Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Misbehaving for the sake of beauty?

Yes, I am learning tea ceremony. You might have guessed it from the introductory post "Don’t reveal all at once".

One of the first things you learn when studying the 'way of tea' is walking in the tea room. Besides explaining the different functions and meanings of the room and how to move appropriate to that, the teacher encouraged us to slide our feet slightly over the tatami mats and make a sound.

Memories of my childhood came up, I recalled my parents saying, "Don't scuff your feet, lift them!" And hence I was quite reluctant to do so.

But since I was not the only one -- the class I attend is kindly offered to foreigners interested in tea by the Urasenke International Chado Institute (ICI) -- the teacher repeatedly suggested sliding our feet. With little effect. So, finally he added as an explanation: We like the sound it makes.

After that my attitude changed. I realized that this sound can be perceived as being as beautiful as the sound of the boiling water, the rustle of the wind in the trees, or the singing of the uguisu bird. Paying attention to gentle sensations like that is essential for the 'multi-sensory design' of the tea ceremony, but cultural conditioning and socialization unconsciously kept me from recognizing this particular sound as a part of the repertoire.

Now I try to "misbehave" for the sake of beauty. The experience also sheds a different light on all those Japanese girls who scuff their feet while walking…

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