Looking out beyond South Hall, thick snowflakes contorted the appearance of the houses in the distance.
From heavy snow fall
If nothingness is not achieved, which it rarely is, you are stuck in a frustrated state where you are a slave to desire. I tend to agree that we are driven by desire, which catalyzes dukkha. These can be tangible or intangible desires, for example a car versus love. In theory, it is nice to imagine a life where we are perpetually content—a world absent of power struggles and disappointment, preventing “a hopeless struggle with other perverse and hostile selves competing together for the possessions which will give them power and satisfaction” (Merton, 82). If we could abandon our unattainable desires and the illusion of fixed things, then this peaceful world would be much more conceivable. On the other hand, if everyone were empty, the world would notice minimal progress because those in a “state of zero” are “poor [men] who want nothing, know nothing, and have nothing” (Merton, 108). How would we motivate people to invent, procreate, and explore if they want, know, and have nothing? Furthermore, these tasks would be hard to do in a state of nirvana because they require extensive knowledge, which would contaminate the innocent mind. Because of this, I do not think desire is all bad because “all the moral values… come out of this life of Suchness which is Emptiness” (Merton, 104). So, although desire leads to suffering, suffering is necessary in order to reach emptiness which is synonymous with compassion and generosity.
After a long day at a track meet in Springfield, MA, I went for a short run as the sun was setting.
In a sunset sky
I agree that sadness can be beautiful in that it allows people to really feel and learn compassion, but the idea that Japan breeds a generally sad population struck with ‘mono no aware‘ is depressing. Maybe part of this sadness stems from the attention to appearance. For example, the “old fellow” who asked for a concubine with very specific characteristics like “she should have the most up-to-date good looks. . .the hips firm but not too well padded, the buttocks plump” (Hibbett 166-167). Another example is the emphasis placed on etiquette, which creates a very black and white society. People are bound by traditions and standards like the one provided by the “old fellow”, which I think can inhibit the Japanese from finding their sense of self that is so longed for. Being a slave to etiquette and norms is a catalyst for the separation between the inner and outer dimensions of personalities, which creates a “self-conscious schizophrenia” in the population (8). So while it may appear that someone is committed to an action, their “inner personality” may feel totally opposed to that action, causing this split and wounding the self. This is evident in the drinking culture in Japan. An employed person could be the type who wants to go home to family on a Friday night, but instead gets wasted with co-workers because that is what etiquette dictates. Furthermore, this separation between inner and outer dimensions is also seen in Japanese life in general. It maintains the appearance of being very proper, yet had this culture where married men slept with geishas and “their true wives never enter[ed] their minds” and get/got wasted on weekends (170). In these examples, we see people acting in ways they are not proud of, yet choose not to change their habits: “at the bottom of his heart such a man feels deeply resentful towards the courtsan. . . no wonder a man will ruin himself for a clever girl” (177). The rigidity of the nation makes vices even harder to resist, which I think affects the Japanese ability to create a sense of self because it is difficult to differentiate between etiquette and hedonistic desires, leading to “ruin”.
While I was running, I passed an iced over Mystic Lake.
My poem is written about a moment I had running along Mystic Lake. The road was empty, the air was brisk, and the lake was frozen over and completely still. In that moment, I felt peace and freedom. I engage in these moments especially when I am running because I can experience nature for uninterrupted periods without talking to people, and when I am lucky enough to also escape my thoughts, I can feel these moments. According to Inouye these are learning experiences because they are a “means to enter into the thing, to be emotionally moved by the essence that emerges from the object, and to let your feeling become verse” (Inouye 77). In other words, embracing the animism that exists in the “here and now” infuses you with invaluable knowledge. It is a way of finding yourself. Basho’s journey was his way of learning, evident from his poem: “I cannot speak of / Yudono, but see how wet / My sleeve is with my tears” (Basho 118). He is overcome with emotions so powerful that his tears are the best means to articulating his feelings. Similar to how electronically produced pictures portray a scene often absent of emotion that would otherwise be present in paintings, these moments can be restricted by descriptions. They are hard to describe, and are often better with limited detail in order to preserve the emotion. Here, the painting is Japanese poetry and the photograph is descriptive writing. This sort of experience is what Basho describes in The Narrow Road to the Deep North– a relationship with nature and “the here and now”. The “here and now” is “unchanging and ever-changing”, meaning it is constantly in flux because nature is untamable, yet amidst the evanescent tendency of the natural world, Japan superimposes the chaos with form (Inouye 74). A prime example of this is seen in Ginkakuji, where a sand mound is maintained in a large cone-like shape. This structure is made out of sand, a material that is vulnerable to the elements. Additionally, it has very fine lines, which require frequent refurbishing in order to retain their shape. So while nature is acting against ginkakuji, the Japanese strive to overlay the unpredictability with structure.
I observed an especially bright moon while leaving the library.
Inouye prefaced the lectures for this week by saying that Japan becomes slightly disappointing in that it grows into just another modern place. However, at the end of the week, I was not disappointed with how Japan evolved after Commodore Perry and the black ships arrived. Given that modernization was inevitable, Japan did an impressive job retaining the culture that makes it unique. Even after the samurai were stripped of their position, the Japanese people maintained the values of politeness, generosity, honer, self control, and benevolence that stemmed from them that Bushido discusses. I think these qualities are rooted in the samurai’s “grand capacity to do and to suffer” (Inazo 45). I think this is one of the principle differences from western culture. Western cultures try to avoid suffering by constantly stressing doing what makes you happy; whereas, in Japan, following gi-ri is emphasized, whether that makes you happy or not is irrelevant. It is sad to think that gi-ri describes “why a mother must, if need be, sacrifice all her other children in order to save the first-born” and why it committing suicide is honorable (Inazo, 48-49). However, it also creates an incredible sense of nationalism because everyone is samurai in nature. This nationalism is so powerful that “after it is blown to the four winds, it will still bless mankind with the perfume with which it will enrich life. Ages after when its customaries will have been buried and its name forgotten, its odours will come floating in the air” (Inazo 154). So, even centuries after the start of westernization, and now in an extremely globalized world, traces of bushido is and forever will be present.
I spotted a swan hugging the edge of a melting ice sheet as I was running around Mystic Lake.
Last week I discussed how Professor Inouye warned us that Japan would begin disappointing us and during week 8 I really felt it. This is primarily due to the brutality from Nanking, which heavily contrasted the bushido values we read about during week 7. Bushido discussed honor, respect, benevolence, politeness, and self control, and we see many of these values, which the Nanking warriors lacked, in the kamikaze suicide bombers. “The kamikaze volunteers were conditioned by the Japanese metaphysics of death as expressed both in traditional samurai philosophy and in religion” (Morris 316). So the samurai values, which, according to Bushido, are innate in the Japanese, helped the kamikaze bombers fulfill their duties. However, these values were lost in the Nanking warriors. For example: “In the end the soldier killed her, ripping open her belly with his bayonet and jerking out not only her intestines but a squirming fetus” (Chang 86). The unnecessary torture and murder of Nanking demonstrated Japan’s loss of etiquette during this period as she modernized and advanced, especially militarily. I think it is important to look at last week’s lectures to determine the root cause of these atrocities. In class it was mentioned that the Japanese were scared to death of being colonized and even though they were able to resist it, westernization flooded Japan, causing a temporary loss of identity. Form and etiquette, which were so true to Japanese culture, were lost in this process and traded for the ideas of “rich country, strong army” and “conquer or be conquered”. These idea were drivers for both the kamikazes and the Nanking warriors, so I think the common link was the strong patriotism and desire to aestheticize death.
Walking downhill from Tisch, I felt a steady, cold breeze.
The experience of watching Grave of the Fireflies was enhanced by the discussions we had in class. The movie is a great example of mono no aware because even though it is doused in tragedy, there are moments filled with happiness shared between the Setsuko and Seita. Furthermore, it exemplifies evanescence. Just as the sakura falls at the peek of its beauty, so do the fireflies and Setsuko, both of which are tragic and beautiful. We even notice individual characters transform into harsh and selfish people. This is evident in the aunt who evolves into a woman who continually insults and deprives the two of food until it seems they have no choice but to leave the house. The aunt illustrated the tendency for the Japanese to veer away from their premodern selves during modern and war times. The individualistic and unsympathetic nature of people like the aunt, the doctor, and the man providing cremation materials to Seita is reminiscent of the Rape of Nanking. Of course it is not as overtly grotesque, but we notice the same tendency for people to enter into this contradicting mentality that is both cult-like in the sense that the nation is at the epicenter, yet it is individualistic in that people are fighting against each other to survive. I think this mind set consumed people to the point where they lose their sense of self to the war effort, and for the Japanese, a large part of this was losing bushido characteristics. This was also evident in Summer Flowers. For example, when the narrator says he “lived every day in dire need of food. No one in [the] town extended a helping hand to the victims” (Tamiki 63). However, after the bombs, it seems as though these anti-Japanese characteristics diminish. We see the type of nothingness evolve from mu to nihil, the landscape destroyed, yet at the war’s end, comradery between citizens and selflessness is restored. The “unbearable resentment against this absurdity bound [them] together; [they] needed no words” (Tamiki 52). So even though many Japanese people were stripped of everything they owned, they had people who could relate to them without exchanging words.
3 Greaves Amanda
– Walking through the cold night
Walking in the snow
The cold frost penetrating
Where can I get warm?
This week focused on leaving the world. I want to focus on The Tufts Enlightenment Rap; The House is on Fire, and what it is actually saying. Professor Inouye used the example of being in a house when everyone is telling you it is on fire, and yet you protest and stay in as an equivalent to not giving in to evanescence. In not believing my friends, I am allowing myself to metaphorically die in a burning house. There are many ways to perform Shukke, in As I Crossed the Bridge of Dreams, “ the narrator’s mother…abandon(s) the world and become a Buddhist nun (Inouye, 40).” In my own life I am trapped by my desire to have objects, and the need to control the environment that exists around me. It is, “ all desire and ambition (Inouye, 48)” that exist within my structure to do that in actually keeping me back like Kiyomori who, “sees himself as too good to be bound by visual scriptures of acceptable behavior (Inouye, 48).” While the other character embraces the world as nothing, he will survive, while Kiyomori is crushed by its reality. In conclusion, what we find as salvation in things, we should look for that within ourselves.