I was walking across the Res Quad on my way back from a late class when I noticed the serenity of the lawn as the night set in.
As the sun sets over Medford
the winter chill pierces my lungs—
A trash bag blows by.
This week in class we looked at the influence of Buddhism on the budding Japanese culture. The cicada shell that came to represent the evanescence and form of our reality has been replaced by the more formal Buddhist teachings. Anitya, “this Buddhist notion of impermanence” (Inouye 31), appeals to the Japanese sense of hakanasa. As hakanasa gradually transforms into the more formalized Buddhism-inspired notion of mujo, we look to the writing of the time as a guide. “As I Crossed the Bridge of Dreams,” written by a nameless woman in the Heian court, emphasizes romance and dreams in Japanese reality of mujo. Dreaming frees us, yet it also can trap us in the comfort it provides. Dreams are insubstantial and, like the Buddhist concept of anitya, are constantly changing (Lecture 3). The writer, living a sheltered aristocratic life, turns to dreams to entertain herself, living her life through the Tales she reads. As Inouye points out, “it becomes difficult to choose (or even distinguish) between a dreamlike reality and a dream” (29). Whether it is healthy to live in surreal dreams of love and romance instead of facing a reality of uneventful dullness in the courts of Heian remains to be seen. Personally, I don’t know if I agree with the idea of dreaming as a way of life. Living in a dream seems like setting yourself up for a rude awakening when reality hits home.