I was walking down the hill from Tisch Library to the campus center late at night when I looked up and saw the glimmer of snowflakes falling in line of a bright light on the roof of the campus center.
the same under one light
I’ve said before that the concepts we’ve learned has a lot to do with balance, but now I’m starting to think it’s more than that. I feel like Japanese culture seems to pervade a fight to retain this balance. This weeks classes concentrated on Basho’s poetic journey and his experience with the, “unchanging and ever changing” (Inouye, 75). This statement alone exemplifies the core ideas we have been learning over the past two weeks, evanescence and form. Basho was one of the most famous poets in Japanese history. He traveled all over Japan observing nature and studying himself in order to attain enlightenment. Because Basho expressed himself through poetry, his moments of inspiration were purely lyrical. I think a lot of this has to do with the idea of living in the “here and now.” In class we looked at a pile of sand that was molded into a very specific shape and kept that way. Professor Inouye asked us “if you were to rake this everyday, would you have chosen this shape?” (Lecture 2/25). This struck me, mainly because I felt that this very much illustrated what we were emphasizing before and what Basho was aiming to describe. You can mold the sand every day however much you like to whatever shapes you so desire, but it will eventually change. The wind might blow it away, the sand may fall out of place, or something may come and hit it, but you still can mold it back into place at the end of the day if you choose to do so. I feel like this may be what the Japanese may have been getting at in terms of evanescence and form, as you can’t help the changes that come with life, but for a moment you construct something (physical or spiritual), and appreciate its aesthetic beauty. Even Basho, who was portrayed as completely lyrical and fleeting, still had some aspects of formalism to his work. His work, Narrow Road to the Deep North took excerpts of his travel diary that he kept with him throughout his journey. Yet, the book published and the diary, or haibun, he kept (the “truest” record of his experiences) were two different things. As Inouye pointed out, “much artifice went into his work that seems to flow naturally as a series of lyrical encounters (Inouye, 74). Even here, Basho takes his fleeting expression, emotion, and “molds” them into something else. While it isn’t the “truest” expression of Japanese nature, it illustrates his attempt at attaining formalism in his experience with the ever-changing Japanese landscape. His experiences culminated in epic highs and lows, was eventually cyclic, as displayed in Basho’s poem, Under the same roof/ We all slept together,/ Concubines and I-/ Bush-lovers and the moon (Basho, 132). While he experienced temporary happiness, at the end of the day he was still at a most primitive state, a “Bush-lover.” Even at the end of his journey he aims to start a new one, “I left on the sixth of the ninth month to witness the renewal of the Great Shrine of Ise” (Basho 172). Even as his journey ends, a new one begins displaying his experience with the Bodhisattva cycle, reaching enlightenment and coming back to the world as he was. This concept alone, further displays the idea that while someone can change their surroundings in the moment, they cannot control life as a whole. You can let the fleeting change consume you, or you can retain some of your form and rebuild it, appreciating life as it were for that moment. Now I’m starting to think these ideas don’t describe a fight, but a simple appreciation and culmination of life at that given moment.