Untranslatable Words #2: Mono no aware

Hello peeps! @ailindigo here again!

Continuing with the Untranslatable Words series, on this week's edition we're going to the very East part of the world! But this time it's not a word but a whole phrase. This is a phrase I'm very fond of, and I think it's a good opportunity to share it since it's somehow related to the first word of this series.

This week's word is the japanese phrase: mono no aware.


Gif by Wordstuck

Mono no aware

This phrase is about a feeling I enjoy very much, that makes me wonder how many people are able to feel it, since I find it kind of rare. For me, it appears on very specific moments, usually in expansion of consciousness moments. This is a feeling that represents the japanese point of view where "Basic reality is understood as impermanence".*

Mono no aware literally means "pathos of things", the phrase is derived from the japanese word mono which means "thing", and aware which is an expression for surprise very similar to "ah"/"oh", so the phrase has frequently been translated as "the 'ahh-ness' of things".

So, mono no aware is the feeling evokated by the realization of how ephimeral things are, but not causing a desperate sadness, on the contrary, causing an awareness of the transience of all things, that heightens the appreciation of their beauty, causing a gentle sadness at their inevitable (but accepted) passing. *

The activity of this realization is for japanese people a call to action, the action of appreciating the beauty of things that is created by not only their inherent nature but also by their same ephimeralism. A term that is indeed one of the most beautiful and wide-minded in language and world understanding.

The term kind of loses its meaning in translation though, but the "pathos of things" is very near. As the word aware is a surprise expression it is also roughly translating as "pathos", "poignancy", "deep feeling", "sensitivity", or "awareness". It was was coined in the 18th century by Japanese cultural scholar Motoori Norinaga and was originally a concept used in his literary criticism of The Tale of Genji, later applied to other seminal Japanese works. It became central to his philosophy of literature and eventually to Japanese cultural tradition, as the Sakura contemplation. *


Mono no aware by Michael Keefe Single Artwork cover

Mono no aware became part of japanese culture and philosophy, and nowadays it is expressed through the comtemplation of Sakuras, a vital action that is the most commonly quoted example that helps to understand the concept.

Contemporary Japan show their love for Sakuras through this tradition, each year tons of people go out to contemplate sakuras and do hanami, the habit of having a picnic under these cherry blossom trees. The sakuras are valuables for their transience, these flowers usually start to fall after a week of sprouting. Thus, contemplation becomes an unique (and therefore valuable) aesthetic experience. *

While last week we talked about the fear caused by the feeling that's life's opportunities are passing by and diminishing as one ages: Torschlusspanik; this week I wanted to enhance that it's ok to slow down a bit in order to enjoy and feel things completely no matter how they last, that there's also a good sadness, and that it is important to appreciate things not only for their inherit beauty but also for their transience, and how it makes them even more beatiful and valuable.

I feel some kind of mono no aware towards seasons, where I come from we didn't have seasons and found that very boring, but here in the south I experienced the four seasons for the first time. So, in some way, I think people would be able to feel mono no aware for their favorite season, since I realized 3 months is too short for one season, and even more if you come from a eternal summer weather like me. Is it possible to say I feel mono no aware for a whole year season that just became ephemeral to me?

What do you think? Have you ever felt mono no aware? Could we say it's some sort of nostalgia? Is there something where you live that evokes mono no aware even only for you? Please feel free to tell me in the comments!

Thank you very much for passing by! :)


Previous Untranslatable Words:

#1: Torschlusspanik


This content is part of a new series to get more people interested on languages and how they, perception and culture are related!

Exclusively for the Hive Cross Culture Community, the community for language exchange or cross-cultural purposes.

If you'd like to be part of the discussion don't hesitate to hop into the Hive Language and Culture Exchange Discord server! As well as subscribing to the Hive Cross Culture Community so you don't miss any new word comming ;) We'll be sharing a new Untranslatable Word each week!

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