On the nostalgia of spring.
RHODES, Greece- I imagine the people of Japan are all sitting outside right now drinking beer beneath cherry trees. They should be blossoming right around now, and whenever they do the entire country comes down from their high-rise hideouts to admire them.
I am fortunate to have experienced the Sakura celebration back in 2004. It is something that’s not quite like anything else in the world, and the collective experience of going out and pondering the passing of time with thousands of other people permanently re-lodges a few things in your mind.
The cherry blossoms bloom beautifully for just a few short days and then they wither up, fall to the earth, and die — a direct metaphor for life and the ever-fleeting moment.
Mono no aware is how the Japanese put it. It pretty much it means something to the effect of “basking in the feeling of the eternal ephemeral.” It’s basically nostalgia mixed with preemptive nostalgia; the realization that where we are now was the product of a complex chain of ever-fleeting moments and where were going is also ever-fleeting. It’s the acceptance that there is no end result, no final product — that it all just keeps going, that this is it.
This is the time of year when we acknowledgement of the fact that we are going to die and everything will move on without us, that life is a beautiful thing that you get to play with for a day or two before it falls to the ground and wilts away. It’s the full-fledged engagement of all three phases of time packaged together and appreciated — the heavy feeling of sadness in your belly.
We don’t like to think about this in the West, let alone go out and celebrate it with our entire society. But in East Asia the sentiment is different. The people know how little time they really have and the importance of appreciating the small moments that lives are ultimately the sums of … along with the deep realization that it all doesn’t really matter anyway.
I’ve been worrying about time lately. I fear that I won’t have enough of it to get it all done, to accomplish what I’ve set out to do, that I will never get to the top of the hill I’m climbing. But I also know that this climb is the way that I play with my few days of life. I do this because I like it, because I have fun with it, but my biggest hope — the hope of all humans, perhaps, is to react against the beautiful, ever-rolling, uncaring ephemeral and create something that lasts.
It’s a fool’s endeavor.
The trees are blossoming on Rhodes.