Saturday, April 7, 2007

Mono No Aware

Wikipedia simply defines it as “the pathos of things” or “the awareness of the transience of things.”

Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801), a literary and linguistic scholar, clearly explains the concept of mono no aware. “Mono” means things. And “aware” means sensitivity. It is simply the aesthetic empathy of things and feelings; deep impressions produced by small things; sympathetic sadness; an intense, nostalgic sadness, connected with autumn and the vanishing away of the world; a serene acceptance of a transient world; a gentle pleasure found in mundane pursuits soon to vanish. He said it is the central aesthetic concept of Japan even up to this modern day period. Mono no aware is a unique culture known to Japanese, the capacity to experience the objective world in a direct and unmediated fashion, to understand sympathetically the objects and the natural world around one without resorting to language or other mediators. The Japanese could understand the world directly in identifying themselves with that world.

In his popular novel, Musashi, the story of Japan’s best-known swordsman, Yoshikawa Eiji writes describes mono no aware from the warrior’s perspective: In the case of the samurai there is such a thing as an appreciation of the poignancy of things… a real samurai, a genuine swordsman has a compassionate heart, he understands the poignancy of life.

I have always been hooked to Japanese culture, literature and aesthetics. They have mainly accepted that sadness is an essential ingredient of life. And maybe this is sort of co-related with Thomas Jefferson’s Pursuit of Happiness, that it is an unalienable Right as a kind of denial of the rightful place of sadness in human experience—that in pursuing happiness we are simultaneously fleeing sadness. (I needed to watch that film. My sister said it is good.)


My dear friend Min sent me this picture. Sakura blossomed already, and every year she sees them, she’s always reminded of me. I loved sakura blossoms the way I see them in pictures. Everything is all in pink. And if ever I’d be going to Japan, I’ll make it a point to go during this time of the year, so that I could see and feel sakura blossoms first hand.

Why does everybody loves sakura? I, for one would be willing to die just to get a glimpse of Sakura blossoms. In pictures, it looked more than breathtaking, and whimsical, what more if they are right in front of me?

The nicest thing about these blossoms is that they are fugacious. They will be in full bloom for one week or so, and then suddenly fades away. Just like our fleeting lives. The more we embrace “mono no aware,” the more we make our lives fulfilling and more meaningful.

That’s the way I live my life, I always make every move into full bloom. By the time I pass in this transitory world, people will always remember that person who blossomed well (and made the world pink) in her living years.