Thursday, February 3, 2011

On the Veranda: Approach and Observation lessons from Hirokazu Kosaka

I've been going over this lecture for the past week and all I can say is that it blew my mind!
Last week was my first time attending Arts in the One World conference at Calarts, although this conference is in its sixth year, with a variety of presentations, performance and perspectives. Thursday was a day of mind transformation after hearing artist, zen Archer, Buddhist priest, Chouinard Alum and Artistic Director of the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, Hirokazu Kosaka speak.  I love learning and teaching and am always inspired when people take an offbeat topic and keep an audience at the edge of their seats.
Hirokazu Kosaka opened with a brush.  I've always been fascinated with the care and importance of calligraphy in many of the Asian cultures and he pointed out how even a brush is technology.  Apparently in Japan, the occupation of brush maker still exists and Hirokazu Kosaka went on to present the many brushes in his collection.   There was a brush made from the inside hair of an elephant's ear, rabbit whiskers, hen, peacock, ostrich eyelashes, rat whiskers (with a personal story attached), whale hairs that filter plankton, and brushes made of his baby hair, and his children's baby hair-significant that much of that beautiful soft hair was grown in the womb.
He also went on to talk of the charcoal and resulting ink.  Although I think of pigment, it never dawned on me that there should be care and a preference in ink color. The different blacks are created from different types of charcoal.  It is created from the soot and ground deer antlers that are used as a binder/catalyst to create a clay that is then pressed into a bar.  Sesame seed results in a purple black and maple makes a grey black.  Although different from what we do with ashes, Hirokazu Kosaka spoke of using some of his grandfather's ashes as a bar and how each time he used it, he thought of his grandfather. It reminded me of what I handle or hold that I think of my ancestors.  Oddly, I am not much of a baker, but my mother gave me her grandmother's cooling racks and cupcake tins, and I can try to relate that every time I use these items, I do think of my family and the importance they hold.
As a audio person, and a person that still struggles or seems to have a lifelong quest to learn another language, I always enjoy linguistics and appreciate the sense of humor and play with words of non native English speakers. Hirokazu Kosaka went on to talk of learning "words" in character based languages vs. an alphabet.  Conjuring the magic of over 30,000 characters, he showed us the character for tree and forest, rain/water/mist, resulting in the combination meaning how you feel in a forest with mist, lonely.  We also saw that a person standing and lying, life and death can mean change, add the symbol for grass and the combination creates the symbol for flower.
Then comes the question of veranda. Hirokazu Kosaka described and shared many beautiful Japanese gardens, and how each has an intent of lasting centuries and showcases special moments of the day.  Many are viewed on a veranda-a sanscrit word meaning neither inside or out, it's a buffer or bumper space.  Hirokazu Kosaka also returned to language by saying that the connector AND doesn't exist in Japanese and by using AND, it separates things-possibly the reason our culture wants answers.  We question and expect an answer, where Hirokazu Kosaka's upbringing in monastic life means not asking questions. In the talk, I heard "We have an appetite for an answer to affirm the ego.  We want desert"; time and space are conjoined in our world and how one sees present time differs from those in other cultures.  The idea of no AND has stayed with me for a week. This may not be a traditional zen koan but it seems to be my koan. _______________________ _________________________________

No comments:

Post a Comment