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No Translation: Thoughts on Komorebi [木漏れ日]

My friend sent me this Youtube video yesterday, and I thought it was intriguing. I rarely subscribe to Youtube channels, but this time, my eyes got attracted to this Youtube video by Wong Fu Productions, Komorebi [木漏れ日]. The context behind this short film is two friends (or possible lovers) just took an entrance exam for a university. They talk about a concept that was mentioned into the test, and discuss how it is applied to everyday life.

Words are but symbols for the relations of things to one another and to us; nowhere do they touch upon absolute truth.

-Friedrich Nietzsche

In this short film, the guy considers the philosophical concept is useless to know because he won’t use it for his future career. I heard countless discussions on how STEM majors are taking over, pushing the humanities to a corner. However, this film seems to comment how important the humanities is in our lives. We may not be aware of how abstract ideas influence and provide the foundation of our own individual thinking.

Furthermore, the girl discusses about how certain cultural feelings, expressions, or moments cannot be translated into words or other languages, but rather it is needed to be experienced or felt in order to fully understand what it means. This kind of reminded me of all the aesthetic terms I learned in my Japanese literature classes. For example, Basho, who contributed greatly in haiku poetry, developed the concepts of sabi and karumi. Other aesthetic terms in Japanese culture include miyabi which refers to beauty and elegance, yugen, which kind of means mystical and mysterious, and wabi which is used in tea ceremonies. A more modern aesthetic concept is kawaii, which means “cute” and refers to various “cute” things found in Japanese pop culture and entertainment.

Certain abstract concepts and aesthetics are strictly used only in the specific culture it originated from; hence, it is difficult for foreigners to fully understand the concept. As I thought about it, I think this is one of the many reasons why I like to learn about different cultures. I appreciate and have a strong interest in trying to understand aesthetics and cultural values that are held dearly within a certain country. I try to understand these concepts through analyzing and interpreting foreign literature and film. I am not an expert right now, but someday, I hope to easily grasp these cultural values.

Sometimes, I wonder if American culture has certain terms and aesthetics that strictly pertains to only our country, and cannot be translated into other languages. I live in a heterogeneous society: all cultures blend to get, but also differentiate from each other. We don’t have one culture or a set of values that everyone identifies to in comparison to other countries that are more homogenous. So I wonder if it is possible to have some sort of aesthetics that everyone could identify to?

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