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80 pages, Paperback
First published May 1, 2007
Many people everywhere spend their whole lives trying to escape the thought that one day they and all of theirs will be no more. Only a few poets look at the fact, and only the japanese, I believe, celebrate it.The book ends with a useful glossary and an exhaustive bibliography.
This commemoration takes many forms but the most common might be looking into a mirror, seeing one more gray hair, discerning one more wrinkle, and then saying to oneself: "Good, all is well with the word -- things are proceeding as they must."
If aesthetics in the West is mainly concerned with theories of art, that of Japan has always been concerned with theories of taste. What is beautiful depends not upon imagination (as Addison thought) nor qualities proper in the object (as Hume said) nor in its paradoxes (as Kant maintained) but rather on a social consensus.
Simplicity—this was something that Rikyu tried to teach his pupil, Hideyoshi, at whose “court” he was arbiter. One famous anecdote illustrates his method.
Rikyu’s garden of morning glories was known for its beauty. Hearing of it Hideyoshi demanded that he be invited to visit. So he was, but when he arrived all the morning glories were no more; they had all been scythed. Perturbed, Hideyoshi retired to the nearby tea house, and there the modest flower arrangement in the alcove was a single morning glory, the only survivor, superb in its focused simplicity. The warlord is supposed to have stared, then nodded, and said that he understood the lesson.
It is still believed that, although the elements found common to beauty are perhaps universal, it is their reception (the universal standard) that creates the excellence of the art.