Mono no aware

Life is all ups and downs, as any lift attendant will tell you (...sorry about that). Life is constant change, as any change consultant will tell you (hmm). And yet, even though we all know intuitively that these maxims are true, we do like a nice moan - that the ups don't last quite as long as they used to, and that the downs seem to be dragging along at a snail's pace, and even that the people we thought were here, are now somewhere else and seem to be having a much finer time of it over in that meadow while here I am in my little soggy corner of the patch.

This image is by Delvanjah and licensed under Creative Commons

This image is by Delvanjah and licensed under Creative Commons

Even though we know that we're either not going to get our ducks in a row (love that metaphor), or that if we do it will be a fleeting thing, we do spend an awful lot of time trying to arrange things for just the one moment and then trying desperately to hold onto it.

We do like to try and fix things down,

          "now if I attach these weights to the ducks, they can't waddle off too quickly".

And if you've never tried to tie hypothetical weights to a metaphorical duck, let me assure you it's no easy feat. Still, if you succeed, and it seems to slow the duck down, you might take an extra step and clip its wings, or feed it a lot, or pen it in, so it stays put. So now, if successful, you have your line of ducks! Sure, you may have been severely pecked at, and the ducks may be unable to fly, under remarkable stress, unable to walk, fat, unhealthy and in a state of deep resentment but, dammit, you have them where you want them. Phew, finally.

But things change. And pretty soon, the appeal of the linear duck arrangement wears off. It doesn't offer the same levity it once did. And then there's the constant badgering by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Metaphorical Animals - who have been buoyed up by their successful prosecution of Schrödinger. The wheel turns.

And yet, we all know that one of the many joys of ducks is that they waddle; that they quack and fly and do their own thing. It's the very fickle nature of a duck (there's a phrase no-one's written before) that lends appeal to their appearing in a line even for just a few moments. It's the very fact that things come together, stick around for a bit and then go, that makes them so beautiful and moving.

There is a Japanese phrase, 'mono no aware' which means an awareness that everything is transient and the rather sweet sadness that arises. It's the sweet sorrow of parting. It's the feeling of the sun setting after a long and playful day on a beach. Watching a blossom fall.

Perhaps the best way to enjoy the flow of things is to stop clinging on. Perhaps mono-no-aware, can remove us from the kind of "I like this, I don't like that" state of mind and so sweeten life. Not easy, to be sure, but perhaps.

Mrhayata took this photo and licensed it under Creative Commons. Thank you Mr hayata

Mrhayata took this photo and licensed it under Creative Commons. Thank you Mr hayata

Perhaps we could just let the ducks go, enjoy them while they're here and enjoy them while they're gone.

Perhaps we could let our very serious selves go too, just a little.

Mono no aware

Creative thinking, culinary debate and satire all in one place...nearly

Idea, deconstructed. Photo by Uberof202 ff, licensed under Creative Commons

Idea, deconstructed. Photo by Uberof202 ff, licensed under Creative Commons

In the last post, I was musing on how what we call mistakes in one frame of mind may be seen as quite enjoyable openings in a different frame of mind. Often with hindsight applied, it's  true, but still, maybe some of our mistakes aren't the end of the line that we fear, but the start of a new, rather fun, line.

For example, while walking around Manchester recently, I spotted, on the restaurant menu of a quite nice hotel (that I walked past on the way to my accommodation for the night, sigh) the following item on offer for pudding (or dessert, if you frequent that kind of hotel):

"DECONSTRUCTED EATEN MESS"

Sounds quite delicious, don't you think? No?

I really enjoyed this mistake on several levels (and not solely because someone else had made it, though that helped...just a little). It created quite a mental image, I enjoyed the accidental appropriateness of its inappropriateness, and then there was the fun to be had with the idea that a mess can be deconstructed anyway. Oh, it was a good giggle...and far more memorable, high impact and eye catching than any advert for Eton Mess might have been.

Eton Mess - the sweet dish, best stored in a fridge, rather than a Cabinet.   Picture by Moufle, licensed under Creative Commons - thanks.

Eton Mess - the sweet dish, best stored in a fridge, rather than a Cabinet.   Picture by Moufle, licensed under Creative Commons - thanks.

For the less culinarily inclined, I ought to explain that, far from being a description of the UK Government's front bench, Eton Mess (when spelled correctly) is, in fact, a sweet dish made with crushed meringue, strawberries and whipped cream. Rather nice it is too. Though I did have to wonder how anyone could deconstruct three ingredients that are pretty much just mixed up and put in a dish. But then, who am I to deconstruct deconstruction?

Anyhow, I really enjoyed that mistake and the opportunities to create various ideas and streams of thought that it provided. And that's how some of that creative thinking thing works...bash together ideas that don't necessarily follow and see what emerges. And an important aspect of that process is suspending judgment of what emerges so that further, and possibly better formed, ideas can follow and open whole new avenues for exploration. With that in mind, perhaps we could even thank the makers of mistakes, and see what kinds of creative messes that practice develops?

So, thanks, me, in advance.