Just This Moment
The eighteenth-century Japanese brush painter Ike no Taiga was once asked, “What is the most difficult thing to paint?” And he replied: “The part that is not painted.”
By dint of exquisite placement and juxtaposition, in traditional Japanese arts our attention is arrested time and again, and we are presented with an opportunity to contemplate and appreciate discrete moments of eternity. The Japanese have refined everything to its essential elements. Theirs is a culture of illumination, highlighting instants of clarity by focusing on small details. Each movement or object is exactly prescribed and nothing is left to chance. Spontaneity is allowed to arise but only within a certain form. Each stroke of the brush, movement of the fan, and so on, stands alone as a gesture that can never be precisely replicated. There is also a strong element of modesty in everything the Japanese do while the American way is profligate, a way of excess. Americans are always seeking more of everything, while the Japanese demonstrate how little is actually necessary. What we have is an in-your-face culture. We shout rather than whisper while in Japan things tend to be implied rather than spelled out.
So today I am keeping this short (!).