As I was walking around campus a single cherry blossom fell and caught the sun’s light as it headed towards the ground.
There from your high height,
You fall and catch the sun’s light.
Graceful, in your plight.
When I first entered this course, I was just looking to deepen my understanding of Japanese culture. I had planned to study abroad in Japan and wanted more of a reason than my enjoyment of anime. I learned about hedonism, animism, and a new way to value space amongst many other lessons. Nothing has become everything and a person’s belief in a deity can be all encompassing of others. I’ve been amazed by the samurai’s code of honor and intrigued by the respectability of being a geisha. The idea of evanescence has giving me a way to describe aspects of life I had begun to notice. Also, the idea of evanescence has been one of my favorite topics I’ve learned this semester. Taking this course was the best decision I’ve made in choosing classes my entire freshman year. By the end of this course I realized that my enjoyment of Japan goes beyond anime. Now, as a raising sophomore, I am thinking of becoming a Japanese major so that I can pursue my interest to even greater extent.
Sitting in South Hall, I looked out the window at the stormy whether outside and in the dark room, I thought about the challenges my life was presenting me.
The trees are moaning.
Rain falls from the sky to ground,
And the world is gray.
Throughout this course, evanescence has held similar meanings and representations. Japan’s transition from here-and-now to the Transcendental Order showed evanescence changing for the first time. Evanescence changed from being focused on impermanence and form to progress (Lecture 7/15). This shift develops because Japan now has a global existence rather than a local existence. By competing with the other powers in the world, Japan’s views changed as they see the main difference between all the countries being progress and a lack thereof. More shocking to me than this was the emperor’s new role brought in an idea of an unchanging and lasting essence (Inouye 111). For Japan to accept something as permanent seemed to go against the ideology I had known them to have. This seemed to me as if Japan was becoming less Japan. What made me rethink this thought was bushidō, the way of the warrior. Bushidō, written by Nitobe Inazō, is a book that explains and defines Japan as the way of the samurai. Most interestingly to me is that Nitobe compares bushidō to chivalry (Inazō 34). As a competitive person, I define and compare myself to what is around me. In a similar way, Nitobe is defining the essence of Japanese character with another type of character from a prevalent society. By using another existence to decide what makes oneself different was a concept all too familiar to me. This made me realize Japan’s westernization was just another example of evanescence, yet its retention of form still made it Japan. In fact the comparison to other cultures made it all the clearer how Japan is Japan.
While at Harvard this past weekend I felt surrounded by buildings made of brick, just as crimson as they were when I last saw them years ago.
How many clouds have passed you,
Bricks of veritas?
“Why climb the mountain? To return to the valley” (Lecture 6/15) As I thought about this statement and Bashō’s journey I reflected on my experience Tufts Wilderness Orientation. Every mountain I climbed was a struggle, but the hills of trees, rolling clouds, and sunsets were worth it. The movement behind Bashō’s poetry was to enter nature and through it give poetic truth to verse. The result was mood created by nature rather than one’s emotions (Inouye 77). Rather than think of myself, I was filled with my scenery. How many trees there were, how the sun lingers in leaving yet rushes to return. At the end of the trip I left the wonderful wilderness and descended back to the city. While this wasn’t Enlightenment, I felt enlightened and shared my experience with those who were unable to take my same journey. Coming back to the present though, I reflected on Bashō’s point of emphasizing change being a necessary component to art. He says that artists need to follow and return to Creativity (Inouye 78). This idea pushed the rigid boundaries of current poetry in Japan, but I think it is imperative to all art forms. If art was only constrained, defined, or replicated then there still would be beautiful works of art. Though art under these restraints will stifle out the beauty in front of us that we may have never thought of.
Placing my hair I cut off in honor of Native American grandmother’s death to the Mystic River, I was greeted by two swans.
On river floating,
Wind guiding and met by swans,
The soul goes forward.
What better time to learn about the sadness of things and hedonism than when my grandmother dies, I break up with my girlfriend, and that I join a fraternity. Before I knew it I felt like I was caught up hedonism’s ukiyo. Ukiyo is pursuit of pleasure today, because we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow (Lecture 5/15). If death could come at any moment then why not seek pleasure through fraternity life and parties? While the idea is tempting, a fuzzy head every morning wasn’t very alluring. If not partying, than how about romance? Saikaku’s “The Woman Who Loved Love” represents the life of a woman living in a hedonistic world. Her life is a pursuit of love and pleasure, which is represented by her actions as a courtesan. She goes from man to man in attempts to satisfy herself. In the end she is left alone, but makes the comment that men shouldn’t have wives, but could not live without them (Saikaku 199). This struck me because this may explain why after breaking up with my girlfriend I’m already interested in someone else. This pursuit of pleasure is easy to fall into, but it is tinged, if not driven by, with sadness. An idea of the time was mono no aware (the sadness of things). You suck, I suck, we all suck, and that’s ok (Lecture 5/15). By realizing that everyone is powerless, has imperfections, and failures allows us to appreciate beauty better. Without the sadness it would be hard to understand the joys and pleasures in life. Life is evanescent and as a result is sorrowful, but this heightens the beauty of things, and in turn makes evanescent life beautiful (Inouye 85). It is the sadness of my grandmother’s death that allows me to find such beauty in swans coming to me as I sent my hair down Mystic River. It’s also the stress of academic life that makes a night at my fraternity that much better. This awareness of sorrow, in a way, is an awareness of beauty and pleasure.
Leaving Tisch after finding out my grandmother died, I was greeted by a dark and cold night, while looking at the bright white snow that was diminishing.
In the Winter’s night,
Wind blowing and life asleep,
The snow ebbs away.
I tried to think about nothing this weekend, but then wondered how I could do my homework this week. I rethought what this idea about nothingness was, based on readings and lecture, and came to the conclusion it is an empty space filled with love. This was an idea I could accept and still have life move on around me. While reading Zen Birds of Appetite this past weekend, I stumbled upon what Nirvana is. Nirvana is wisdom and perfect love (Merton 84). Perfect love and spreading it is ideal to me because I’d rather everyone be accepted for their differences, but loved for them too. This idea led me to the Bodhisattva who are people that have been Enlightened. The Bodhisattva come back from Paradise to help those who are still struggling to make it (Inouye 52). Such an act of selflessness was inspiring to me and made me feel that they truly must have gained great compassion from Enlightenment. Unlike western culture which views nothingness as a vacuum (Lecture 4/15) this nothingness is desirable to me. The idea of limitless love, possibilities, and acceptance correlates to what I would desire in life. Though the very desire makes it difficult to find Enlightenment.
I leaned on a glass wall at a concert I thought about the people I would miss if they were gone and how easily the glass could break.
The glass shattered
And you reflected in every piece,
But only for a moment.
Home is where the heart is. People work hark everyday just to come back home and find their peace there. A home is unique to each person and belongs just to them, but why would you want something on fire? This week we learned about our houses being on fire. Chomei said “Men of means have much to fear.”(Chomei 59) By putting value in what is truly valueless, like homes, we create suffering for ourselves. What makes the homes valueless is that they are part of the floating world, which is impermanent (Lecture 3/15). The floating world is impermanent (ukiyo), but through shukke (leaving home) one could separate themselves from the floating world. While shukke is a way to escape from ukiyo, I’d rather stay in ukiyo because failure and suffering can only last so long.
Looking outside of my warm room’s window, I looked at a bare tree that was gaining snow, yet seemed unaffected by the cold outside.
Tree dusted with snow,
Bare and beaten by the wind.
Why don’t you shiver?
From hakanasa to mujō appropriately sums the lessons learned this pass week. The title represents the shift in the meaning of evanescence caused by Buddhism. The three main concepts of Buddhist evanescence are anitya (impermanence), duhka (suffering), and anatman (no-self). While concepts seem to put a damper on viewing life, it is interesting how it takes away the specialness humans gave themselves. These ideas teach that people are a part of the world that is changing around them. In Japan love is associated with dreaming rather than death (Lecture 2/15). This is different from Western culture in which plays like Romeo and Juliet tie love to death. People in Western culture like to believe love is permanent and this brings suffering, which is caused by not understanding changes from day to day (no-self). This makes reference to dreams prevalent in japanese poetics because they are suggestive, brief, and lyrical. Everyone in Japan poetry because it’s an expression of feelings from a person’s heart. Two sentences from this weeks readings struck me profoundly, “We do not live. Rather, we are made to live.” (Inouye 35). Memories of climbing mountains, watching sunsets, walking through cities, and poems I made rushed to my mind. What has made my life have been the responses my environment have invoked in me. This week ends, but I look forward to what the next week’s lessons will open my mind to.
After winter break I walked to the LGBT Center and entering Bolles House I saw the words WELCOME HOME! on the wall, making feel like I was back where I belonged.
It said WELCOME HOME!
The cold leaves body and heart.
Stairs leading me there.
This course began with the introduction of evanescence and form as being key components to Japanese culture. Evanescence is the idea that nothing stays the same and is contingent or dependent on something else (Lecture 1/15). An example of this is life, which is brief, fleeting, and unpredictable. Form creates structure and through that brings meaning to an ever-changing world. While it is difficult to grasp two conflicting ideas working together, an example is given through Mozart. “Without the tyranny of the four-bar phrase, would we have the brilliance of Mozart?”(Inouye 15). Evanescence and form come together in many great Japanese that are able to combine the tension between the two concepts. Our instructor is having us students write poems to help with the understanding of these two ideas. These are not ordinary poems, but ruled by the idea that “…there is less enjoyable truth in definitions than in moments of definition.”(Inouye 4). Furthermore, the class is taught about how animism’s affinity for nature and Buddhism’s path to enlightenment relate to Japan’s relation with evanescence and form. Lastly, we learned about key symbols like the cicada shell (representing this world) and the hakanasa (cherry blossoms), which represents evanescence.