Ukiyo Redefined

By Michael Chu

I was releasing the first sky lantern on Friday night for my lantern festival event at the Tisch Rooftop.

Ignited lantern
Past the tip of my finger
Into the sky

Ukiyo has a different meaning to the Japanese now that we have moved to talking about the modern era. This new perception of ukiyo made more sense to me as it refers to “an awareness of limitation that leads to action and enjoyment” (Inouye 71). I should show my parents this chapter on Hedonism to justify why I at times prioritize fun over work. I am always on the look out for fun in order to escape the constant pressure and the failures that emerge. Everything in the world is sad, and in order to liberate ourselves, we need to embrace the concept of mono no aware (Lecture 2/20). I like the idea of mono no aware because if “we all suck,” then both failure and the pursuit of relief seem more acceptable. We need to constantly find temporary relief to make the most of this depressing floating world (Inouye 85). It is pessimistic to think that the world is full of sadness, but this is what also makes the fun and happy things so much more beautiful. In fact, mono no aware expresses a sentiment of “sadness that is constantly evolving towards gaiety” (Takahito 11). Life is inevitably filled with happiness and sadness. As the heroine in The Woman Who Spent Her Life in Love puts it, “Thus I lived, drifting down the muddy stream of the floating world” (Saikaku 205). This sentence stood out to me because the word “drifting” expresses the powerlessness in the floating world. To empower ourselves, we should think that we are all significant details of this big picture that is this realistic world (Lecture 2/21). We are all part of something bigger, but we suck. This paradox of optimism and pessimism perplexes me. Perhaps embracing such “muddy stream” full of pessimism and optimism would help us understand the realistic world and make the most out of it.

This entry was posted in Week 1: Shell of the Cicada, Week 5: Hedonism, Mono no Aware, Monstrosity. Bookmark the permalink.

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