The Code of the Samurai or Teaism?

“The outsider may indeed wonder at this seeming much ado about nothing. What a tempest in a tea-cup! He will say. But 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. Mankind has done worse. In the worship of Bacchus, we have sacrificed too freely; and we have even transfigured the gory image of Mars. Why not consecrate ourselves to the queen of the Camelias, and revel in the warm stream of sympathy that flows from her altar? In the liquid amber within the ivory-porcelain, the initiated may touch the sweet reticence of Confucius, the piquancy of Laotse, and the ethereal aroma of Sakyamuni himself.

Those who cannot feel the littleness of great things in themselves are apt to overlook the greatness of little things in others. The average Westerner, in his sleek complacency, will see in the tea ceremony but another instance of the thousand and one oddities which constitute the quaintness and childishness of the East to him.

He was wont to regard Japan as barbarous while she indulged in the gentle arts of peace: he calls her civilized since she began to commit wholesale slaughter on Manchurian battlefields. Much comment has been given lately to the Code of the Samurai, –the Art of Death which makes our soldiers exult in self- sacrifice; but scarcely any attention has been drawn to Teaism, which represents so much of our Art of Life. Fain would we remain barbarians, if our claim to civilization were to be based on the gruesome glory of war. Fain would we await the time when due respect shall be paid to our art and ideals.” (The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura)

The paragraphs above, you can see why Okakura felt urged to write about teaism.  One hundred  ten years ago, the Western world was paying much attention to Japan’s rise in military and economic power, bot not to its culture.  Okakura’s intention seems to revise that.

Do we pay much attention to culture of the nation as much as to its economic power today?  Have we changed after 110 years?

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