Wabi Sabi of Ruritania






I have to admit that it was quite interesting for me to watch the documentary In Search of Wabi Sabi, especially the above fragment where its maker Marcel Theroux inquires Zen monk of Polish origin in Japanese monastery about that mysterious, titular wabi sabi - phrase that may connote something like the Buddhist emptiness. I think that one doesn't have to be familiar at all with those characteristic elements of “traditional” Polish countryside which Theroux briefly mentiones in this bizzare exchange – now rather mostly gone or quickly disappearing largely thanks to unprecedented funds flowing from Brussels - to detect J.J Rousseau's “state of nature” theme being here one of the filters that mediate between those two men.

The romantic idealization of the peasant, or the noble savage, primitive man who lives in the “state of nature” far away from highly structured modern society which represents a fall from natural wisdom and happiness into misery and decadence of civilization – is how Buddhists modernizers have ever since tried to propagate original Buddhists ideas as “emptiness” within the Western context. For Theroux then, it seems, this imaginary scenery of Polish contryside, this slightly orientalized East European “state of nature” represents this undefined but evidently desirable "beauty" of emptiness that he ends up searching for in the Far East and eventually tries to talk about with a clean shaven Pole wearing Soto Zen robes...

I am aware that there might also be host of other issues, intuitions and tacit prejudices determining this and other similar encounters. Because, for example, what else but an inkling of geografical monotony, historical vagueness, civilizational backwardness, or for that matter alleged abyss of economic claims, to put it in todays terms - hides behind this rustic, almost bucolic, Eastern European scenery evoked by Theroux – the man from the West in persuit of either internal peace or entertaining mirages?

Now at least thanks to the so called Eurpean Cohesion Fund searching for wabi sabi in this peripheral country would be much easier for any potential foreign traveler. Although as I've said above this iconic Polish rustic simplicity might be harder to find today nonetheless he or she can always count on numerous heritage parks where I am sure his or her dreams of cosmic emptiness would come true. With or without mashrooms. And they are really good, growing all over that not so fictional Ruritania.