Nothing this week.
I enjoyed reading Bashō’s poems this week, though I wish we had read them earlier because I think they would have really helped me construct my own weekly poems. That said, it’s good that we have them now as an example and I think I have a much better idea of what is expected. Most of Bashō’s poems “centered on evanescence and form” (Inouye 74). A great example and a poem I really liked that was never discussed in class is “The changeable sky/Of the northern districts/Prevented me from seeing/The full moon of autumn” (Bashō 141). In my mind this captures the image of the night sky perfectly and also is a great example of how the evanesce of nature (the changing clouds in the sky) interacts with its form. Even though Basho could not see the moon, he knows that it’s full because of the time of the year. He termed this relationship as “fueki ryukō, the unchanging and the ever-changing” (Inouye 74). Fueki ryukō also describes his journey; as he travels and sees new sights his journey is constantly changing. “As firmly cemented clam-shells/Fall apart in autumn/So I must take to the road again/Farewell, my friends” (Bashō 142). Each location he stays at becomes a new clam-shell, only to be destroyed by the incoming autumn of his departure. In the end though his journey closely resembles “kōgō kizoku” or “awakening to the high and returning to the low” as we watch him search for enlightenment while still intended to one day return to the home he left (Inouye 80). This concept reminds me a lot of my own journey through college and how I temporarily left my home in California to study in Boston. Whether or not I’ll returned as enlightened as Bashō is still unclear…
I was walking through campus when a bunch of Canadian geese flew over my head in a perfect V formation.
clear blue sky
dozen winged geese
The discussion and readings about hedonism this week really emphasize the role of mujo (evanescence) in everyday life. Ukiyo, the world of pleasure, focuses on pursuing these fleeting feelings (Inouye 70). These feelings of pleasure are always changing and disappearing yet we spend so much of our time chasing them. What’s better: eating a donut now or enjoying a healthy body? Finding someone to have sex with for a night or putting the time in to form a long term relationship? So many people choose the former for the quick pleasure when arguably the latter brings more pleasure. I was a little amused to see that these dilemmas were prominent in 17th century Japan when Ihara Saikaku wrote The Woman Who Loved Love. Not only do we see her constantly change partners, we also watch as her beauty, like the cherry blossoms, quickly becomes “rather wilted” and she no longer attracts suitors (Saikaku 210). Not only are our pleasures temporary but our ability to enjoy them also cannot last. For me, remembering silly fun I’ve had with friends is almost as enjoyable as experiencing it. However even memories of pleasure fade and we have nothing left of the moments that gave us such joy. It’s crazy how I think back on my life and have very few select memories from childhood. There are entire months of my life where I don’t have a single memory. In ten years I might not remember a single thing that happened this month. Or even worse I can be like the woman in Saikaku’s story and be haunted by my pleasures as she was forced to see reminders throughout the world of her “whole turbulent course” of her life (Saikaku 216). It seems like a pretty delicate balance. Overall I still believe that youth brings a “sense of urgency to the pursuit of pleasure” that I feel compelled to follow while I still have the opportunity to (Inouye 70). Too much pleasure, like in Saikaku’s tale, leads to regret, but I think also not taking the chance to pursue pleasure while you had the opportunity brings its own set of equally remorseful regrets.
I was walking to Tisch during sunset and noticed how the snow-covered President’s lawn was sparkling in the fading sunlight.
crisp frozen ground
In class we talked about whether common Japanese practices, such as the Coming of Age Day for young Japanese women, are considered religious even if practitioners don’t realize the religious connotations. In my mind I don’t think it is religious; the Japanese strictly structure their space and choose to blend spiritual beliefs into this space. In order for Buddhism, and animism, to gain followers in Japan, society had to render “abstract, scriptural practice into concrete ritual practice” (Inouye 58). This created events such as the Coming of Age Day as well as art rituals that were “not simply manifestations or symbolic representations or religious belief” but they were rather “intimately associated with the contemplative intuition of a fundamental truth” (Merton 89). These spiritual values build up to a “fundamental truth” that I think is larger than a single religion. If these rituals were more symbolic then I think it could be considered religious. However since these values and practices permeate every aspect of Japanese life, even the lives of the samurai as seen in Atsumori, they lose the distinct religious qualities as they blend into everything else. Just because some rituals have religious roots and remnants doesn’t make the entire ritual religious. When we bake a cake we no longer refer to the cake as an ‘egg’ or ‘flour’. For that reason I believe that these practices are no longer religious, but simply Japanese.
Not this week.
In class we discussed Hojoki and how its author was compelled to seek a life of “complete seclusion” (Lecture 2/6). To me it seemed like the main reason he did that was because he was getting old and running out of potential. Specifically he says “In this time, my best intentions foiled, I came to understand my hopeless luck” (Chomei)* Left without a family, he abandons worldly possessions and lives a quiet secluded life. It’s interesting that, as we get older, things stop changing as rapidly as they used to. Form dominates evanescence. By his fifties Chomei did not have a wife or children and seemed to accept that his luck wouldn’t change. At that age form settles in and it become harder (but not impossible!) to completely change the course of a life. I think this ties back to why people praise your first year of college as an amazing one: it’s overflowing with the possibility of who you can be (Lecture 2/6). Society values potential so when someone reaches the end of his potential and is unhappy it makes sense why he wants to turn his back on society.
*I have the book on my Kindle and it doesn’t have the pages marked so sadly I can’t provide a page number
I left Tisch late on Monday night after it snowed and saw a bunny hop in front of me around Goddard Chapel!
dimly lit walkway
suddenly — a bunny
I was a little confused after class discussion when we were talking about why the author of As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams had the ability to write about her thoughts (Lecture 1/30). The class came up with Buddhism as a justification. We also have talked a lot about duhka and how “life is suffering” which happens as we try to pursue pleasures that are temporary and will never last (Inouye 31). In my mind, Buddhism would not encourage living a life in daydreams because they could never be fulfilled which would cause so much mental anguish. Buddhism is about removing the control of the external world and meditating on the idea of anitya (the world and our perceptions change) to escape from duhka (Inouye 31). Living in a dream world is not a productive way to achieve enlightenment.
I loved the fresh snow on Saturday but was disappointed because I could tell it was going to melt quickly that morning.
footprint in new snow
sunlight is strong
I’m really excited to explore this idea of “evanescence and form” (Inouye 1). I think it’s a really eloquent and simple way to explain a lot of behaviors we see in the world. Even these assignments fit the concept; all of us will turn in assignments of the same form but with the chaos of our opinions (or in my case the chaos of my limited drawing skills…) making them different. I wish I this course was last semester because I really think that I could have appreciated the sad beauty of the fall when “change is most obvious” (Inouye 7). I never enjoyed the fall back home in California because it was the same as summer. Now I understand why fall is the best season: the temporary nature of its beauty is what makes it so alluring. Finally something to explain why I had the strange desire to take hundreds of photos of trees on my phone last semester.