Mononoke Tachi dake

In response to Jenna St. Hilaire and Masha.

Today the blogalectic is doing something different. Masha, if you didn’t know, just had a baby. Jenna is by her own confession ‘all kinds of crazy right now’, and I’m about as busy as the world’s last bee. So the question before us is simply this: where are the places we find beauty?

This is in many ways a difficult question for me. I know where those places are, but I’m not generally inclined to go saying where they are. Beauty strikes me in strange ways, bursting round on me when I least expect it, assuming forms I wouldn’t look for, lurking and crouching in the crossways and corners. A well turned phrase can leave me spellbound. A familiar place is rendered strange and wonderful.

kodama. this forest is healthy.

Nor do I think—or can I think—that beauty is equated with happiness. Or with seriousness. Beauty can be heartbreakingly terrible. Beauty can be silly. Beauty is capricious and winsome, Beauty frustrates and eludes us and then rewards us with a sudden unexpected burst of laughter.

There was, I think, a deeper intent than the pragmatic when painters drew and poets sang of Beauty as a woman. San and Yakkul

I suppose I could draw some crazy and riotous map of the unknown world, and post that as being the place where I find beauty. Or I could sidestep and evade the question, suggesting through corners and shutters where beauty might be found. (That would have involved posting this video.) And a surprising number of verbal bits I wanted to post turned out to be under copyright.

So the best thing I can do is offer you this. It’s not mine, not really. Most of the credits are on the still, but the Japanese lyrics (which you can listen to here) are by Hayao Miyazaki, and the English adaptation is by Neil Gaiman.

I don’t claim to understand it quite, but I don’t think beauty is ever quite understood. But I can say that heard in its original context—viz., I watched the movie, one of Miyazaki’s great auteur pieces—it began a long and perhaps unending process of breaking open my heart to see wonder again.

7 thoughts on “Mononoke Tachi dake

  1. Since I’m a big sappy romantic, I don’t mind saying where I find beauty. Here are only a few places, some of which I can provide links for and others which you’ll need to look up:

    (1) Paintings by George Inness (who was influenced by Swedenborg). Here’s one of my favorites, “Sunset at Montclair” (and we live right next to Montclair where we can see what we call “The Inness Sky”!):

    (2) The heart-breaking chapter called “My Camellias” in The Elegance of the Hedgehog

    (3) A song by Yes called “I’m Alive,” especially this particular video production:

    (4) Butterflies and rainbows–all of them.

    More later…..

  2. One more for now….

    And it might only take one beautiful word (albeit uttered in a certain context in the silky voice of Mr. Rickman):


  3. I am so behind on commenting….

    Love, love, love the Mononoke theme. I’ve listened to it three times already and will have to come back for more. Anime theme music is a wonderful thing.

    Carrie-Ann, I’m with you on the “Always!” Also, the butterflies and rainbows. And the Inness painting is fantastic–the sky looks alive.

  4. I agree, Jenna that the Mononoke theme is lovely, now that I’ve gotten a chance to listen to it!

    And I’ve finally put my finger on why I find beautiful the first picture above, which I had at first glance thought was a big mushroom patch…. It’s a hauntingly beautiful scene–each individual is as unique as a snowflake in pose and facial features, and yet they are together pictured as enchanted with and wondering at the same thing (whatever it is that they all are looking at). Since I don’t know the context of the picture, I might be way off, but this captures why I think it’s beautiful for what it is pictured above.

  5. Great comments, both! Although if we lived anywhere like in proximity I’d insist on dragging you over to sit you down and make you watch Princess Mononoke! It’s really an historic achievement in cinema, from what I can tell, a breathtaking auteur piece from a master of the art form…I guess we’ll have to watch it severally.

    Carrie-Ann, you’re right about the first picture, the komada. And you’re spot on, pretty much, for the context of the scene in the movie, too. Although I’ll say it’s at once both simpler and more complex (the way just things are). And it’s a truly breathtaking moment. Please do report back once you’ve seen it, let us know what you think.

    Jenna, Joe Hisaishi wrote the music. (I should have mentioned that in the post.) He has a distinctive, very characteristic sound, that pairs with Miyazaki’s films beautifully. Also, thinking over the lyrics again, as well as the first picture Carrie-Ann was discussing, I couldn’t help but notice some confluences with our conversation about apotheosis. So make of that what you will.

  6. Carrie Ann,

    Thanks for the “In This Love I’m Alive” video link. I agree wholeheartedly–i’ts beautiful.

  7. I’m so glad that you appreciate the video link, Debbie! That’s always been one of my favorite songs by Yes (rivalled by their song “Turn of the Century,” which I’ll provide links for here), and was thrilled to see the lyrics matched to this video conception of the song’s meaning.

    Lyrics for “Turn of the Century”:

    Video (which is only the static album cover, but you at least get to hear the song–could not find a good live performance of it with good audio quality):

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