Beauty grows

Always move forward. Always engage with the reality and the beauty of life, the opportunities of change and growth that today and tomorrow offer us.

As with any other year, 2023 will bring a bewildering mix of fair and foul, darkness and light. At times, life will feel harder than it ever has before. This is no time to escape into the past. This is the time to move forward with a mission, with a sense of purpose. To find the beauty that life throws forward every day, even if that beauty might at first seem concealed by shadow.

The light and the darkness

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“The quality that we call beauty must always grow from the realities of life.”

This is Japanese novelist Junichirō Tanizaki, from In Praise of Shadows, his 1933 essay on aesthetics. For Tanizaki, beauty is not found solely in light, or solely in darkness. Rather, it arises from the interplay of the two:

“We find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates. A phosphorescent jewel gives off its glow and colour in the dark and loses its beauty in the light of day. Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty.”

Tanizaki’s In Praise of Shadows describes the culture clash experienced by Japan in the early decades of the 20th Century. He argues that these were times of jolting, shocking change for the Japanese eye. The quiet introspective subtleties of traditional Japanese design, art and architecture took on Western influences for the first time. Harsh electric light replaced the profound world of shadows that had existed previously. That world of shadows had been created and revealed by candlelight. Beauty had to seek other ways to manifest itself.

Yet Tanizaki did not want to turn back the clock. He writes of his reactions to an article he had read about the complaints of elderly women in England (remember, this was at the start of the 1930s):

“It struck me that old people everywhere have much the same complaints. The older we get the more we seem to think that everything was better in the past. Never has there been an age that people have been satisfied with. But in recent years the pace of progress has been so precipitous that conditions in our own country go somewhat beyond the ordinary.”

The reality and the beauty of life

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Never has there been an age that people have been satisfied with. Neither has there ever been an age that has not given way in time to the single inevitable truth that all will change.

Change is also a choice. You can choose to change. Choosing to change might well be the wisest option. Nostalgia can work against life’s relentless forward motion, the constant need to change. It can be so tempting to stay put, to look back instead of forward. But life’s relentless forward motion always has other plans.

Always move forward. Always engage with the reality and the beauty of life, the opportunities of change and growth that today and tomorrow offer us.

May you be nothing but kind today, to others and to yourself.

May today be nothing but kind to you and yours.

Takatsu,_Osaka_(5758875115)

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