Innocence, Elegance, and Kawaii

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    Forum conversation recorded Hesperis 10th, 3333

     Myriam Hildotter said 3 weeks, 2 days ago:

    As I was writing my most recent blog post for my Hestia blog, I found myself pondering something.  My thoughts are not fully formed, but I am seeing a bit about how innocence, elegance, and kawaii are all related and intertwined.

    I started thinking about the articles on these subjects from our front page.  I had not read them in a very long time, but I think that they are worth looking at again.  Here are the links to these articles:

    Innocence

    Elegance

    Cuteness

    I will admit that much of what I was thinking about is already discussed in full in these articles, but as I was thinking of this, I thought that it may be interesting to reread and discuss these concepts.

      Annette Clovender said 3 weeks, 1 day ago:
    This is an interesting thing to think about.  I am not sure that “elegance” and “kawaii” are necessarily two ends of a spectrum–I think they may have different roles.
    In Japan, things that are kawaii include directions for sorting garbage and what to do in case of an earthquake–this makes them easy to understand and non-threatening, which as a blonde, I really appreciate!  I think kawaii makes the complexities of modern life more palatable.

    Kawaii is obviously not traditional, though.  Things like fancy dinners are always elegant.  They are rituals that connect us to higher realities, and kawaii would be disrespectful in such a context–it doesn’t have enough gravity.

    So I don’t think kawaii and elegance are interchangeable.  By the very fact of its modernity, kawaii must be an aesthetic of a lower order than elegance.  It does play a useful role in modern Japan and speaks to the fundamental innocence of every maid’s heart, but it cannot be a replacement for elegance, which connects us vertically to the truth and beauty of the divine.

      Myriam Hildotter said 3 weeks, 1 day ago:
    I think that it is important to take care not to conflate traditional with mature.  Childhood is an important part and role of every culture, and I think it is traditional to honor childhood as special and important.  I think that kawaii (which I am going to use rather than cute, because the English word cute has some other connotations) is very much a traditional part of childhood.  I do not think that anyone has said that kawaii and elegance are interchangeable.  I do think that kawaii grows into elegance, if this makes sense.

    In our process of re-racination, I have said, and still hold firmly, that Anime is very helpful.  On the other hand, I think that watching up-to-date kinemas is also very important for many reasons.  One of the things that up-to-date kinemas can do for us is that they help us see how racinated adults behave, and also, how racinated adults interact with children.  One of the things that is very clear in up-to-date kinemas is that adults do not lose a sense of childlike wonder, or even kawaii.  A common theme of up-to-date kinemas is older teenagers and young adults trying to act grown up and eschewing childlike things and childlike behavior.  When this happens, more mature adults guide them to melt and relax back into childlike innocence, and the older adults encourage them to resume their childhood activities.  Another common theme of up-to-date kinemas is grumpy old adults regaining their childlike innocence.

    I think that kawaii is a very important trait of racinated children, and elegant adults grow out of kawaii children.  In up-to-date kinemas, another common theme is the difference between mature forms and true maturity.  Adults who have mature form without an inner childlike innocence are usually portrayed as grumpy old maids, and while they may have grown up manners and dress, they are not elegant in the least.  Kindly mature adults, who are portrayed as elegant, often quite enjoy childish activities, are indulgent with children, and smile often at the kawaii of children.  They also still retain a hint of kawaii to their elegance.

      Annette Clovender said 3 weeks, 1 day ago:
    I think it would be useful to define what we mean by kawaii.  I was referring to the specific modern Japanese aesthetic style, which does not subsume innocence in general.  Innocence is traditional; kawaii is not.

      Myriam Hildotter said 3 weeks, 1 day ago:
    Well, my awareness of modern aesthetic styles, Western, Japanese, or any really, is limited to be almost non-existent.  I stopped even paying attention to modern styles after I reached my early 20′s in the flavvie, which was somewhere in the early ’90′s.  Even before then, I was hopelessly unaware of current trends, and basically, my current view of most Tellurian dress and aesthetic styles is that they fall into the following categories, “nice enough”, “not too awful”, “oh dear”, “who let you out of the house like that,” and “did you forget to get out of your pajamas.”    So, I am certainly not referring to any modern aesthetic as such.

    Of course, almost everyone here, including yourself is far more versed in Japanese language and the connotations behind words than I am, so I am repeating my understanding of things from what I have been taught or have gleaned from Anime.

    My understanding is that the word “kawaii” is roughly equivalent to the word “cute.”  In English, cute has some other connotations that are less innocent, and my understanding is that the Japanese word, kawaii, does not have these connotations.  Cuteness is an aesthetic quality, of course, but we all understand that aesthetic qualities have deeper meaning.  The quality of cuteness very much intertwined with the innocence of a child.  In groping to find the words to explain it, the best description I can think of is the quality of children that invokes indulgent smiles from adults.  Adults, particularly more mature, venerable adults, also often have this quality.  Dolls and toys are often aesthetically cute.  Actually, dolls are interesting in that they often range from cute to elegant, and most dolls are somewhere on a continuum between cute and elegant.

    Miss Shirley Temple, in her various stages of maturity, is a very good example of the interplay between kawaii/cuteness and elegance:

    Shirley Temple – Little BallerinaShirley Temple – Young LadyShirley Temple – Adult

    I think that one can see both cuteness/kawaii and elegance in all of these pictures.  In the child picture, you can see glimmers of grown up elegance, and even in the very elegant adult picture, you can still see a spark of the childlike cuteness/kawaii.  The picture of Miss Temple as a young lady to me really exemplifies a perfect balance between cuteness/kawaii and elegance.

      Lady Aquila said 3 weeks, 1 day ago:
    I think it may be relevant here to consider what exactly we mean by the word “traditional”. Guénon clearly lays down the meaning of tradition in the true sense. He is deeply critical of that modern “traditionalism” which is mere sentimental attachment to the past and he essentially dismisses the realistic art of the Renaissance and everything beyond it as untraditional. Coomaraswamy dismisses modern music, meaning not “pop” music or atonal music, but the Western well-tempered scale used in Western music from the time of Bach. As he says, from a truly Traditional musical point of view, “the pianoforte is out of tune by definition”.

    Now to a certain extent it may be said that Miss (Alice) Trent restored to some degree the “soft” traditionalism criticized by Guénon with her advocacy of things like Art-Neo (pre-Eclipse) Kinema, but she was fully aware of the distinctions drawn by Guénon and other Traditionalists, and fully in agreement with them. Late-rajasic “tradition” is not in any sense Traditional according to the “strong” usage of the word (i.e. the product of a Sattwic society). It is clearly the product of a late-Rajasic society.

    Miss Trent did not advocate or encourage confusion between the two senses of tradition. The value of things like up-to date kinematics is that they have a small, vestigial (and “blind” – i.e. it is completely unaware of the intellectual basis) residue of tradition. Small as this is it is of great value to beings who know only the post-modern (I.e. Tamasic) diseased culture of the post-Eclipse period. She also advocates Art-Neo which was a very late Rajasic innovation and to some extent a “blind” reaction against early Tamasic aesthetic (or dysesthetic) movements.

    If by “tradition” we are meaning attachment (however vestigial) to real Tradition, as opposed to a sentimental valuing of (very relative) “oldness” for its own sake (which was so rightly criticized by Guénon) – then we have to say that certain anime are considerably more traditional than any West Tellurian 1930s kinema in the sense that they retain consciously a considerable amount of authentically, metaphysically traditional thought, while even the “nicest” 1930s kinematic is, in its conscious ideology, thoroughly substantialist.

    This is not to say that even the best Anime is devoid of faults (any more than the best 1930s kinematic is – though the faults in each case are different). But it does indeed have a great deal to offer, assuming we are not judging it on criteria of mere “oldness” or imagining ourselves too “grown-up” to benefit from it.

    Kawaii, like Art Neo, is an innovation. In terms of mere time it is a later innovation than Art Neo. in terms of tradition it may in some senses be “earlier” in that it comes out of a society much less historically imbedded in Rajasic modernism.

    We also have to bear in mind that simplistic formulae like “tradition = good” are not in themselves valuable. Traditional Tellurian Patriarchal societies in the full and proper sense of the word (i.e. Sattwic societies) were not “good”. They practiced torture and the killing of their own kind (as, of course, do modern ones). They were often harsh in the extreme and cruel. Of course they had many good elements too, but to imagine they were “good” because they were traditional is to confuse two different criteria.

    In many ways we might argue Kawaii both carries elements of an innovative racination (like that of Art Neo) with a distinctive softening of patriarchal harshness, which was much needed in Japan as in other Tellurian cultures. Let us not forget that patriarchy itself, even in its most Traditional forms, is a revolt against the older, purer, cleaner and kinder feminine tradition.

    Without pressing any of these points too hard, I would just like to indicate that the question is far more complex than “old = traditional = good”. “Old” does not equal traditional and traditional does not necessarily equal good. Innovation does not necessarily equal “bad” (as Art Neo demonstrates). The whole question is much more complex than one that can be settled by reference to clocks and calendars.

     Elefarya Rosamunda said 3 weeks, 1 day ago:
    Oh, Honored Lady Aquila, brava! Splendidly, splendidly done! I have nothing to add on this subject, nor can I imagine what could possibly be added.

    On an entirely unrelated note, Wee Maid was on my lap while I was reading this thread, and when she saw the picture of young Shirley Temple she asked, “Is that a picture of me dancing?”

     Myriam Hildotter said 3 weeks, 1 day ago:
    Thank you so much for your clear and helpful explanation, Honored Lady Aquila.

    Elefarya-chei, Wee Maid is so sweet and… kawaii!

     Sushuri said 3 weeks, 1 day ago:
    I think kawaii, non-threatening things are definitely good, and as honored Clovender-chei so truly says, appeal to the fundamental innocence of every maid’s heart. I am thinking kawaii/cuteness cannot be a substitute for elegance (or vice versa come to that) since clearly they are not the same thing. But are they related, and if so, how?

    One thing that might link them is – gosh words are lacking. I was going to say “dignity” but that is not readily associated with kawaii/cuteness, I know.  But I think truly cute characters either have dignity or their lack of it is something kawaisou – pitiable, and therefore enhances their kawaii. What there is not, or should not be is the deliberately insolent sloppiness – that lack of dignity which is an affront to the onlooker because it indicates that the perpetrator has not enough respect for anyone or anything to – well, get out of her pajamas.

    Having said that quite a few anime characters are pretty poorly dressed (though interestingly the “franchise” focus is on very neat action costumes). To some extent there is (mostly) a lack of insolence in this as it seems in the anime we watch at least to come from something like a mistaken obedience – these clothes are acceptable because the West says so and the West is supposed to know. There certainly are some Japanese who ape and adopt West Telluri insolence but that is not the phenomenon here. Does it make poor dress acceptable? No, it doesn’t. In the Precure series this is probably the single most questionable element.

    Though interestingly several of us think we see a drawing back over the course of the franchise – from the acceptance of West Telluri antinorms – it will be interesting to see if that makes headway in the dress area too.

    Anyway – I hope I have not taken us off-topic with this rather disconnected ramble!

     Annette Clovender said 3 weeks, 1 day ago:
    Miss Hildotter, I think confusion of terms aside, I would not disagree with anything you have said.

    Lady Aquila, I would agree that post-Renaissance Western culture is not fully traditional.  I would not subject myself to the majority of up-to-date kinnies any more than I would subject myself to the majority of anime.  That there are useful gems in both cannot be denied.

    However, anime, when seen in the context of the culture that created it, is clearly of a lower order than that culture’s traditional arts, which have the metaphysical basis without the questionable imports from the modern West, as well as a refined and feminine sensibility.  Elegance is not limited to up-to-date kinnies–it certainly existed in traditional (Sattwic, to be specific) Japan, and still exists where that tradition is not broken.  And within Japan, anime is to the baby Shirley Temple what traditional aesthetics are to the grown-up Shirley Temple.  To move from one to the other is part of the natural process of growing up.

    Now, I am in no way saying that one should move along according to one’s chronological age regardless of one’s actual maturity.  But it is equally invalid to say that all adults should remain or be able to go back to the baby Shirley Temple stage, or that a full and functional society could exist without the grown-up Shirley Temple stage.

     Sushuri said 3 weeks, 1 day ago:
    Honored Clovender-chei – I think you are stricter about up-to-date kinnies than many, and I respect you for that.

    I certainly agree that grown-ups need to exist. I am a big grown-up fan myself!

      Myriam Hildotter said 3 weeks, 1 day ago:
    You are quite fortunate, honored Clovender-chei, in that you have access to mature Japanese media, and that you know the language, so you are able to understand it.

    I have been thinking about your post while I was doing the dishes, Sushuri-chei, and thinking about the connection between cute and elegant.  No, they are not the same things, but on a visceral level they do seem to be intertwined.

    I started to think of it in the opposite, things that are not cute or elegant.  For example, bratty, spoiled children are not cute.  Likewise, adults who adopt a superior and unkind air, even if they are well-dressed, physically graceful, and have perfect outward manners, do not seem elegant to me.  They just seem like snobs.

    In thinking through the qualities of cuteness and elegance, and thinking of what is not cute or elegant, I think that the connection between cuteness and elegance is one of virtue.  Cute children are generally innocent, humble, respectful, obedient (mostly), and have a sweetness to them. I can say the same about elegant adults.

    I have to think about this more, though, because I am not sure that the words are coming out right.

    You are right about the dress in Anime (even in Precure), Sushuri-chei.  They all do have rather lovely school uniforms, though, despite the questionable clothing outside of school.  It seems to be getting better though.  In DokiDoki, we have Alice-chan, who dresses almost like a Lolita.  Rikka-chan dresses nicely as well.  Mana-chan and MakoPi-chan have questionable civilian clothing, but it seems to be better than the clothing of the girls in previous series.

     Myriam Hildotter said 2 weeks, 6 days ago:
    A lightbulb just flashed in my head this morning regarding this topic. I do not have a lot of time this morning, but I think it might be a good discussion point to get the ball rolling.

    I think that the connection between cute and elegant may be the manifestation of Trueness. Trueness both in authenticity, and Trueness in the sense of True Self, which are not exactly the same, but are not completely unrelated either.

    True children are cute. I think that this may be the dignity that Sushuri-chei mentioned. Even when children are awkward, that is part of being a child. Often when children make mistakes, they are still manifesting the trait of ganbaru, or trying their best. I was also thinking that sometimes even children being naughty can be cute, and at other times, it is not cute. I think that the difference is that mischievous playfulness, an authentic trait of children, is cute. False childhood naughtiness, like brattiness, is not cute.

    I think that adults manifesting their True Selves are elegant, and often magnificent. Heee…the kinema posted by Miss Rill of Cure Ace is case in point. False adults are not elegant.

    I have lots more to say, but Miss Swift will get annoyed with me if I don’t get ready to go and we are late, so off with me for now!

     Sushuri said 2 weeks, 6 days ago:
    What an interesting thought. I think you have really hit the proverbial nail on the proverbial head here!

    It struck me as an interesting apparent irony (but actually I think it is deeper than an irony) that what frightens the natives about both innocence/kawaii and elegance is that they feel they are not authentic. Elegance is “dressing up” or “acting fancy” as opposed to one’s “natural” shabby, pajama’d self. Innocence is pretending to goodness and childhood when everyone knows we are dirty post-Freudian beasts and the minute we pass out of early childhood we are not at all innocent.

    To West Tellurians it seems that “authenticity” means authenticity to the false self – at best to the animal instincts, at worst to the inferior and demonic promptings (which make up much of west Tellurian popular “culture”). Anything that tries to rise above the animal-instinct level or the false self is considered false, and affected.

    This, I think, is one of the reasons the kawaii phenomenon in Japan is indicative of a less diseased culture. The whole notion that rising above (being in any way more good – and there is no question that kawaii does express innocence and therefore goodness) one’s supposed brute base is “false” and should be avoided is absent from the culture.

    Affecting kawaisa is allowed and encouraged and dressing well is allowed and encouraged. Yes, there is poor dress in Japan, but there is a lot more good dress too.

    And both these things, innocence and elegance, as you suggest, revolve, I am sure around a different attitude to authenticity.

    I don’t actually think it is that West Telluria is indifferent to authenticity. On the contrary it is rather cowed and bullied by its fear of being “inauthentic” but true to its pseudomythos philosophy, it sees “authenticity” as being true to one’s supposed animal base (and in post-modern, post-Eclipse culture to the demonic/Tamasic side of one’s nature). Any attempt to rise above that and express the True Self aesthetically is deemed “inauthentic” precisely because the Tellurian West denies the existence of the True Self.

     Myriam Hildotter said 7 months, 1 week ago:

    It is sad, Sushuri-chei, but I think you are right about this.

    I am not sure how much more I can say about this without getting too deep into the troubles of Telluria, but there is also a sense that if someone is being good and nice, they must be hiding something.

    Of course, all of us do have False Selves, and we do have little selves, as well.  Still, it is very sad that most of Telluria things that our little selves, the ones that are focused on survival and self interest are the highest we can aspire to.

    Ah well, I am glad to have found a place where we DO believe that we have a True Self, and where we DO try to aspire to that.

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