(That delicious brew was from Main Course in New Paltz, NY.)
Last year when I began this blog, I wrote about life and how it relates to tea (most of the time.) This year I’ll be flipping things around and exploring how tea relates to life (I think there is a difference. Maybe.) I call upon the expert Okakura Kakuzo, the author of The Book Of Tea published in 1906. I have had this book on my shelf for a few years, purchasing it at The Boston Museum Of Fine Arts after enjoying their Asian exhibit (much of it collected by Okakura while he was curator at the beginning of the last century.)
Join me as I journey through the words of a man who tried to show how Eastern and Western lives needed to understand each other to survive in an increasingly interconnected world. He used a simple beverage to convey this: tea.
“Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence.”
Sordid facts? Kinda harsh there, Kakuzo. Though I’m reminded of what my father told me very intensely during an especially hard year for him, “Sometimes the only way to get through the day is knowing you first take vitamins, then brush your teeth, and finally wash your face.” I was a teenager and couldn’t relate, but I tucked away the advice for future use. I guess Kakuzo’s quote is a similar meaning: focus on the simple to cope with crap.
“[Teaism is] a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life.”
Yes, even on bad days I can force myself to get ready for bed, or make myself a cup of tea. Tea is possible, doable, accomplishable. I boiled water, yes! Added some leaves, points to me! Sipping it, win! And to be honest, there are days when my cup is the highlight.
“…when we consider how small after all the cup of human enjoyment is, how soon overflowed with tears, how easily drained to the dregs in our quenchless thirst for infinity, we shall not blame ourselves for making so much of the tea-cup.”
Ah, I don’t blame you, Kakuzo. We all want so much. I have a “quenchless thirst for infinity” too. I dream, plan, try, fail, and somehow have new dreams. Sometimes after a failure, I swear I will stop trying. But then the ideas come, the excitement, the passion, and I start again. Maybe with an eye squinted this time around, perhaps with a dollop of cynicism, but hopefully enjoying the process more than the outcome. If making tea into a cult is what gets you through it all- that’s pretty good.
I wish I could sit with you Kakuzo. Ask you why life is impossible. If life were possible, obvious, easy, would it be worth anything in the end? I dunno. Life is really tough. Appreciating tea is not. And I make a decent cup.
“Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things.”
Move with intention.