Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Things That are Near Though Distant

Sei Shonagon wrote "The Pillow Book" between 989 and somewhere a little after 1,000 AD.  She offers a picture of what life was like in the Japanese Royal Court and what life was like for an ambitious woman a thousand years ago.  You also get a clear picture of what she was like.  She was good looking, and knew it.  She was intelligent and not shy about competing with men or women to prove it.  She enjoyed her lovers, rarely passed up entertaining experiences and could be a little bitchy when the spirit moved her.  My kind of woman! [Editor: Get to the point.  Let's be honest, you have no more chance with a woman who died a thousand year ago than you do with one alive today...]

What's interesting is what has changed and what hasn't.  I offer two of her entries as examples:

109. Tthings That are Distant Though Near
 - Festivals celebrated near the palace. *
 - Relations between brothers, sisters and other members of a family who do not love each other.
 - The zigzag path leading up to the temple at Kurama.
 - The last day of the Twelfth Month and the first of the First. **

110. Things That are Near Though Distant
 - Paradise
 - The course of a sail boat.
 - Relations between a man and a woman.

I would add one more to the list of "Near Though Distant" - Project completion.

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