Friday, January 19, 2007

Mono no aware

"Mono no aware" (the pathos of things) is an important concept in understanding Japanese literature and way of seeing the world in general. It is an awareness of the vulnerabilities of life, the ever-changing faces of things, the non-permanence of human existence. It was famously employed as a critical tool by Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801), the founder of Kokugaku (Japanology) in the Edo period.

Those who possess a sense of "mono no aware" are sensitive to the sufferings of the weak and underprivileged, as they know that they might fall into these misfortunes themselves. They are aware that nothing is permanent, love, social structure, human relationships, not to mention politics. They do not therefore take a "no-nonsense" approach in coming to terms with conditions of the outcasts and the estranged. They are full of compassion and commiseration.

In the Japanese society, there has always been an implicit conflict between the bureaucratic and hard-nosed and those with a soft heart for the "mono no aware". In the Heian period (749 to 1185), the ruling class prided themselves on having a feeling for "mono no aware", as exemplified in the beautiful story of Genji. The Japanese history had seen some periods where people insensitive to their own and others' vulnerabilities unfortunately found central positions in government.

I myself would like to live fully immersed in "mono no aware". I would like to expose myself to the vulnerabilities of life, both within and without, and constantly find a new self. It is the only way to grow spiritually.

Those were the thoughts as I walked through the forest of the Meiji Shrine in the heart of Tokyo, on my way to the NHK broadcast center one recent afternoon, with the sky above being cleared of clouds which brought rain earlier in the morning.

The torii (sacred gate) of the Meiji Shrine. I walk past this gate into the forest behind twice a week on my way to the NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) broadcast center.


Anonymous said...

A famous diva sings as follows:

Then the riddle gets solved and you push me up to this:
State of emergency
How beautiful to be!
State of emergency
Is where I want to be

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I mistekenly submitted the comment for the diary. I should have posted the comment for the yesterday's diary.