When I was at David Thompson University Centre I took my first course in Linguistics. I discovered that the study of a word’s history, it’s parts and evolution, was strangely pleasurable and enlightening. More than any other course I took that year, it inspired me to explore the meaning wrapped up in words and language. Here are a few Japanese words that I have found helpful in uncovering this way of life I seem destined to live.
Way of Elegance –
Two root Japanese words michi (way or path) and
fuga (the elegance of poetry) make up the phrase.
Fuga, refers to the elegance of poetry. The word is made up of two root words: ‘Fu’ which means the habits and manners of the common folk and ‘Ga’ which refers to the grace or gracefulness of ceremonies at court.
Ga is achieved by a poet who is experienced, recognized, and advanced in artistic studies.
English words that convey a similar quality are ‘cultured’ or ‘civilized’.
The renowned Japanese court poets tried to express ga with idealized and romanticized images. Thus ga is sometimes thought of as artistic and spiritual purity. With this in mind we might translate fuga as ‘common ways with grace’, or ‘blue-jean eloquence’ or even ‘spiritual art grounded in reality.’
In the classic literature of Japan a writer who wished to create literature that was fuga would practice furyu by retiring to nature for solitary contemplation.
Furyu literally means ‘wind and stream’ or ‘in the way of the wind and stream.’ It is a practice that gradually expands your sense of beauty, taste, and aesthetic appreciation. The poet Yosa Buson re-introduced Basho’s concept of furyu after it had fallen out of use. A master of both poetry and painting, and a leader of the haiku revival that occurred between 1765 and 1785, Buson refocused Basho’s concept in what he called ‘the principle of rizoku,’ which meant ‘transcending the ordinary.’ To achieve transcendence Buson said a poet should study classical verse, distance herself from the realms of commerce and competition, and contemplate the simple beauties of nature.
The Way of Elegance is a phrase that combines elements of Fuga and Furyu. Two root Japanese words michi (way or path) and fuga (the elegance of poetry) make up the phrase. Think of a well educated farmer or an artist who supports herself washing floors. The Way of Elegance involves following furyu, and practicing artistic expression as a form of spiritual discipline.
Still in the stream refers to this journey on the way of elegance. “In the stream” is being immersed in flow — being Furyu. “Still” suggest unmoving persistence or patience. Patiently being in the stream doing creative things. Being in the creative “zone” to such a degree that time stops. This flow state produces a state of being that artists need to produce great works and scientists need to obtain great insights.