This past Saturday I was working on the Campus Center patio, soaking in the hot sun.
During this weeks reading of Ihara Saikaku’s Woman Who Loved Love, the song Big Yellow Taxi, originally by Joni Mitchell, repeated itself in my mind. In said song, each verse ends with the lines, “Don’t it always seem to go / that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone / they paved paradise, and put up a parking lot” (Mitchell, 1970). Saikaku’s heroine could relate to this song more than anyone. Losing everything, her new masters destroyed the beautiful nature described in the song that once was the heroine’s life, and “paved” a new persona on top of the land (i.e. life) that she used to identify with. Saikaku’s heroine was transformed, or “paved,” to represent the new paradise that the rise of Hedonism demanded. Although Saikaku illustrates that a “tea-house girl” truly understands identity, language, and commercial enterprise due to her assimilation towards the ideal prostitute (Inouye, P. 71), it is her understanding of love and sex that saddens me the most. As she writes about the men who use her services, the heroine expresses that because of her many “intimate friendships,” she now regards all men with whom she lays as if they were “fellow-passenger[s] on a ferry-boat before it reached the opposite bank” (Saikaku, P. 205). How awful it must be to lose all intimacy from the most intimate act we can experience. Hence, not only must she truly understand passion due to complete absence of it, I believe she embodies the principle of dukkha. Who else could understand suffering to the same extent?