Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Art Of Drinking Tea

Okakura Kakuzo in his book, The Book of Tea explains the art in drinking tea. There is art in everything we do, especially when we focus on the task at hand. There is beauty in the simple tasks, but we overlook the beauty in order to move to the next task. Kakuzo brings us back in focus with his amazing attention to detail. Life is in the details and happiness is in the art of knowing how to appreciate them.

The art of drinking tea is a normal, secular, common day affair; so also is sitting in a room with friends. And yet, consider what happens when you resolve to pay full attention to every aspect of the act of drinking tea while sitting in a room with friends, selecting first your best, most appropriate bowls, setting these down in the prettiest way, using an interesting pot, sharing with a few friends who go well together, and providing things for them to look at: a few flowers perfectly composed, so that each will shine with its own beauty and the organization of the group also will be radiant: a picture in accord, selected for the occasion: and perhaps an amusing little box, to open, shut and examine from all sides.

Then, in preparing, serving, and drinking, every phase of the action is rendered in such a gracefully functional manner that all present may take joy in it, the common affair might well be said to have been elevated to the status of a poem. And, in fact, the writing of a sonnet, words are used that are quite normal, secular, common day tools. Just as in poetry, so in tea: certain rules and manners have been developed as a consequence of ages of experience, and through the mastery of these, immensely heightened powers of expression are achieved. For art imitates nature in its manner of operation, so does tea.

The guest approaches by the garden path and must stoop through the entrance. He makes obeisance to the picture or flower arrangement, to the singing kettle, and takes his place on the floor. The simplest object, framed by the controlled simplicity of the teahouse, stands out in mysterious beauty, its silence holding the secret of temporal existence. Each guest is permitted to complete the experience in relation to himself. The members of the company thus contemplate the universe in miniature and become aware of their hidden fellowship with immortals. The great tea masters were concerned to make of the divine wonder an experienced moment; then out of the teahouse the influence was carried into the home; and out of the home instilled into the nation.

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