticized for in the international press.