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Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Can you find "adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence"?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (25561 points ) April 9th, 2012

I’m reading The Book of Tea by Kazuko Okakura, written in the very early 20th century to introduce the Western world to the art of the tea ceremony of Japan.

In the very first paragraph, she writes:

The 15th century saw Japan ennoble tea into a religion of aestheticism – Teaism. Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in the impossible thing we know as life.

I find these lines to be quite enchanting. I have sat through the tea ceremony once in my life, and I was moved. Each simple motion was deliberate and refined. Nothing was wasted. Nothing was extraneous. The tea itself was very bitter and served with sweet rice confections.

I taught English to a group of Japanese teachers of English for a year a long time ago. They each wrote an essay at the end of the year, and I remember one in particular after all this time. She wrote about finding pleasure in very mundane things like vacuuming.

Have you ever found beauty in ordinary activities?

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29 Answers

6rant6's avatar

I like scraping vegetables.

tom_g's avatar

Absolutely love this. While I’m having some difficulty right now, there are times that I can recognize and feel the beauty of the mundane in such a way that I can’t even take it. The practice of observing the ordinary inspired me to start a photo blog where I took at least one photo of the ordinary every day. Having this project at first became a motivation to see, but later proved to be more of a mirror of my heightened awareness.

There is so much beauty in the ordinary.

I am probably alone in that I often enjoy washing dishes.

Blackberry's avatar

Definitely. In another thread I stated how I was always so happy that I think something is wrong with me. I went out to eat alone this weekend and when I was done, I was about to jump in my car and go home, but instead laid on the hood of my car and took some time to look at the clear sky. Of course people probably thought I was strange, but that’s what makes me feel good: taking the time to understand where and what the hell we are. :)

It’s even worse when I try to include others in the mix. Before a few of us jumped in my car to go out, I asked them to stop and look at the sky, then asked them all to tell me what they thought about life. I was only ignored :(

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@tom_g : You are not alone. I find washing the dishes to be akin to meditation.

josie's avatar

That is the whole point of exploring beauty. Life is a struggle. Every day presents challenges. Many of these challenges are mortal in nature. One can make a futile attempt to create a social “system” that eliminates this truth, but they never work, and they change nothing. Life is still a moment to moment effort to remain living. The discovery and appreciation of beauty is a universal respite from this burden. Plus it is free.

Plucky's avatar

This is actually how my life is. I find so much beauty is so many ordinary things – my family thinks it’s an odd trait of mine. Maybe it is because I am hyper aware. I believe I can find beauty in pretty much anything. From the way a cardboard tissue box is put together to how the rain running down the gutter looks. Or how a nail changes the thing you’ve hammered it into. I can’t even begin to describe the many things because it is a constant for me.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Blackberry : I wish I’d been there. I often look at the sky and think about life and my place in it.

@jaytkay : That photograph is stunning.

@josie : And what have you found to be beautiful?

@Plucky : The things you’ve listed sound divine.

Symbeline's avatar

I like cleaning up. I spend most of my Saturday afternoons doing that. Doing the dishes, dusting, vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom…I get the whole place clean. Not sure if I got this whole tea thing right, but after everything is done, makes me feel comfortable and at peace. But it’s not just the outcome that I like, but the procedure itself.

Jeruba's avatar

Oh, @Symbeline, if only I could learn to like it even just a little bit…

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Symbeline : I think the secret lies in the procedure.

@Jeruba : Think of it like breathing in the scent of your favorite flower. Breathing is necessary, and the scent is a bonus.

Symbeline's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake The only thing I don’t like is cleaning the kitty box. (which has to be done more than once a week, specially with two cats) But they need a clean environment too. ^^

Blondesjon's avatar

Push mowing my yard.

3–4 hours of an ipod and trying to keep my passes laser straight.

did i mention the beer and the pot part of it?

wundayatta's avatar

Weeding my lawn. By hand.

No additional substances. I like my grass pure.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Blondesjon : Ha! That’ll put you in a state to find beauty anywhere.

@wundayatta : Keep it pure.

marinelife's avatar

I look for beauty in the everyday world around me. Today as I was driving into my apartment complex, it was rather windy and it seemed to be snowing cherry blossoms. I have been finding them everywhere: on my car, in the doorway of the building. I even found one on my dog.

They make me smile.

wildpotato's avatar

I love pigeons. I know they are dirty rats of the sky, but cities would be poorer without them, I think. They are so beautiful – as Proust put it, the lilacs of the bird kingdom. Here is one of my very favorite quotes:

“He dug the hole, in a spot where there were no strawberry plants, before he studied the pigeons. He had never seen a bird this close before. The feathers were more wonderful than dog’s hair; for each filament was shaped within the shape of the feather, and the feathers in turn were trimmed to fit a pattern that flowed without error across the bird’s body. He lost himself in the geometrical tides as the feathers now broadened and stiffened to make an edge for flight, now softened and constricted to cup warmth around the mute flesh. And across the surface of the infinitely adjusted yet somehow effortless mechanisms of the feathers played idle designs of color, no two alike, designs executed, it seemed, in a controlled rapture, with a joy that hung level in the air above and behind him. Yet these birds bred in the millions and were exterminated as pests. Into the fragrant, open earth he dropped one broadly banded in shades of slate blue, and on top of it another, mottled all over with rhythmic patches of lilac and gray. The next was almost wholly white, yet with a salmon glaze at the throat. As he fitted the last two, still pliant, on the top, and stood up, crusty coverings were lifted from him, and with a feminine, slipping sensation along his nerves that seemed to give the air hands, he was robed in this certainty: that the God who had lavished such craft upon these worthless birds would not destroy His whole Creation by refusing to let David live forever.”
– John Updike, “Pigeon Feathers,” The New Yorker, August 19, 1961, p. 25.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@marinelife : You are reminding me of cherry blossom season in Japan which is now. It is magical.

@wildpotato : Beautiful. Thank you for sharing that.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

Every time I see someone feeding a baby, man or woman, breast or bottle.

Ponderer983's avatar

I find beauty in masturbating.

But in all seriousness, I really enjoy ironing. It’s very serene to me. The smooth gliding of the iron back and forth and watching something so wrinkled become perfectly smooth.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought : HaHa!

@Ponderer983 : That sounds quite meditative. Don’t linger on it too long, though. You might scorch the clothes. :-)

Coloma's avatar

Absolutely! I just came in from playing around my yard putting up new solar torches around for summer. Watching the light flicker through my giant bamboos and the patterns they cast around. Today I came around a corner on a little road near my home and saw the first burst of poppies across a field. I’m going back tomorrow to take some nice pictures.

I’m playing with angles in my mind and want to try for one below some rugged granite boulders and frame the flowers with the rocks below and the sky above. I can’t wait to go on my little spring photo shoot! :-)

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Coloma : It sounds divine.

rooeytoo's avatar

The Japanese people seem to have a knack for finding beauty and peace in so many mundane things. I love ichibana, just one or two blossoms or stems make a masterpiece.

I think finding beauty and joy in the mundane is what keeps me sane and happy. I took this photo yesterday and its utter simplicity thrills me as did the original scene. I am going to paint it maybe in acrylics or probably watercolour.

Jakie, you ask the best questions! Answering them always seem to make me happy or show me some part of me that needs to be examined. GQ to you again!

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@rooeytoo : I think you mean ikebana, and I love the photograph. It is 2 dimensional ikebana in a way.

rooeytoo's avatar

Yes I do!!! I have my ichi and my ike mixed up, heheheh. Thank you HJ, I was wondering why I couldn’t find it when I googled!

ucme's avatar

I used to love changing my kids soiled nappies/diapers, a mundane task made joyous when those beautiful bums were all cleaned & powdered up, not to mention the huge smile on their little faces.

Ponderer983's avatar

@rooeytoo I LOVE that photo! It’s so moody.

FutureMemory's avatar

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