Yugen…


And yes, yugen

To achieve the end of yugen, art had sometimes been stripped of its color and glitter lest these externals distract; a bowl of highly polished silver reflects more than it suggests, but one of oxidized silver has the mysterious beauty of stillness, as Seami realized when he used for stillness the simile of snow piling in a silver bowl. Or one may prize such a bowl for the tarnished quality itself, for its oldness, for its imperfection, and this is the point where we feel sabi. […] The love for the fallen flower, for the moon obscured by the rain, for the withered bough, is part of sabi. Unlike yugen (to which, however, it is not opposed) sabi does not find in these things symbols of remoter eternities. They are themselves and capable in themselves of giving deep pleasure. Sabi also differs from the gentle melancholy of aware: here one does not lament for the fallen flower, one loves it.

Tsunoda, et al — Sources of the Japanese Tradition. Compiled by R. Tsunoda, Wm. Theodore de Bary, Donald Keene (Records of Civilization. Sources and Studies. no. 54.)

I doubt Zeami meant it as a simile. Maybe, something closer [if we’re going to pull this back to being about photography] to what [to me] seems to lie behind Stieglitz’s ‘Equivalents’: isomorphism under some [phenomenological] metric other than meaning.

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  1. Pingback:Darrell Berry » The Flower of Stillness

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