Waking up early Saturday morning to a snow-covered campus.
The morning stares
silently as the snow
falls onto the staircase.
The image of the material world as a burning house is a vivid one, but one that I’m not sure I totally agree with. As Kamo no Chōmei puts it: “So as we see our life is hard in this world. We and our houses fleeting, hollow. Many troubles flow from your status, social rank.” (Hojoki 54) I agree with the idea that material goods alone cannot bring people happiness and are hollow, but how about the other things that can bring us genuine joy – such our family and friends? Are those also manifestations of an “opulent building that will someday become nothing more than firewood”? (Inouye 45) Under the Buddhist view (as I understand it) even those things are not worth much because they too are impermanent. But does the impermanence of things really mean that they are worthless and not worth pursuing? I struggle with this idea. Can we really invalidate our past experiences of happiness from our human relations just because they are gone now? What would even be the purpose of a being that has no desire for anything? To do so seems to be a denial of what makes us human. On another note, I feel that there is a contradiction between the native Japanese appreciation for evanescence and the Buddhist perception of it – doesn’t impermanence contribute to the beauty of things rather than devaluing them?