Nothing this week.
The development of a Hedonistic perspective in Tokugawa Japan may have come due to the merchants’ increased frustration by their inability to move up in life, regardless of their wealth (Lecture 2/21). I believe the realization of their limitations in life led to an embracing of mono no aware. As a result, they took to indulging in a Hedonistic approach. In the West, we have a very negative view of Hedonism. However, if we embrace evanescence and understand that just about everything is out of our control, we may come to a realization: “we all suck” (Lecture 2/20). Therefore, if we all suck, then what do we have to lose? Why would we not simply embrace our suck-i-ness and pursue what makes us happy for the moment? Both, mono no aware and Hedonism are captured in Saikaku’s “The woman who loved love.” After a life of pursuing pleasure, she reflects on her life and states, “soon my unmourned life will vanish with the dew” (Saikaku, 172). This is, by all accounts, a very sad story. However, there is beauty in the sadness we experience (mono no aware). This is the same sadness that has been embedded into Japanese culture. It is the type of sadness we experience when we have a “tasteful admission of one’s powerlessness” (Inouye, 86). I find the development of the Hedonistic perspective in Japan very interesting and can definitely see myself taking a similar approach. Over the years, I have experienced various tragedies (i.e.: the loss of a loved one) that revealed the limitation of my control in this world. Needless to say, these experiences were very difficult to deal with. However, they did lead me to reflect and think about what I value in life.
I was walking home from the store Monday night when I took a moment to stand and observe the puddles on the floor.
Cars passing by
A cool night’s breeze
Light reflections on water
There was one statement that stuck with me this week. “Nothingness is what you share with everyone” (Lecture 2/11). The first time I heard this, I simply nodded my head and moved on. However, upon further review, I began to analyze the implications of this statement. Nothing is where we all should be. “When one is in possession of something, that something will keep all other somethings from coming in” (Merton, 109). This simple statement applies to so many scenarios. For example, “why would I try something new when I am already familiar with something?” But, how many experiences do we miss out on? I believe the best example was provided by Professor Inouye, “Having friends will prevent you from meeting new friends” (Lecture 2/13). We are creatures that like routine; and yes, I do believe we miss out on great opportunities to meet new people because we are busy doing the same thing with the same people we already know. Therefore, having nothing is in itself something. In Noh Theater, a successful performer may captivate the audience when standing motionless (Lecture 2/13). It is possible that, “Noh’s emptiness is that quality of form that allows the possibility of all other forms to come to mind” (Inouye, 68). Therefore, the nothingness of the performance causes the observers to open up and engage. The emotions experienced by the audience members are not necessarily a reaction to the performance; rather, the observers experience them precisely because they are being open. Being raised in an individualistic society, it is sometimes difficult to accept or embrace such ideas. However, the information we covered last week, along with the discussions, have made a great argument in favor of this concept.
Nothing this week.
Is Shukke the answer? I believe the “bad news” is true. Success does not last (Lecture 2/4). It is also true that we will continuously be disappointed in this world. However, would separating ourselves from these experiences be the right thing to do? What do we have to gain? For one, we would avoid the pain. Maybe we can avoid being disappointed by others. However, what would be the cost? We would also be avoiding pleasure, love, companionship, and much more. Many of us have experience great disappointment, at times a broken heart. But, would you walk away from a good relationship simply because of the possibility of a breakup in the future? What about the positive experiences you will miss? I can see the appeal of “staying at zero” (Lecture 2/4). If you maintain a stable position at zero, you will never be disappointed – you cannot fall. Nonetheless, you do miss all of the positives. I believe this approach is similar to saying, “If you do not play, you cannot lose.” Is it not better to play though? I believe Chomei would say “No.” He would agree that we are children playing in a burning house, unaware of the danger (Inouye 39).
After witnessing many people’s homes burn in the fire, Chomei writes: “All of man’s doings are senseless / but spending his wealth / and tormenting himself / to build a house in this hazardous city / is especially foolish” (Chomei 38). As an outsider, Chomei sees various difficulties people experience in their lives, primarily the destruction of their homes. However, this is what he sees precisely because he is an outsider. He does not see the good things that they experience in their lives, or the good memories they create in their homes. If we were to run away from our lives, we would miss out on all of the good and bad experiences we should have. Is this not what it is to be human? In my opinion, life is not a goal –it is a journey. Therefore, to “leave” would be to miss the point of life itself.
I walked my dog to the park at midnight on a snowy night and I was taken by how beautiful and bright it was.
Grass covered with snow
Black dog running in the night
Appears bright as day
In class, we discussed how Japan’s society was polytheistic —a crucial point in understanding modern day Japan. “The Kami were multiple rather than single” (Inouye 33). Many of these kami were marked with shimenawa. However, unlike many other religions, these kami are not representations of other beings (Lecture 1/28). This early social understanding of life facilitated the spread of Buddhism, and its concept of mujo. Therefore, the expression of evanescence, which will be a continuing subject of study in this class, evolves throughout Japanese history as utsusemi to hakanasa to mujo (Inouye 30). When it comes to Buddhism, we have covered three major topics: anitya, duhkha, and anatman. Anitya is very similar to the concept of evanescence. It expresses that both our environment and our perceptions are constantly changing. Duhkha refers to the Buddhist idea that: “life is suffering” (lecture 1/28). This expresses that the reason we suffer in life, is because we are attached to things of this world. For example, when a family member passes away, we suffer due to the emotional attachment we have with them. Finally, the word anatman is the notion that there is no-self (Inouye 31). This idea seems to be the hardest for people to accept. I have to admit that it is quite difficult for me as well. However, having a background in social psychology, I understand that much of what we consider “me” is easily changed. For example, research shows that one’s overall perception of happiness and satisfaction can be influenced by how comfortable one is while being asked. Therefore, your perception of how happy you are with your life varies if you are sitting on an uncomfortable stool versus sitting on a comfortable reclining chair. I found these data very surprising. However, it definitely coincides with the Japanese and Buddhist terms we have discussed.