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Knowledge & Beauty

Do you agree that gaining knowledge takes away the appreciation of beauty?  Samuel Langhorne Clemens did, or better known by the pen name Mark Twain. 


I once had a friend who commented on an onsen I had took him to.  He walked around in it a bit and said, in an unctuous tone, to me “ it’s just water.”   And with those words my whole mood was ruined.  I have always thought that the onsen experience is more than just being in “water.”  For me it still is more than just sitting in water. 



In Mark Twain’s essay called Two Views of the Mississippi he writes about the grace and the beauty of this majestic river called the Mississippi River!  He begins by writing about the wonderful sunsets which he witnessed when steamboating was still new to him.  Twain also recalled the river turning to blood; in the middle distance the red hue brightened into gold, through which a solitary log came floating black and conspicuous; in one place a long, slanting mark lay sparkling upon the water.  He goes on to write that the day had came when he no longer spoke so poetically about the Mississippi River


You see, he was a river boat captain and after years of traveling back and forth down the Mississippi River, the romance and beauty was finally gone from it.   After learning about every single detail of the river, every single trifling aspect of the river, from all the radiant sunsets, the densely wooded shores, and ruffled trails, even the clean-stemmed dead tree waving a single leaf bough that glowed like a flame in the unobstructed splendor that was flowing in the sun.  With all of this he became tired of this river.


I remember on the plane on the way to Japan a Japanese guy mentioned to me that I would eventually grow tired of Japan.  I didn’t forget those words.  I am nowhere near being tired of Japan.  In fact it is only the beginning for me here.  I believe that once we loose this ability to appreciate what we can see and visualize and even conceptualize as beautiful then a part of us dies.  What’s next then….What can be appreciated next? 


  1. I once had friend say something similar about food. When I pressed him about it he said that it wouldn't matter to him if it were all mixed together in a grey paste and fed to him through a tube. Apart from be reductionist in the absurd this particular way of thinking robs us of the sensitivity to experience things anew. In this state of mind if were to come across something novel we would be incapable of recognising it, and that is tragedy.

  2. Thanks for stopping by Brett. Thank you for your insightful comment. I agree with you.



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