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Tidying up offerings
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Re: Tidying up offerings
Jun 01, 2010, 17:39
You could argue comedians and actors use it "timing" or "meaningful silence "

Yes, even a good speaker or storyteller.

There is a tendency in the West to always want to fill spaces, to put our mark on something rather than just leaving it as it is. I only know (reasonably well) one other culture other than this one and that is the culture of Japan; leaving things 'as they are' permeates almost every facet of Japanese aesthetic taste; from painting, gardening, architecture - even the 'simplicity' of their cuisine.

Perhaps leaving things 'as they are' is not quite right though, more a tendency to bring out the natural qualities of something. Wood (other than that used for Shinto shrines) is rarely painted but instead selected and displayed for the beauty of its grain. Food is rarely covered with a sauce but left as it is. Gardens fall either into the very minimal rock garden category or are designed to reflect nature (English landscape gardening comes close to this as well). In all of this man plays a very small role. Landscape painting might show a tiny figure or two walking a mountain path but little more. Such an approach to naturalness and simplicity is enshrined in the Japanese philosophy of wabi and sabi, the characteristics of which, "...include asymmetry, asperity [rusticity], simplicity, modesty, intimacy, and the suggestion of natural processes." ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wabi-sabi ).

There are seeming contradictions though (and I don't mean the high-rise buildings and electronics of modern Japan or the Japanese misuse of natural resources) I mean that the trees in Japanese temples and shrines are often festooned with paper offerings and prayers in the same way as some of the offerings being discussed here. These offerings are in designated areas however and they are collected each year and ritually burnt (a little more here - http://heritageaction.wordpress.com/2009/08/29/votive-offerings-and-dondo-yaki/ ). Something similar is found in Greek Orthodox churches, where a corner of the church is sometimes set aside for offerings; it's not uncommon to see eyes, ears and other body parts made of wax hanging in one corner of a church - presumably placed there for a while and then either reclaimed by their owners or disposed of by the priest(s). In this country perhaps the oldest and most meaningful example of a ritualized 'green' offering is the Harvest Festival - food and flowers placed in the church for a short time but not left there to go to waste - there would be no point in doing that.
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