The Book of Tea

October 29, 2009

“The Book of Tea” by Kakuzo Okakura is one of my favorite books.  It is, of course, about much more than tea itself.  Here are the opening paragraphs from the first chapter — “The Cup of Humanity”:

“Tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage. In China, in the eighth century, it entered the realm of poetry as one of the polite amusements. The fifteenth century saw Japan ennoble it into a religion of aestheticism–Teaism. Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life.

“The Philosophy of Tea is not mere aestheticism in the ordinary acceptance of the term, for it expresses conjointly with ethics and religion our whole point of view about man and nature. It is hygiene, for it enforces cleanliness; it is economics, for it shows comfort in simplicity rather than in the complex and costly; it is moral geometry, inasmuch as it defines our sense of proportion to the universe. It represents the true spirit of Eastern democracy by making all its votaries aristocrats in taste.

“The long isolation of Japan from the rest of the world, so conducive to introspection, has been highly favourable to the development of Teaism. Our home and habits, costume and cuisine, porcelain, lacquer, painting–our very literature–all have been subject to its influence. No student of Japanese culture could ever ignore its presence. It has permeated the elegance of noble boudoirs, and entered the abode of the humble. Our peasants have learned to arrange flowers, our meanest labourer to offer his salutation to the rocks and waters. In our common parlance we speak of the man “with no tea” in him, when he is insusceptible to the serio-comic interests of the personal drama. Again we stigmatise the untamed aesthete who, regardless of the mundane tragedy, runs riot in the springtide of emancipated emotions, as one “with too much tea” in him.”

2 Responses to “The Book of Tea”

  1. Tony said

    > It represents the true spirit of Eastern democracy by making all its votaries aristocrats in taste.

    One of the sad, destructive blind spots in current American culture and society is reflected in the fact that a sentence like this is likely to be met with incomprehension at best and derision at worst. There is no room here for the conflation of democracy with cultivated appreciation for subtle beauties of art and nature, even (or especially) ones that are simple and inexpensive. If you’re an aristocrat in taste you’re an effete snob who’s out of touch with the hard-nosed working class realities of hunting and gathering in the aisles of Wal-Mart (nudging carts with Sarah Palin?). And probably a commie pinko fag to boot. The paragraph in which this sentence appears is very appealing to me, personally, Arthur, but I fear it’s probably just more damning evidence against you in your FBI file.

  2. . . .recalling a profound conversation sitting by a fire up in a mountain hamlet of Japan, when I had honored the resonance in the design in the many and various aspects of the culture. After a long, very Japanese, silence – my colleague said, “But don’t forget, it took us 600 years until we began to communicate; to really communicate.” . . . . . luckily, non-verbal communication is an accepted form of communication in Japan. Their National Theater, their poetry, their everyday conversation is based on simple, authentic presence. . . .the few words are the by-product. Luckily because, you can possibly imagine that I was in utter shock, verging on despair for the ramification of this lifetime for me / for us as Americans.

    Finally, after a deep, enormous stretch of time, my head at the least began to nod, if near involuntarily – alternating first up and down;then side to side. This might have been near-interminable, except that he spoke.

    “It is just communication. It doesn’t have to take that long.”

    I do know 100% that the human body is absolutely brilliant, when we understand how to work with it. ‘Health’ is the new paradigm shift into mature, vital – simple, clear, resonant personal communication . . .kindred to what the influence which the automobile, and the PC have had. We are in a gear shift, awakening through our personal communication with our selves/our health – to the bioindividuality which is; which is going to transform the world.

    Precisely the Friends’ process . . .the honoring that there is that of the Divine in all living things . . .that we have only to ask – and then listen. It is just communication. It is learning how it works. So simple; so plain – breath first. First tea – drinking in the cosmos. . . .consciously drinking in the cosmos. The ethereal soul is an intricate part of the Traditional Chinese Medical Model. . .how Life works, your connection to your soul consciously.

    Second tea – your food . . .chew . . . every mouthful to liquid. Hmm hmm. . .how close to tea can you get. (The digestive enzymes are created in the chewing.)Savor your food; savor your Life – watch where It takes you ! Try it – see what you find.

    There is no need to worry, really right. If you want to – first cross all of your own T’s and dot all of your own i’s……..then you can worry, if you still want to.

    Especially now – in this season of thanks giving – every day 5 – 7 whatever minutes, bathe your self in gratitude; shower your self and whomever else in gratitude. . . as you drink your ‘teas’ . . .everyday . . .one month; two months – New Year. Let’s.

    Resonance is unfolding kindred to that Spring leaf unfurling on the tree. Totally kindred. Look.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: