The Way of Elegance

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.

Published by Richard

I am a writer, photographer, and contemplative. My highest value is beauty and excellence. I seek to find and appreciate it, and create it. My second value is truth. I try to clearly and accurately communicate what is real and true. My third value is kindness. I study religion and science to help me understand how to increase kindness in myself and others.

3 thoughts on “The Way of Elegance

  1. I like your way of seeing those words.

    Although I would have called the stream ‘the flow’ in the first instance.

    I did a thesis some years Ago that I called ‘ The Stillness – the empty vessel and the thought provoking void’
    I considered many of these ideas in the process.
    I am a ceramic artist that spent 6 years studying in Japan after going to art school in Australia .
    All these years later my writing was a digestion and reinterpretation of that cross cultural experience.
    The writing process made me realise the Shinto / Daoist influence on my life is more significant than I had realised !
    Thanks for your insight


    1. Hi Jane,
      It is always heartening to hear from another who has traveled a similiar course. It was originally surprising to me to discover the rich linguistic tradition in Japanese around these experiences and ideas that seem not to have received the same attention in my own native tongue. But then English seems always to be appropriating from other languages, and I seem always to be appropriating into my own understanding of the contemplative path. Did you ever publish your thesis? It sounds interesting and I’d be interested to know where you settled on by the end of the process. As a materials artist, I’m sure your experience is different from mine. I am overly attached to words and concepts but ever moving to let go of the desire for clarity that they sometimes bring. My own submission to the stream.Thanks for your comment and for taking the time to visit and read this site. It means a lot.
      Kindest regards, Richard


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