Week 4: Nothingness
By Songwha Choi
On Friday evening, when I was on my way to a friend’s house to have a dinner, I saw a bright crescent moon in the night sky.
Winter night sky—
A crescent moon
The fourth week, we mainly discussed value of nothingness which is one of the elements of evanescence. Generally, people have a negative view of nothing (Lecture 11/02). In modern times, we live in a materialistic world, so we try to get something as much as possible. However, materialism devastates the human emotions. When we end up fail to get something, we can easily feel the futility of life. On the other hand, emptiness can be everything. Nothing is all space, all wisdom, and free (Inouye 20). When we dismiss all our obsessions, we can have a real freedom. Thomas Merton and two main characters in Atsumori suggest that how nothingness is valuable in our lives.
Thomas Merton had lived nothingness. He had learned the value of emptiness by pioneering dialogue with the Japanese writer D.T Suzuki. He did not speak because he was trying to empty his mind through meditation. By doing so, he wanted to accept to other people’s view. For this reason, he could learn many different countries’ cultural and religious thoughts. If your mind is full of something, something else cannot enter it (Inouye 22). He truly had known the real meaning of nothingness.
In Atsumori, Atsumori and Kumagai also follow the value of nothingness in the different way. Even though Atsumori is killed by the Minamoto warrior Kumagai Naozane, he does not resent Kumagai. Atsumori is not a vengeful spirit. In the last part of play, the ghost declares that Kumagai is not his enemy. Atsumori tries to empty his grudge by forgiving Kumagai. His behavior truly shows the nothingness’ beauty. Grudge is not nothingness. Kumagai also tries to atone for his sin, so he becomes a monk and changes his name. He sincerely regrets his previous sin, and he wants to clean his anguish of heart. “Guide us on our passage through this sad world” (Zeami 66). Those two main characters suggest that even though we are suffering from many problems in the world, we can pursue nothingness by cleaning our confused mind.