Thursday, July 03, 2008

Mono no Aware

I was reading some articles about Ozu and came across this Japanese phrase - "mono no aware", which means something like "the pathos of things". There is an article on Japanese aesthetics on stanford encyclopedia of philosophy which talks about it and other concepts in more detail. Of course this is not something unique to Japanese culture or a Japanese way of looking at the world, it may actually be the most universal human experience of all but still it is nice to have a phrase or a concept dedicated to it.

There is also latin phrase "Lachrymae Rerum" which means the same thing (the tears of things in this case.) My personal favourite though is the German word Weltschmerz ("world pain") or the pain of "being in the world".

There are some other interesting things in the article on Japanese aesthetics too. I specially liked the concept of wabi which means austere and minimalistic beauty - beauty but with moderation. "Are we to look at cherry blossoms only in full bloom, at the moon only when it is cloudless?”" No, he answers, bare branches can be as beautiful. This concept is quite applicable to Ozu's films as well.

The aesthetic idea behind Ikebana (Japanese art of flower arrangement) didn't convince me though.

"There is something curiously deceptive, from the Buddhist viewpoint of the impermanence of all things, about plants, which, by sinking roots into the earth and lacking locomotion, assume an appearance of being especially “at home” wherever they are. In severing the flowers from their roots, Nishitani suggests, and placing them in an alcove, one is letting them show themselves as they truly are: as absolutely rootless as every other being in this world of radical impermanence."

This didn't make sense to me - biologically, aesthetically, ethically or any other way flower-cutting seems to me unjustifiable.

3 comments:

Kubla Khan said...

I too like the german word, though i was not aware of it before.
in Persian, kashmikash suggests the vicissitudes of life and i like the word though Iztiraab, from the Arabic reflects painful despair, a kind of intense unknowingness. something like that.

in the end, everything everywhere is the same.

Alok said...

I don't know if it is the same word... but kashmakash in hindi/urdu means more like dilemma, state of mental indecisiveness.

I agree it is pretty universal.. that's why I like Weltschmerz. it seems to imply that there is a share of pain for all the beings in the world. still i think different cultures respond to it differently, some with serene acceptance and some with unrest and despair.

aannttiiiittnnaa said...

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Came across your blog while researching for my site:
'Blogs That Died Too Young'

Making a search on blogspots URL's using names of 20th Century literary greats. Yours is the only live one so far! Will post my findings on Saturday, come check it out at:

http://ontheblogheap.blogspot.com/

Bye ;)