“Nothing is real to us but hunger, nothing sacred except our own desires. Shrine after shrine has crumbled before our eyes; but one altar forever is preserved, that whereon we burn incense to the supreme idol,- ourselves.” Okakura Kakuzo The Book of Tea
Flowers. I was once part of a CSA (community supported agriculture) and would pick up a box of vegetables from a local farmer each week during growing season. The farmer also had a side garden of flowers, and members were welcome to pick a bouquet each week. It was delightful. Throughout the season, we had a vase of bright flowers on our table alongside our locally grow, beautiful produce.
In this chapter of The Book of Tea, Kakuzo, dude, you really are messing with my lovely memory! You go pages about the horrific violence towards chopping down flowers and sticking them indoors. The anthropomorphic flowers are simply tortured by humans’ greedy, grubby hands ripping them from their sweet home and into an artificial location for our perverse enjoyment.
“Why were the flowers born so beautiful and yet so hapless?” The poor defenseless creatures? I think you’ve gotten a bit too dramatic here. And you agree, “However, let us not be too sentimental.” Good, let’s get back to tea:
“When the tea-master has arranged a flower to his satisfaction he will place it on the tokonoma, the place of honour in a Japaneese room…It rests there like an enthroned prince…When the flower fades, the master tenderly consigns it to the river or carefully buries it in the ground.” Oh, the attention to detail in the Japanese tea ceremony! It can sound intimidating, perfect, or ludicrous.
“The tea-master deems his duty ended with the selection of the flowers, and leaves them to tell their own story.” That gets to the best way, Kakuzo, doesn’t it? Knowing when to let something or someone tell their own story. When to back off. When to allow events to take their course and appreciate the outcome without trying to control it. Attention to detail yes, but basking in the imperfection of it all.
We are not perfect. Yet we are beautiful. And we have stories to tell. Give a place of honor to those around us, make them a cup of tea, sit, and let go of time and expectations and control and desires. Listen to each others’ stories. Sip and savor the bright flowers of an open heart.
Move with intention.