Every man is, or hopes to be, an idler.
August 19, 2004 1:16 PM   Subscribe

The Tsurezuregusa, or Essays in Idleness, of Yoshida Kenko. Those of us who, like myself, cannot read Japanese will have to be content with incomplete sets on various sites.
posted by kenko (5 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Are we to look at cherry blossoms only in full bloom, the moon only when it is cloudless? To long for the moon while looking on the rain, to lower the blinds and be unaware of the passing of the spring -- these are even more deeply moving.&nnbsp; Branches about to blossom or gardens strewn with faded flowers are worthier of our admiration.

In all things, it is the beginnings and the ends that are interesting. Does the love between men and women refer only to the moments when they are in each other's arms? The man who grieves over a love affair broken off before it was fulfilled, who bewails empty vows, who spends long autumn nights alone, who lets his thoughts wander to distant skies, who yearns for the past in a delapidated house -- such a man truly knows what love means.

The moon that appears close to dawn after we have long waited for it moves us more profoundly than the full moon shining cloudless over a thousand leagues. And how incomparably lovely is the moon, almost greenish in its light, when seen through the tops of the cedars deep in the mountains, or when it hides for a moment behind clustering clouds during a sudden shower! The sparkle on hickory or white-oak leaves seemingly wet with moonlight strikes one to the heart...

It's one of my favorite passages as well. I've posted excerpts from another site here in comments in the past but these are mostly new to me--thank you.

It's sad that your namesake and Sei Shonagon are so poorly served online.
posted by y2karl at 2:07 PM on August 19, 2004

A shame that I can't read very much classical Japanese at all -- but I'll bookmark it for when I can. Thanks very much, kenko!
posted by armage at 2:12 PM on August 19, 2004

One of my favorite quotes from it, which I blogged last year:
If, for example, a certain man invents falsehoods and spreads them with the intent of deceit, some people will innocently suppose that he speaks the truth and be hoodwinked by his words; others will be so deeply convinced that they will think up an annoying variety of lies to add to the original one. Still others, unimpressed by the lie, will pay it no attention. Yet others will be rather suspicious and ponder over the story, neither believing nor disbelieving. Others, though they find the lie improbable, will nevertheless decide it may be true, if only because people are spreading it, and let the matter go at that. There will be people too who make all sorts of guesses and pretend they have caught onto the truth, nodding and smiling knowingly, but who in fact understand nothing. Others will deduce the truth, and think, "I'm sure that's what happened," but hesitate, for fear they may be mistaken. Some will clap their hands and laugh, saying there is nothing new in this lie.

Some too, though aware of the truth, will not reveal they have caught on, nor make comments one way or the other on what they realize is the truth, acting as if they were ignorant of the facts. Finally, there are those who, knowing from the start the purpose of the lie, do not ridicule it in any way, but on the contrary sympathize with the man who invented it, and join forces with him.
posted by rushmc at 2:39 PM on August 19, 2004

Thank you very much, kenko.

>The pleasantest of all diversions is to sit alone under the lamp, a book spread out before you, and to make friends with people of a distant past you have never known. (13)
posted by philfromhavelock at 4:45 PM on August 19, 2004 [1 favorite]

The pleasantest of all diversions is to sit alone under the lamp, a book spread out before you, and to make friends with people of a distant past you have never known.

That is my favorite sentence in the Tsurezuregusa, philfromhavelock. It motivated me to start reading and writing more.

It has been a very long time since I have seen that sentence (or the Tsurezuregusa for that matter) but I am glad that I did. It reminds me that I should be spending less time on business and devoting more time to making acquaintances in the distant past and writing kind messages to my friends in the distant future.

Thank you for mentioning it, philfromhavelock, and thank you for the excellent post, Kenko.
posted by cup at 3:47 AM on August 20, 2004

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