Mono no aware


My grandmother (approaching infinity) meeting my first kid (2 weeks)
My first kid (two weeks) meeting my grandmother (approaching infinity)

(I’m spending less time on posts these days as I’m kind of busy, and I’m hoping that writing the ideas down in an experimental way at least will help to solidify certain things in my mind. I haven’t bothered researching anything or backing up my ideas with actual philosophical foundations, but we shall see whether life goes on in the absence of lofty quotations. Expressly: standards are slipping.

“I’m also trying to enter more narrative into these whatever they ares,” she said, putting down her espresso cup, laughing in irony at all of life, teeming outside her cold silent writing room, that she is attempting to capture at the expense of experience.)

Ziggy carried around a roll of sellotape this morning, clinging on to it as I dressed him, showing me how he could fit three of his fingers into the hollow, and insisting that he take it to school. “Mummy, I’m running really, really fast with the sellotape, mummy,” he said (bellowed) as he went up the steps into the classroom.

One day, I will feel wistful for these strange days – for all of the funny little words and phrases my young children will say, for all of chin- and nose-wiping, now lost. But there is another story that I’m afraid to tell. It begins with a grave and ends with nothing.

I am afraid to admit that I already feel a kind of joyful pain for ages of my life that have past. I wrote about a little bit of this in my last post, which you probably haven’t read, because you aren’t here, because I haven’t got round to promoting this blog yet. I accept that this is a universal idiosyncracy of us beings with our long-term memories, but I still can’t grasp why it is such a romantic idea, and why we tend to forget the shitty bits. Most of all, why it makes us so happy to feel it.

The joy is in the memory, a happiness of having lived in such an exciting and happy world full of friendship. The pain is actually a fear, a twist in the pit of the stomach, that perhaps that was the best time in your life, that things are never going to be that good.

But even that is not satisfactory to me.

Looking back to the era (although it has no beginning or end that I can see) in question, I had finished my university studies – a time of great academic hardship, during and after which I felt like a complete idiot, being allowed to live in normal society despite my inability to look after myself (I’m not exaggerating, it was a tough, warped time for my poor little head). I had also entered from my teens into the world of true conscious awakening – we aren’t really conscious until this time, it’s really something that evolves and emerges. It may be because my memory is so poor now that I recall my childhood in all its apparent vividness. Those were simpler, more beautiful, more terrible times. In my teens I was mostly confused and insecure, and different for being both foreign and non-conformist (and this matters in suburbia). And like many I naively and selfishly resented not having an urgent cause to pursue, something that I had read and heard that all great artists have to have had: a great tragedy.

In my early twenties I realised that, despite or perhaps because of my now clear vision of what life was, I was going to basically be this in this state of limbo for the rest of my life, try as I might to be more chipper about things. Although I had plenty of good times, I also decided that I wasn’t going to live beyond my thirties, which I thought was perfectly normal. But – and this is the crux – I was still optimistic that things might get better, that this was the beginning.

So what emerged from that is the sense that I have now, that actually things don’t get any better or worse. So perhaps the real sadness (I call it sadness, but I’m not sad about it) is realising this. I achieve things, I make things, I do things, I learn, and probably I laugh (and maybe even cry). What I have always known – what has protected me – is the knowledge that forcing myself to produce new things is what keeps me away from the abyss. Things are different, things will change, but I now accept that things do not get better, because I now realise that things, all things, are void of meaning.

In spite of this, I continue to enjoy these things that I do, and I haven’t run out of things to do, and I don’t think I ever will, mostly because I read so slowly. Heh. Despite it being meaningless from a grandiose perspective, obviously everything still has the meaning I give it. I still want to know everything, and I still want to be able to do everything, and I continue to do so in my characteristically slap-dash manner that is laughable to anyone that is actually informed on the matter at hand. I still love, despite knowing that it is more work that it advertises itself to be and, from a philosophical standpoint, it is the only affection that is, rather grotesquely, to the detriment of everyone else in the world, and, in complete and beautiful contradiction, apparently to the greatest detriment of the person you are in love with – at least that’s how I treat em, baby. One can only love so much, perhaps.

I have tried to lay out this progression of ideas, ideas so seductive in themselves to my bookish nature, allowing me to admire my own heroism in admitting such a secret, to concretise my subjective views with the thoughts of greater people – even though it has been done many times before in an infinitely more masterly way by some of my favourite writers (Kazuo Ishiguro, who lent me the title of this post and made us all cry into our security blankets with the excruciating Remains of the Day; Virginia Woolf; and perhaps most absurdly in the paintings of the Romantic era.)

I’ll return to an old and simple idea that I still believe in. It is one that I am happy to always have in sight, and one that makes me sorry when I see my friends that have lost it: the only thing that remains for me, once you accept that there is no meaning, is to pursue whatever you enjoy with passion and integrity. Once one moves into the passive voice, all is lost, although one would never admit it, and that is the final truth.


One thought on “Mono no aware

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