Standing outside of Sophia Gordon Hall and admiring the quickness with which ice crystals were forming in water spilled on the banister.
A droplet’s edge
Having read Kitagawa’s “A Past of Things Present” prior to last class, I could not get the referential meaning of kami out of my head. The idea that it “refers to all beings that are awesome and worthy of reverence” (Kitagawa, 44) resonated well with Eliade’s explanation of the nonsymbolic understanding of symbols. It feels rather liberating to question the pervasive Western notion that symbols exist to provide distanced meaning and are allusive by nature. But it was the second part of Kitagawa’s definition that really got me thinking. The fact that the kami includes “both good and evil beings” (Kitagawa, 44) implies that there is no sense of morality that perverts the Japanese understanding of what is/isn’t sacred. The Shinto affirmation of the “sacrality of the total world” retains a spiritual optimism and confidence in their reality that is wholly absent in Western culture. But if their reality is in a constant state of flux, then how are they able to reconcile the total sacrality of a world with the idea that “nothing has a distilled or eternal essence” (Inouye, 17)? In other words, how can everything be sacred if nothing retains true meaning? Is sacrality defined simply by something’s existence and participation in nature? Such questions are answered in part by Konishi’s assertion that “the spiritual nature of humanity and the material aspect of nature were…intimately fused” (Konishi (in Inouye, 25), 30-31.) and that the kotodama encouraged the presumption that “all natural phenomena possess[ed] spiritual natures as well.” (Konishi (in Inouye, 25), 107.) In my mind, then, the idea of total sacrality exists as a result of this fusion of the materiality of the natural world with the spiritual world of man.