Friday, July 09, 2010

Trust your qualia. Let them do the work for you.

The beauty of appreciating a work of art, or a natural scene, or anything that you can experience in this world, is that you can do so without any prior knowledge. Learning and knowing factual and historical information about a work of art will surely help you in understanding the significance of the work. When it comes to appreciating the work in terms of qualia, however, knowledge does not help. It can even hinder the appreciation from time to time.

The qualia belong to the "here and now". Perceiving and receiving something through qualia do not require preparation in the form of learning before the event. Instead of adhering to and logically extrapolating from a system of knowledge, you can just open your mind, and trust your intuition. You need not know anything about the art of work in front of you. Trust your qualia. Let them do the work for you.

In Koryuji temple, Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan for 1200 years, there is a famous and beautiful statue of Miroku-Bosatsu (Maitreya). The statue is estimated to date back to the 7th century. The origin of the wooden fabrication is not known. It could have been an artifact imported from the Korean peninsula, or could have been made in Japan. The aesthetic value of the statue is firmly established among the learned circles, and should be evident to anyone with an open mind. It became the first designated National Treasure of Japan in 1951.

The statue is so elegant and beautiful. There was once a high profile incident in which a University student "held" the statue, entranced by its beauty, breaking one its delicately curved fingers. The criminal prosecution was eventually dropped, and the statue has been restored to perfection since.

Imagine that someday you make that special journey all the way to Koryuji. As you stand in front of the Miroku-Bosatsu statue, your consciousness will be overflowed with various shades of qualia. There will be unconscious processes, too, but those would not be accessible nor reportable.

You might be equipped with some knowledge of the Buddhist belief system. What Maitreya stands for, the significance of a Buddhist statue of worship, the historical background about the Buddhist artifacts in Japan and East Asia. However, all those knowledge will not ultimately help you in appreciating the beautiful statue in front of you. You can only sense its essence as a work of art in terms of qualia that occupies your phenomenal experience. The qualia belong to the "here and now". So is a piece of art when it is appreciated in the physical immediacy.

The Miroku-Bosatsu statue in Koryuji temple, Kyoto.


renpoo said...


There is only "here & now" in this universe. We -- shujoh -- are just expressions/aspects of the whole universe itself.

yuzu said...

I am very happy to know the word "qualia".
I think that this is the most wonderful thing in living.
I fell that understanding of why you love Albert Einstein.
Well,I feel to want to see the statue of Miroku-Bosatsu.
How can I feel. I would love to know them.

masami said...

"Trust your qualia. Let them do the work for you."
Really encouraging.
Thank you.

ichi said...

I had been to Horyji when I was high-school student.Ever since seeing Mirokubosatu in the book,it was my dream to see the real one.
It was not that big statue that I was expected,neither was sitting at luxurious place.However,its curvaceous body and calm expression kept me staying there long time.
Now I have got that is qualia.You remind me of just qualia that I had got 20 years ago.

Anonymous said...

"Trust your qualia." I think you make a very valuable point here. Many people do not to go to concerts, museums, dance performances, exhibitions etc., because they have somehow decided that they don't "understand" art.

Partly (largely), this is because art gets mystified by many who work in the field (critics, curators, artists) as they try to "add value" to what they do by using big words and obscure concepts to describe it. Also we learn, at school and otherwise, a very canonical way of appreciating works of art, making us feel bad if we don't like the works we are supposed to or like something that is considered less important by the so-called experts.

And as we are given all these fancy explanations of what the works are about and what their significance is, we feel that it is impossible to appreciate the work without knowing all that, seeing those intertextual aspects or without being able to assign all those meanings to it. Just taking something in as it is for us, just admiring the beauty of something, doesn't seem to be enough.

So, not only trust your qualia, but be proud of them.