April 11, 2005

Falling Petals

I have by now often discussed, heard, read, felt, and seen the acknowledgement, acceptance, and celebration of ephemerality in Japanese culture, known as 物の哀れmono no aware (lit. sympathy for things), or, as I have adopted it for the title of my blog (which will also prove to be an ephemeral thing), 無常観 mujoukan (awareness of impermanence). Maybe I do not need to be aware of impermanence, and that it is this negating character 無 mu that works doubly--meaning that a full realization is an unrealization of impermanence, that we are talking about a non-awareness, not ignorance, but in lightness, in the absence of a logic that demands everything that life involves us in to fit into the objective space of the known and knowable; it is a positive freedom that does not drag one down with the weight of one's thoughts and fears. There is an old proverb in Japanese that represents this way of living: 行雲流水 ko-un-ryuu-sui (a cloud moving across the sky, and a river flowing on land). As I move on through life, I notice something here, something there, and keep moving.

Why did I start today's blog with this long,very thought-heavy reflection on words that I have randomly come across in my many days of scanning dictionaries, handbooks, etc. for interesting words? I do not know.

Last Saturday was the pinnacle of hanami season this year. It was a calm, almost windless day, the sun shining in a sky with few clouds, the trees stretching their arms wide, seemingly struggling to hold up the fully opened blooms. I stumbled into a friend's barbeque party, helped to ignite the charcoals, and for a moment or two there was peace there in Wakayama Castle park. Looking out over the vista of sakura, I could see Wakayama in the late afternoon light. The sound of drunken friends echoing up the castle walls along with a strange music whose players I could not see. There are times like these when things come into fullness, like the sakura, and then depart. We are thankful for them, and that is all.


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