Predictable Spontaneity

As I walked out of Danish Pastry House yesterday, I noticed that the snow was in full swing—showering everything in sight.

The snow drifts


Indifferent to where it lands.

I feel like I’ve started to understand a bit more why Japanese culture seems to have such extremes.  It made no sense to me how etiquette was so strictly followed and valued while at the same time wild indulgent festivals were widespread—however, it’s clearer now that they’re both responses to evanescence.  By acting limitless, there is an awareness of limitation, “even if it comes with an awareness of the temporary or even false nature of what is done” (Inouye 71).  However, even this recklessness is within the parameters of form.  The concept of spontaneity prima facie does not entail certainty—yet the Japanese are insisting that it does! It would seem as though spontaneity require unpredictability—the here-and-now is so situational it should somehow be unique. But the Japanese might be on to something.  Who the fuck doesn’t look at the flamboyant Somerville sunsets and get over-flooded with awe and a moment of heavy-heartedness?  But how can form be placed upon something as ephemeral and unstable as emotion—something that often seems to violate form.  The phrase mono no aware encapsulates this tension—aware being the spontaneous reaction to reality and mono the generalizing it to all things (Inouye 81).  Takahito uses Heidegger’s concept ‘Stimmung’ to explain mono no aware as  “a priori condition of our thought” (Takahito 2).  A human predisposition on how to react to something; therefore, “a person of understanding always experiences what the occasion calls for.” (Inouye 84) Thereafter, we might rationalize our emotions differently from one another, but it seems as though there is something universal about our emotional response—that something being mono no aware.  This for me also shed light about why our poems require the strict form that they do and should only “record phenomenologically the reality [we] see” (Takahito 14).  Since we are all human (maybe there are a few androids in the class, who knows), it follows that “Situation A yields Emotion A,” so there is no need to dilute it with our interpretation of the moment—doing so would maybe even misdirect.  This way of interpreting mono no aware speaks the most clearly to me.  Though labeling essences are often limiting and tricky, it gives a nice definition to what it is to be human. Motoori Norinaga would go as far to say that “a person who did not comprehend ‘mono no aware’ would be less than human.” (Takahito 1) It’s a uniting force that is best understood felt, than explained.

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