[zen arts] The more perishable something is, the more aesthetically satisfying it becomes
Perhaps the most puzzling, yet curiously rewarding, aesthetic principle in Zen art is its seeming celebration of the ravages of time. The Zen Japanese consider a taste for newness the mark of the aesthetic parvenu. To be sure, Westerners who have acquired a preference for antiques are sometimes looked upon as more sophisticated than those preferring the latest machine-made item; yet Zen taste has an important difference—the Japanese would never "restore" an antique.
The signs of age and wear are to them its most beautiful qualities. This convoluted attitude actually began in pre-Zen aristocratic times, when courtiers concluded that the reason cherry blossoms or autumn leaves were so beautiful was their short season.
Soon, the more perishable something was, the more aesthetically satisfying it became (... ).
Later, Zen took over this attitude, extending it to things that perish slowly, and before long, things old and worn out—already perished, in a sense—were thought the most beautiful of all. This idea fitted well with the Zen notion that material things were dross and should not be accorded excessive importance. The curious thing is that the idea works; old objects, desiccated and apparently used up, have a nobility that makes one contemplate eternity and scorn the fashions of the moment.
Broken and patched tea bowls or frayed scrolls seemingly falling apart are indeed more beautiful than they were when new. The patina of age is a lesson that time is forever and that you, creature of an hour, would do well to know.
[...] the act of reading is a secret, and sometimes fertile, ceremony of communion. Anyone who reads something that is really worth the trouble does not read with impunity. Reading one of those books that breathe when you put them to your ear does not leave you untouched: it changes you, even if only a little bit, it integrates something into you, something that you did not know or had not imagined, and it invites you to seek, to ask questions. And more still: sometimes it can even help you to discover the true meaning of words betrayed by the dictionary of our times. What more could a critical consciousness want?
One piece of information followed by a denial, that's two pieces of information.
The basic project of art is always to make the world whole and comprehensible, to restore it to us in all its glory and its occasional nastiness, not through argument but through feeling, and then to close the gap between you and everything that is not you, and in this way pass from feeling to meaning. It’s not something that committees can do. It’s not a task achieved by groups or by movements. It’s done by individuals, each person mediating in some way between a sense of history and an experience of the world.
Dear Mr. —
It comes down to the meaning of ‘needless.’ Often a word can be removed without destroying the structure of a sentence, but that does not necessarily mean that the word is needless or that the sentence has gained by its removal.
If you were to put a narrow construction on the word ‘needless,’ you would have to remove tens of thousands of words from Shakespeare, who seldom said anything in six words that could be said in twenty. Writing is not an exercise in excision, it’s a journey into sound. How about [Macbeth’s] ‘tomorrow and ...