Japan

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A temple near Osaka had a wonderful view over the sea. Rikyu had two hedges planted which totally hid the landscape, and near them he had a small stone pond built. Only when a visitor bent over the pond to take water in the hollow of his hands would his gaze meet the oblique gap between the two edges, and then the vista of the boundless sea would open up before him. Rikyu’s idea was probably this: bending down over the pond and seeing his own image shrunk in that narrow stretch of water, the man would consider his own smallness; then, as soon as he raised his face to drink from his hand, he would be dazzled by the immensity of the sea and would become aware that he was part of an infinite universe. But these are things that are ruined if you try to explain them too much. To the person who asked him about why he had built the hedge, Rikyu would simply quote the lines of the poet Sogi:

 

Here, just some water,

There amidst the trees

The sea!

(«Umi sukoschi/ Niwa ni izumi no/ Ko no ma ka na.»)

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Italo Calvino

Collection of Sand: Essays, 1984

Penguin Modern Classics, 2013