5 Traitz Lauren

Wk 5 Picture

“Mono no aware,” as explained by Professor Inouye and Momokawa, is the complex combination of the sadness that naturally accompanies recognition of powerlessness and the gaiety, and often vivacity, that results from the compartmentalization of this realization. In describing the development of this central aspect of Japanese social culture, Momokawa explains that “mono no aware” produced solidarity in pre-modern Tokugawa Era cities. He claims: “in short they had no hope. It would not have occurred to these people to plan for representative government under the strong-willed Tokugawa system” (Momokawa, 9). Indeed, under samurai rule “almost all of the citizens…lived in a situation in which their basic dignity as human beings had been compromised” (Momokawa, 10). It is unsurprising that such a state of affairs produced a shared sense of powerlessness and sadness at their lack of control, a lack of control that also stems from the early Japanese notion of evanescence. But “mono no aware” is also defined by the release and relief of shutting away this fact, in what Momokawa calls the “inner dimension” of personality, which results in hedonism. “Citizens…relieved themselves of a moral tension, and became epicureans in the pursuit of a pleasurable life” (Momokawa, 11). As we discussed in class, if you are sad and powerless at heart, you may as well be carefree and positive on the outside! Saikaku’s tale lets us peak into the world of the courtesan, the person who was at the center of this culture of hedonism and perhaps understands “mono no aware” best. Her inner kernel of sad recognition is revealed by her inclusion of the beggar woman’s poem: “How cruel the floating world/Its solaces how few–/And soon my unmourned life/Will vanish with the dew” and her following claim: “I had pointed her out and laughed at her…Yet who knows what fate will bring?” (Saikaku, 172). In her effort to live a life of luxury, with lavishes as rewards for satisfying others’ desire to escape their dismal realities, she is consistently tossed out and, as an old woman, abandoned by those who loved her, including society. I wonder if this story shows us that hedonism is perhaps not the path we should choose for handling the insecurity of our evanescent existence. The Zen approach of acceptance, and of finding even the most mundane tasks as an opportunity to connect with the current that we cannot control and yet are a part of, seems to me a much more rewarding path, one that perhaps has the ability to nourish the sadness as well as offer celebration of life in spite of it.

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