Japanese Aesthetics (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

This is more philosophical – but as a window into an amazing world – its great.

Two preliminary observations about the Japanese cultural tradition to begin with. The first is that classical Japanese philosophy understands the basic reality as constant change, or (to use a Buddhist expression) impermanence. The world of flux that presents itself to our senses is the only reality: there is no conception of some stable “Platonic” realm above or behind it. The arts in Japan have traditionally reflected this fundamental impermanence—sometimes lamenting but more often celebrating it. The idea of mujō (impermanence) is perhaps most forcefully expressed in the writings and sayings of the thirteenth-century Zen master Dōgen, who is arguably Japan’s profoundest philosopher, but here is a fine expression of it by a later Buddhist priest, Yoshida Kenkō, whose Essays in Idleness (Tsurezuregusa, 1332) sparkles with aesthetic insights:

It does not matter how young or strong you may be, the hour of death comes sooner that you expect. It is an extraordinary miracle that you should have escaped to this day; do you suppose you have even the briefest respite in which to relax? (Keene, 120)

via Japanese Aesthetics (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).


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