I was walking up the library steps on Saturday night when I witnessed paper lanterns with beautiful calligraphy on them being lit and released into the sky.
The writing on paper lanterns
Fades from view
As they ascend.
The idea of Hedonism is one that I struggle with but relate to on a daily basis. This “pursuit of pleasure” (Lecture, 2/20) in my opinion doesn’t always have to be a pursuit. Aren’t the lyrical moments that we encounter from time to time moments of pleasure? To me they are. To me, these moments stimulate feelings that border ecstasy. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but the point is that I don’t actively pursue them, unlike the protagonist of Ihara Saikaku’s novel. The essence of Hedonism is captured in the song that the old woman hears near the Kiyomizu Temple: “How cruel the floating world, / Its solaces how few– / And soon my unmourned life / Will vanish with the dew” (Saikaku, 172). Having lived a privileged life, I find it hard to see the world as cruel, but I can understand the song’s sense of urgency, as our lives are so evanescent. This song’s message led her to a life as a cortesean, the ultimate pleasure seeker. She found herself in the same dilemma that’s described in Professor Inouye’s book when he writes, “Whether then or now, the buoyant exhilaration of the pleasure industry is hard to separate from the melancholy pull of anitya, the impermanence of all things” (Inouye, 71). I agree with how difficult it is to distinguish between the two, but the following reasoning comforts me a bit: “A: Life is evanescent and, as a result, sorrowful. / B: Sorrow heightens the beauty of things. / C: Therefore evanescent life is beautiful” (Inouye, 85). I couldn’t agree more. That is why the old woman in Saikaku’s novel did not commit suicide and instead chose a life of meditation and redemption.