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Glossary of Art and Organism Terms

*Adapted from Bowling Green University's Animal Behavior course
Definitions based on a variety of sources:

Glossary -- words are funny -- we need them to communicate with others (often to communicate with ourselves) but they are so often so pathetically inadequate. [MORE ABOUT WORDS]. So much of experience is ineffable. Still, our communication prospers as we come to agree on a vocabulary for more or less subtle or salient aspects of experience. Think about the vocabularies of wine tasters, tea tasters, perfumers . . .

    • AESTHETICS: The branch of philosophy concerned with the study of beauty and art.
    • Aesthetics In ART & ORGANISM also refers to information acquired by means of the senses--"experience" (other information is created by the way this aesthetic information is interpreted in the central nervous system. "Sensation" (the "experience" of the sense organs) becomes "perception" (the experience of the meaning of what is sensed)
      • It seems that for our purposes, we can distinguish "aesthetics in the broad sense" (related to the senses) and "aesthetics in the narrow sense" (pushing the boundaries of the competence of our senses and the perceptions they lead to)

    .
    Aldous Huxley said words ". . . are the instruments of thought; they form the channel along which thought flows; they are the moulds in which thought is shaped.” With that in mind, check into the unique, mind-expanding qualities of Japanese aesthetic vocabulary:
    • aware --originally surprise or delight, but now tinged with melancholy that may bring us to the brink of tears.
    • en --exquisite to the point of fascination.
    • okashii --delightfully humorous, maliciously witty.
    • miyabi -- elegant and refined providing a quite, delicate pleasure
    • mu --expressing a spontaneity that suggests the Buddhist ideal of detachment from self
    • yugen --originally "profound or mysterious" but now mainly "intuitively sensed" and lying "beyond" art, related to "eternal loneliness"
    • shibumi --colors or patterns with a complete lack of ostentation
    • seido -- the inner life or essence of something expressed simply and directly, especially (for example) in a rapid ink sketch
    • esoragoto --an "invention in a work of art which, although factually false to nature, heightens the natural effect."
    • ki-in --ennobling dignity, spiritually elevated quality.
    • notan --density, as of ink tone or mass
    • sabi --old and imperfect, slightly melancholy, like a time-worn face. Essential to tea ceremony; must possess makoto, sincerity. In literature a kind of attentive melancholy: "to be found in the autumn disk, in withered fields, or in the sight of drab brown birds winging across a marsh at twilight" (Brower and Miner, Japanese court poetry," Stanford 1961)
    • suki --something luxurious or elaborate but also artless or natural.
    • wabi --transcendental aloofness (recalls Thoreauvian poverty) (Suzuki, 430)
    • wabi-sabi --used together, "a sigh of gentle melancholy and slightly bittersweet contentment, awareness of the transience of earthly things and a resigned pleasure in simple things that bear the marks of that transience" (Jon Spayde in Une Reader Sept-Oct 2001:50) imperfection attributable to natural causes (such as development, wear-and-tear) that evokes a kind of nostalgic pleasure . . .

 

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