19 August 2014

Kenko, from Essays in Idleness, #8

-If man were never to fade away like the dews of Adashino, never to vanish like the smoke over Toribeyama, but lingered on forever in the world, how things would lose their power to move us! The most precious thing in life is its uncertainty. Consider living creatures - none lives so long as man. This May fly waits not for the evening, the summer cicada knows neither spring or autumn. What a wonderfully unhurried feeling it is to live a single year in perfect serenity! If that is not enough for you, you might live a thousand more years and still feel it was but a single night's dream. We cannot live forever in this world; why should we wait for ugliness to overtake us? The longer man lives, the more shame he endures. To die, at the latest, before one reaches forty, is the least unattractive. Once a man passes that age, he desires (with no sense of shame over his appearance) to mingle in the company of others. In his sunset years he dotes on his grandchildren, and prays for long life so that he may see them prosper. His preoccupation with wordily desires grows deeper, and gradually he loses all sensitivity to the beauty of things, a lamentable state of affairs.

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