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Before New York


by Charles Wehrenberg (illustrated novel 496 pages $15 )

SEAMI -- NINE STAGES OF THE NOH

The Noh master Seami (1363-1443) codified the aesthetics of Noh drama as the pursuit of learning to be an actor.* The cultured samurai of 16th century Japan found Seami's system useful for personal reflection as well. Seami charaterized three stages of learning how to realize oneself. One does not, however, start at the bottom, rather one begins in the MIDDLE [studying what is known], proceeding HIGHER [to become a professional], then [working on-stage before the public] to master the LOWER stages most related to life itself. Employing the language below, one might say Finding the Way of ways is the beginning; achieving the flower of the miraculous is the emblem of the master; while communicating with the art of strength and delicacy is the ultimate goal.

So it would have been for Tosa Jinan, a young man from 16th century Japan, sent to find his way in a foreign world.

THE HIGHER THREE STAGES

  • 1. The flower of the miraculous
    At midnight in Silla [Korea] the Sun is bright.

  • 2. The flower of supreme profundity
    Snow covers the thousand mountains--why does one lonely peak remain unwhitened?

  • 3. The flower of stillness
    Snow piled in a silver bowl.

    THE MIDDLE THREE STAGES


  • 1. The flower of truth
    The Sun sinks in the bright mist, the myriad mountains are crimson.

  • 2. The art of versatility and exactness
    To tell everything--of the nature of the clouds on the mountains, of the moonlight on the sea.

  • 3. The art of untutored beauty
    The Way of ways is not the usual way.

    THE LOWER THREE STAGES


  • 1. The art of strength and delicacy
    The metal hammer flashes as it moves, the glint of the precious sword is cold.

  • 2. The art of strength and crudity
    Three days after its birth the tiger is disposed to devour an ox.

  • 3. The art of crudity and inexactness
    The squirrel's five talents.

    * Sources of Japanese Tradition vol 1:286-297, Introduction to Oriental Civilation Series, Wm. Theodore De Bary, Tsunoda, et.al., Columbia University Press

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