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« ku # 614 ~ earth, water, sky | Main | ku # 611-612 ~ it rained »

ku # 613 ~ hade and shibui

Submerged ripples in the sandclick to embiggen
Somewhere in my meanderings around the web, I came across this as a comment on a discussion about beauty, photography-wise:

Some of the images I've seen that have a "wow" factor I do admire and love to look at for a while. But after that - well, I'm ready to move on. I couldn't live with an image like that on my walls.

But other times, when I see another image and go "wow" - it's an image that I know I can live with for the rest of my life.

So for me, the term "beauty" has different levels or depths. I like the Japanese concepts of beauty - there's the fresh gaudiness of spring flowers that probably we might not be able to live with comfortably all year long, as the brightness may tire our nervous systems - the stimulation is too strong and we need a rest. This is the concept of beauty they call "hade."

There are also stages in between hade and shibui, which to them and to me, represents the highest form of beauty - the kind of beauty that nourishes and sustains. It doesn't yell at us to notice it. It just quietly "is." Shibui refers to things that have survived all the hassles and gaudiness and have settled down into comfortable and enjoyable contentedness.

Against the background of shibui we can introduce temporary hade objects. But we always want to go back to shibui.

On those same meanderings, I also came across this from a NY Times Op-Ed by NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF titled, When Our Brains Short-Circuit:

Evidence is accumulating that the human brain systematically misjudges certain kinds of risks. In effect, evolution has programmed us to be alert for snakes and enemies with clubs, but we aren’t well prepared to respond to dangers that require forethought.

If you come across a garter snake, nearly all of your brain will light up with activity as you process the “threat.” Yet if somebody tells you that carbon emissions will eventually destroy Earth as we know it, only the small part of the brain that focuses on the future — a portion of the prefrontal cortex — will glimmer.

“We humans do strange things, perhaps because vestiges of our ancient brain still guide us in the modern world ...”

With apologies to Craig Tanner who thinks that I "have attacked enough straw men here to make me think you might have an issue with oats, wheat and barley", I hereby introduce an expanded definition (extrapolated from the above quotes) of my favored bogeyman - the ever-maligned "pretty-picture crowd" - to wit:

The pretty picture crowd who practice a koyaanisqatsi picture-making lifestyle - emphasis on hade over shibui - are exemplars of / advocates for the short-circuited brain way of living / thinking.

Koyaanisqatsi, for those of you haven't seen the movie of the same name, is a Hopi Indian word for the concept of "crazy life, life in turmoil, life out of balance, life disintegrating, a state of life that calls for another way of living". And I ask you - is there anyone out there who doesn't think that we (in the "civilized" world) are living a 'crazy life, life in turmoil, life out of balance, life disintegrating, a state of life that calls for another way of living'?

Now I am not placing a big part of the blame for our current koyaanisqatsi on the pretty-picture crowd, but, that said, I do believe that the near-pavlovian / near-exclusive emphasis that they place upon the making and adoration of hade over shabui pictures is both systematic of and encouraging of the idea of the short-curcuited brain - the now-and-wow over the later-and-greater.

Quite frankly, IMO, I believe that any activity that promotes rapid-response behavior coupled with shallow-emotional/intellectual content when practiced to exclusionary excess, is detrimental to achieving a cultural / societal "life in balance".

Does this mean that I am on a mission to eradicate hade from the face of the picture-making earth? In a word, "no". In 2 words, 'absolutely not". IMO, the commenter quoted above had it right when he opined that "against the background of shibui we can introduce temporary hade objects".

Hey, everybody should have a some "brain-dead" fun every now and again even on a daily basis. IMO, you'd go crazy without it. But, when it becomes the steady diet - the staff of life so to speak, as is so evident in our current economic state, koyaanisqatsi can't be far behind.

Reader Comments (3)

Shiboo shiboo doowop doowop shiboo shiboo....

July 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Dear Mark,

nice image, though it's not really clear what your intention is. A more speaking title would have been appropriate. And while we are at it: Do you know that a polarizer would have gotten rid of that nasty reflection in the water? Apart from that, it would also have given your image some well deserved saturation. Hope that helps.

The answer is on my blog :)

July 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndreas Manessinger

Mark, thanks for pointing out these interesting concepts, and thanks to Andreas for a very constructive comment on his blog.

July 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJuha Haataja

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