Mono no aware has always resonated with me. It is a Japanese concept referring to impermanence and the fleeting nature of beauty. It refers to a wistfulness, inferring that the transience of life makes it all the more poignant. Sometimes referred to as “an empathy towards things”, it describes a bitter sweetness in our experience of being human. It is traditionally illustrated by the image of cherry blossoms; the short term nature of the beautiful flowers followed by their absence.
At different times in my life I have had a greater or a lesser sense of mono no aware. I remember feeling invincible at times, like the rules didn’t apply to me. On the face of it you might imagine this was a carefree and enjoyable existence and at times it was. However on the same thread there was an unavoidable recklessness to it. I also remember feeling for a longer while than I would like as if life hadn’t started yet, like it was possible to hit a ‘pause’ button. This of course, is not possible and whilst I believe all our experiences make up who we are, the option of rewind and replay buttons have felt appealing at times.
Mono no aware suggests that we experience things more intensely when we are aware of their impermanence, something that I feel I have grown to appreciate (although I’ve no doubt it will only become more apparent as time goes on). The idea that fluidity makes the colours more vivid & the landscape more beautiful. Watching my son grow and change in the knowledge that this time is so short. Spending time with family and friends in the knowledge that the time that we all have together is fleeting, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.
That said, the notion of constant change being the one constant is sometimes hard to accept, let alone embrace. This particularly within a culture that often seems to promote a sense of control and power, however much of an illusion this might be. ‘Wabi-sabi’ includes acceptance and imperfection as part of a similar Japanese concept; imperfection being an essential part of beauty; acceptance being the key to human comfort.
So often for me it is separating what it is possible to change from what I might need to accept and perhaps let go of. This has become all the more significant when thinking about my son, how he needs me to be able to facilitate change whilst remaining constant; to hold him and at the same time let him go. It’s through my experiences with him that mono no aware seems all the more relevant; all the more important to bear in mind and not just for myself. The hellos and goodbyes, the change from summer to autumn, an excitement about the cosy coming winter; we will never have these moments again. I want to enjoy all the cherry blossoms before letting them go freely on the breeze.