Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mujo and the Appreciati​on of Beauty

From "Unrealistic Dreamer: Haruki Murakami’s acceptance speech on receiving the Cataluña International Prize":

Note: The excerpt below is not the central theme of the speech, far from it - more on that later.

"....Notwithstanding this (the tsunami), there are 13 million people living “ordinary” lives in the Tokyo area alone. They take crowded commuter trains to go to their offices, and they work in skyscrapers. Even after this earthquake, I’ve never heard that the population of Tokyo is in decline.

Why? You might ask me. How can so many people live their daily lives in such a terrible place? Don’t they go out of their mind with fear?

In Japanese, we have the word “mujo”. It means that nothing lasts forever. Everything born into this world changes and will ultimately disappear. There is nothing eternal or immutable on which we can rely. This view of the world was derived from Buddhism, but the idea of “mujo” was burned into the spirit of Japanese people, and took root in the common ethnic consciousness.

The idea “everything has just gone” expresses resignation. We believe that it serves no purpose to go against nature, but Japanese people have found positive expressions of beauty in this resignation.

We love the cherry blossom of spring, the fireflies of summer and the red leaves of autumn. We think it natural that we watch them avidly, collectively and as a tradition. It can be difficult to make a hotel reservation near the famous sites of cherry blossom, fireflies and red leaves in their respective seasons, as such places are invariably milling with visitors.


Cherry blossoms, fireflies and red leaves lose their beauty within a very short time. We travel very far to watch the glorious moment. And we are somewhat relieved to confirm that they are not merely beautiful, but already beginning to fall, to lose their small lights and their vivid beauty. We find peace of mind in the fact that the peak of beauty has passed and disappeared.

I don’t know if natural disasters have affected such a mentality, but I’m sure that in some sense we have collectively overcome successive natural disasters and accepted things that we couldn’t avoid, by virtue of this mentality. "

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