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Essays in Idleness Essay

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Kenko sees beauty in the imperfectness and incompleteness of things. To support his view, quoted Abbot Koyu “it is typical of the unintelligent to insist on assembling complete sets of everything, imperfect sets are better” (Keene 70) What he wanted to imply is that the idealism, the impracticality of those who want to spend their lives chasing wealth will not lead to complete happiness. It is almost ironic that he implied being completely happy means being happy with the incompleteness of things “truly, the beauty of life is its uncertainty” (Keene 7)

Kenko also said that the real beauty of life can be found on its nature of being uncertain.

He implies that since nothing in this life is sure, we could eliminate frustrations from misfortunes, that through Kenko’s view could be seen as inevitable, by accepting the belief that life is uncertain. Through this view of beauty, he had implied that mistakes are intrinsic components of life “mistakes come from people acting experts in familiar subjects and looking down with an air of superiority upon others” (Keene 233)

The author immediately addressed the issue of wealth in the first few pages “the man who forgets the wise principles of the reigns of the ancient emperors, who gives no thought to the grievances of the people or the harm done to the country, imagining this as a sign of magnificence” (Keene 5).

Throughout the whole book, Kenko portrays whose who slave themselves to gain wealth will never experience true happiness as the just walk life in a straight line, they fail to see the real beauty of things around them because they don’t view and appreciate the things around them.

Kenko has high regards to nature, as we can see in the whole collection, he uses nature as metaphors and allusions. He even expressed his enthusiasm with nature in an explicit way “the heart rejoices to visit such mountains and lakes to see birds and fish” (Keene 22) he would follow that statement that nothing could give such pleasure of being far from the world to wander and appreciate nature. Throughout the course of the whole book, animals, birds and insects are interspersed in the essays.

Though this is typical of Japanese writers to include animals, birds, and insects to indicate the seasons such as birds during spring, Kenko had used these creatures in a much profound manner. It is a popular belief in Buddhism that every being has a soul and every creature is technically Buddha. Aside from that belief, Kenko sees these creatures as the epitome of genuine freedom, free from the worries and complications and the corruptions of the human race. If I were to give Kenko a gift, I would give him what he said he wants.

In page 231 Kenko had said something about giving a gift when there is no occasion and saying “this is for you” shows true friendship. I would offer him my friendship because, in line with Kenko’s belief, I believe that a friend is the most valuable gift anyone could have at any occasion. We could hang out while basking in the beauty of being idle. We would spend time walking the woods while spotting birds. We would be entangled in discussions about unhappy rich people are and how they waste their lives chasing for something that would just lead them to be unhappy and discontent.

Although, friendship would be a great gift, it contradicts the philosophy of being idle as hanging out with friends would require certain effort and would consume some time. Kenko is probably the kind of person who wants silence and many hours for meditation. An alternative gift would just be the latest version of the ipod filled with sounds of nature like chirping of birds and crackling of bamboo trees. That item could be helpful especially when he can’t go out to the woods because of a tropical storm. Reference Kenko, T. (1998) Essays in Idleness (Keene, D. trans). New York: Columbia University Press

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