Untranslatable Words: Mono No Aware, and the Aesthetics of Impermanence
There is still sadness present in mono no aware, a sorrow at this transiency, of the loss of people and things that are precious to us. However, this melancholy is suffused with a quiet rejoicing in the fact that we had the chance to witness the beauty of life at all, however fleetingly. We are sighing rather than weeping.
Dr. Tim Lomas
University of East London
Researcher in positive psychology
Not All Who Wander Are Lost
My dearest friend said to me last night, “When you were with C you must have been lost.” Although her comments came from a place of compassion and loving, it implied I didn’t know who I was, wanted, or needed. It implied I fell into a relationship with C because I didn’t have an identity of my own. Her comment caught me off guard because, in reality, I knew exactly where I wanted to be, knew exactly what I wanted to be, and exactly who I was.
I was never confused. I was wrong, but never confused,
I love C and my life with C and although there are some things I would change I wouldn’t trade a moment of my life with her or the boys. That isn’t revisionist history, that is why I am so devastated. Perhaps, if C was caught by surprise, it is why she appears to be devastated still.
Clearly, there were things I did wrong, and others I wasn’t doing well, but I was willing to listen, learn, adapt, and grow. I’ve always thought this is the Goal of Relationships – not to simply pay the bills and mow the grass – but to experience living and loving; to create something greater than the sum of the individuals.
The view may be criticized as being overly romanticized but it is as close to spirituality as I get. As I said over and over to C, “We are in this together.”
I mean it, and this is why I leave the door open to loving her and her Uglies.
My friend’s statement reminded me of a conversation C and I had relatively often. I’d say, to her, “My Love of loves, my heart belongs to you.”
Then I would ask, “Who do you belong to?” And C would respond, “To you Mr. K.”
Then I would ask, “Who do I belong to?” And C would respond, “To me.”
I’d passionately respond, “Then treat me like you mean it.”
That exchange spoke to me in a deeply emotional and spiritual voice. It was never about base sexual behaviors. We could have this conversation surrounded by 100,000 people at an art show, driving through a snowstorm, or in the bedroom.
The point is, once we had the conversation, I’d spend the next three hours carefully loading her paintings into the art trailer on a 100 degree day and 97% humidity without a thought of complaint while C lovingly walked our dogs. I would volunteer to work the hockey concession stand for hours so she could sit in the stands and watch her boys play. She’d bring me lunch, kiss me on the forehead, when I was ignoring her and quietly working on a project.
These weren’t simply actions, they were all external symbols to me telling a deeper Truth of our life together.
This awareness drives much of my grieving. Hence, mono no aware, a “sighing rather than weeping.” I rejoice “in the fact that [I] had the chance to witness the beauty of life” with her at all.
Last Man Standing
In truth, my friend’s comment that I must have been lost is confusing because, although I see things more clearly, I actually feel more lost.
I don’t know where I am going, what I am doing next, or what I need or want now. As such, perhaps after seven years together I grieve most not knowing where I belong now.
I’m clear I don’t know anything. What has shaken out from the reveal of my secret and lies is that I am a lousy communicator with a misplaced sense of Honor and Integrity, tied to excessive Pride.
But I’m figuring it out.
From where I stand the primary issues in our relationship wasn’t codependency, enabling, echosim or some clickbait pathology. Those attitudes and approach to communication may have retarded the growth of our relationship and vulnerability but they were never the drivers for me. I still strongly hold to the view that the primary conflicts in our relationship were an issue of communication, not compatibility, motivations, or intentions. Lack of vulnerable communication created a decision-making patchwork defined by guesswork.
As my Doctor constantly reminds me, “Neither you nor C are broken, damaged, or pathological. You are simply conditioned to respond. You can be reconditioned.”
I’m embracing the reconditioning. As a result, I’ll clearly hum along better the next time.
On a different note, I spent a few hours buying art for my new apartment. It isn’t great art, but it is symbolic to my journey and experience. It gives voice to the love and pain I’m experiencing, it speaks of where I am open to going with a nod to where I have been.
Here are the people, places, and things that carry me forward through the day as I trudge the road of happy destiny.