10 May 2017

Wabi-Sani: Further Thoughts

I thought it was odd that the library doesn't have the first book in the series, but I don't think I'm missing out on much except aesthetic theory.

First a short interlude on Japanese aesthetics via Stanford. Some concepts that stood out to me are:
  1. Mono no aware (物の哀れ), which gets translated into "pathos of things", a phrase that means close to nothing to me. Instead I think of it in relation to impermanence: “awareness of the fundamental condition of existence is no cause for nihilistic despair, but rather a call to vital activity in the present moment and to gratitude for another moment's being granted to us.”
  2. Wabi, I think of this as an anti-thesis to beauty in perfection: “If for the Buddhists the basic condition is impermanence, to privilege as consummate only certain moments in the eternal flux may signify a refusal to accept that basic condition."
  3. Yugen (幽玄), explained as “depth of the world we live in, as experienced through cultivated imagination” 
  4. Kire, translated as cutting and explained as "“In severing the flowers from their roots, Nishitani suggests, and placing them in an alcove (itself cut off from direct, as Tanizaki remarks), one is letting them show themselves as they truly are: as absolutely rootless as every other being in this world of radical impermanence.” I now have an introductory book on ikebana because of this.
I found the explanatory notes of this book to be more helpful (as in I can understand) compared to the main body text. This is more so my lack of knowledge on aesthetics rather than the fault of the book. The notes define many of the keywords used in the main text, which made me now understand why my ENV222 course was such a stickler about assuming the audience has no background knowledge and to define all of your key terms (a tall order for less than 800 words). Anyways.

The best definition of Art I've read so far:
A powerful dynamic of the art-making process is representing the ordinary as extraordinary, and making what was heretofore invisible visible. Most artist realize that anything can be "beautiful", or at least very interesting, if properly contextualized. Contexts, or conceptual frames, are especially useful if the focus of attention is something very subtle. Sometimes "contextualizing" or "framing" means placing things in isolation. Sometimes it means placing one thing that to another, as a contrast. The calm, clean, ordered frame or context allows the viewer to perceive the featured qualities without distraction
Defining elegance:
"Elegant" refers to a graceful acceptance of restraint, inconvenience, and uncertainty.
This quotation lodged the concept of empathy in my head for the past couple of days, to the point that I'm framing my scholarship applications with that concept:
Iconographically, Wabi Sabi is often represented by the entropic processes of nature made visible. Entropy precipitates chaos and unpredictability, and this produces variety and interest. [...] Imperfection also implies a "spiritual condition". Under the right circumstances, imperfection-embodied things can arouse a sense of empathy.
Try to be better at both:
Thinking - conceptual thought - is about building up mental structures. Experiencing reality non-dualistically is about being free of them.

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