I've been listening to a marvelous The Teaching Company course by Professor Grant L. Voth on the History of World Literature. I listen to it on my iPod Touch while taking my daily morning walk along a lovely creek trail. Today, I heard a lecture on Japanese poetry.
The Japanese aesthetic has always held an especially strong appeal for me, from the time I used to listen as a little boy to the tinkling of an ancient Japanese tune on my mother's music box to my introduction by Alan Watts to Zen and Japanese culture to today when a part of me still yearns to model the traditional Japanese aesthetic in the exterior and interior design of my home and my whole way of life.
But what exactly is that aesthetic? Well, today, Dr. Voth listed four of its key principles, qualities, or elements: (1) Subtle suggestion rather than explicit statement; (2) Asymmetry is always preferable to symmetry; (3) Simplicity is superior to complexity or clutter; and (4) Perishability is preferable to permanence.
I guess what this all boils down to is that the traditional Japanese aesthetic seems to possess a subtlety and depth missing from the traditional Western one where things tend to be much more boldly and, oftentimes, clumsily "in your face."
The paradox of this for me is that while I'm attracted to the subtlety and depth of the traditional Japanese aesthetic, I seem to have the kind of mind that finds it difficult to penetrate beneath the surfaces of things and ideas to plumb the depths beneath. Maybe it's partly a case of being drawn to the mystery of what is, for me, the forever impenetrable and unfathomable.