Semi-Charmed Life


Mono No Aware

I've been reading Tattoos of the Floating World, which is an extremely informative book on the historical significance of Japanese tattoos. One particular section elaborated on importance of the cherry blossom to Japanese culture, especially the idea of mono no aware.

Mono no aware: the Japanese beauty aesthetic

Meaning literally "a sensitivity to things," mono no aware is a concept describing the essence of Japanese culture, invented by the Japanese literary and linguistic scholar scholar Motoori Norinaga in the eighteenth century, and remains the central artistic imperative in Japan to this day. The phrase is derived from the word *aware*, which in Heian Japan meant sensitivity or sadness, and the word mono, meaning things, and describes beauty as an awareness of the transience of all things, and a gentle sadness at their passing. It can also be translated as the "ah-ness" of things, of life, and love.

Mono no aware gave name to an aesthetic that already existed in Japanese art, music and poetry, the source of which can be traced directly to the introduction of Zen Buddhism in the twelfth century, a spiritual philosophy and practise which profoundly influenced all aspects of Japanese culture, but especially art and religion. The fleeting nature of beauty described by mono no aware derives from the three states of existence in Buddhist philosophy: unsatisfactoriness, impersonality, and most importantly in this context, impermanence.

According to mono no aware, a falling or wilting autumn flower is more beautiful than one in full bloom; a fading sound more beautiful than one clearly heard; the moon partially clouded more appealing than full. The sakura or cherry blossom tree is the epitome of this conception of beauty; the flowers of the most famous variety, somei yoshino, nearly pure white tinged with a subtle pale pink, bloom and then fall within a single week. The subject of a thousand poems and a national icon, the cherry blossom tree embodies beauty as a transient experience.

Mono no aware states that beauty is a subjective rather than objective experience, a state of being ultimately internal rather than external. Based largely upon classical Greek ideals, beauty in the West is sought in the ultimate perfection of an external object: a sublime painting, perfect sculpture or intricate musical composition; a beauty that could be said to be only skin deep. The Japanese ideal sees beauty instead as an experience of the heart and soul, a feeling for and appreciation of objects or artwork--most commonly nature or the depiction of--in a pristine, untouched state.

An appreciation of beauty as a state which does not last and cannot be grasped is not the same as nihilism, and can better be understood in relation to Zen Buddhism's philosophy of earthly transcendence: a spiritual longing for that which is infinite and eternal--the source of all worldly beauty. As the monk Sotoba wrote in *Zenrin Kushū* (Poetry of the Zenrin Temple), Zen does not regard nothingness as a state of absence, but rather the affirmation of an unseen that exists behind empty space: "Everything exists in emptiness: flowers, the moon in the sky, beautiful scenery."

With its roots in Zen Buddhism, *mono no aware* is bears some relation to the non-dualism of Indian philosophy, as related in the following story about Swami Vivekananda by Sri Chinmoy:

*"Beauty," says [Vivekananda], "is not external, but already in the mind." Here we are reminded of what his spiritual daughter Nivedita wrote about her Master. "It was dark when we approached Sicily, and against the sunset sky, Etna was in slight eruption. As we entered the straits of Messina, the moon rose, and I walked up and down the deck beside the Swami, while he dwelt on the fact that beauty is not external, but already in the mind. On one side frowned the dark crags of the Italian coast, on the other, the island was touched with silver light. 'Messina must thank me,' he said; 'it is I who give her all her beauty.'" Truly, in the absence of appreciation, beauty is not beauty at all. And beauty is worthy of its name only when it has been appreciated.*

The founder of *mono no aware*, Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801), was the pre-eminent scholar of the Kokugakushu movement, a nationalist movement which sought to remove all outside influences from Japanese culture. Kokugakushu was enormously influential in art, poetry, music and philosophy, and responsible for the revival during the Tokugawa period of the Shinto religion. Contradictorily, the influence of Buddhist ideas and practises upon art and even Shintoism itself was so great that, although Buddhism is technically an outside influence, it was by this point unable to be extricated.


I generally don't like articles I find on ezinearticles but this was one of the more relevant Google search results. I really like the meaning and philosophy behind the cherry blossom, but I don't know what to pair it up with. Cherry blossoms alone would look very feminine if not balanced with something more fierce and masculine. I'm also concerned about aesthetics, as the tattoo I plan to get in October will be western/modern art. I'm not sure if east meets west would look good together.

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Losing is No Fun

After work on Friday, I went with some friends to Tattoo Culture, where Pat put in his down payment for the French guest artist in October. The guy that helped us at the counter had a pretty sick tattoo across his ribs. I love black ink tattoos . . . still trying to decide if I want color in my tattoo. Afterward, we got some grub from Endless Summer, a taco truck in the neighborhood. The food was decent but it was awesome bang for the buck.

Saturday was competition day and I was way more nervous than I had ever anticipated. I felt nauteous on the train ride to the tournament. When I arrived there and saw some familiar faces, the anxiety went away. I started worrying a little after all my training buddies asked me why I did not cut weight. They said my bracket was pretty stacked, with 16 competitors. I competed in the featherweight division (141-154) and I told them that when I weighed myself earlier in the week, I was 146 with the gi on. Prior to my match, I had to be weighed in and I came in at a whopping 141.5! I was at the very bottom of the weight class. I was shocked at how light I've become, especially considering the 141.5 took into account the gi I was wearing. Without the gi I was probably 138-139?

The match didn't go too well. I often hear a lot of people say nerves disappear when you're in the ring or when you're competing, but I was nervous as fuck while I was out there. My opponent went for my leg early and I have no idea why I did not defend it. I tried to fight it off, but it was already too late and eventually he got 2 points for the takedown. After the takedown, my main concern was to not let him establish a dominant position on me, but eventually he had me mounted, which was another 4 points for him. I lost 9 - 0. Not sure where the other 4 points came from but I'm going to review the fight footage to find out.

Overall I thought it was a very fun and worthwhile experience, one that I would do again. The downside though was that some of my friends who don't train came out to support me, and I felt like I let them down by putting on such a pathetic performance.  The upside was that one of my teammates ended up winning the division, which was pretty awesome.

This Saturday one of my favorite fighters in the world, Fedor Emelianenko, received his first legitimate career loss. I feel like I should be more shocked, but the only thing that comes to mind is "it happens."

At 1:09 into the first round of his fight against 2009 Abu Dhabi grappling champion Fabricio Werdum, Fedor Emelianenko tapped out for the first time in his life during professional MMA competition.

There is always a silence immediately following events such as these. It happened for many the first time Chuck Liddell was knocked unconscious.

It is a silence of the inexplicable. The mind does not know what to do. The mind gets used to thinking a certain way, looking at things a certain way, believing in something a certain way, and when that image gets shattered the mind is stunned.

If someone never loses, it is likely they just have not fought enough people.

When Gus Johnson interviewed Fedor after the fight, he asked him, “How are you feeling right now?” And through his interpreter Fedor replied, “Frankly nothing. The one who does not fall, does not stand up.”

Everyone falls sooner or later.

Whether in competition or death, everyone will fall.

Even in defeat, he still inspires.

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Jitters and Ink

Feeling a little stressed today. I'm covering for two coworkers so not only am I going to be swamped with work, I'm also going to be staying an extra hour or two later because one of my coworkers has work that requires me to.

Not only that, my first bjj tournament is tomorrow and the nerves are starting to get to me. I squeezed in a training session yesterday which just further demoralized me because I got my ass handed to me. In my head I know I should not place so much weight on this tournament, as it is my very first one and I'm also a very unseasoned blue belt. More importantly, I intended to do this for fun but this isn't feeling fun at all! Wish me luck because I'll need all I can get. 

I plan to get some early rest tonight, but not before meeting up with my friends to head to the tattoo shop where I plan to get my work done. I already put in my deposit by phone, but my friends are going to do it in person. I figure I'll still tag along to check out the artwork at the shop.

Hoping for a glorious weekend . . .



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Virgin Territory

This week is my last improv class. The week after, we (the students) are to put on a show in front of a real live audience. Nothing big. I suppose it's more of a friends and family and other students type of thing. I'm hesitant about performing in front of people I know but overall I don't feel too nervous. lol that won't matter too much though as I'm not planning to tell my friends to come. I just want to get this over with! I'm not very much looking forward to this. Improv is fun and all, but it's not worth my Sundays. I'm glad I took it but I'm even happier it's going to end soon.

A more immediate performance that I am a little worried about is my first bjj tournament this Saturday. Okay maybe more than just a little.

I get this gnawing feeling that I'm going to get my ass kicked pretty fucking bad. I pray the jiu-jitsu deities won't break my spirit by having some kid flying triangle me 10 seconds into my match. Paying $80 to get my ass kicked in ten seconds and a "free" t-shirt as a consolation prize is not my idea of a good investment at all.

Let me tell you, I am not competing because I think I'm anywhere close to good. I get my ass handed to me all the time in training. I'm probably not the absolute worst blue belt in the world, but in terms of the blue belt ladder I'm pretty far down there.

I never intended to compete when I first started training. It was just for recreation. Competing though, seems like one of those things where everyone who trains should at least do once or twice in your life. So on Saturday, I'm going to try my best and see what happens.

I have also decided on a tattoo. Well not the tattoo really, but rather the artist. Xoil is coming to New York in October, and I plan to get a piece done by him. The general theme I want him to do is Atlas holding up the universe.

One of my first shots with my 10-22mm

He can have freedom to interpret Atlas how he wants. My inspiration was from Atlas Shrugged. I like The Fountainhead more, but Atlas Shrugged ranks right up there as one of my favorite books. I identify strongly with a lot of the themes in Ayn Rand's novels, and I think Atlas would be very meaningful as a tattoo.

I thought of the first image, Lee Lawrie's statue in front of Rockefeller Center, because I liked his use of lines and circles in his tattoos. I want an image that he can work with to bring out the best of what I think he's good at, and what better than the symbol of the fucking universe.

All this is apt to change though. I'm planning on putting my deposit down this weekend, but my ideas might change from now til October.

The world you desire can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours. -Ayn Rand

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Morbid Mondays

Lately I have been thinking a lot about death and have been feeling a lot of guilt. When somebody you know passes away, it always seems like such an immense tragedy at the time, especially if somebody goes in an untimely fashion. There will be varying degrees of sorrow of course, depending on how strong your relationship was with that person. But inevitably time passes and suddenly the person just becomes a memory. Life seems to go back to the way it was.

It feels wrong to me that I can just get back into my normal life so easily. So that's where the guilt kicks in.

In the past 8 or 9 years, it feels like there's been so  much bad stuff happening around me. I felt like there were never any major worries when I was a teenager. I guess as you grow older, it's inevitable that you will meet a lot of people and a lot of things can happen. The probabilities begin to work against you so that now you're bound to know somebody who will have some bad shit happen to them.

In the past year or so alone, I have had 3 good friends reveal to me that their mom or dad had a terminal illness. One of them found out this past Father's Day weekend. That was absolutely crushing to hear. I can't even begin to wonder what that is like, so all I can do is listen. When somebody breaks up with their girlfriend or gets laid off from work, you can be a pal and tell them to suck it up. That you've been there and the world won't end so just grab a few beers and drink it away. This is not one of those things for me though. I try to say something supportive, but consolation feels cheap when you don't know what it's like.

Really though, thoughts like this don't do anyone any good. The best I can do is to live my life as fully as possible and hope to make an impact on those around me so that I will be more than just a memory. To change just one person's life in a positive and meaningful way would be a life fulfilled.

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