I vividly recall the first time I consciously experienced the international hype surrounding the cherry blossom tree. I was in London walking through Battersea Park with a dear friend. The effortless charm of springtime was subtly creeping in - so much so that the existence of cold European winters was starting to sound like a rumour shared amongst strangers. I could go on and on about how the most memorable part about that city is the flourishing splendour of its parks, they are simply magnificent. But I’ll spare you the details, mostly because I don’t have words colourful enough to paint the picture.
As my friend and I strolled through the park, we came across a very large group of people armed with smartphones, selfie sticks and other gadgets I struggled to identify. My thoughts at the time were, "We are in an international city, the clutter of tourists making digital memories shouldn’t surprise me. It’s what people do.” My friend noticed my confusion and silenced my mental back-and-forth by sharing with me that the reason so many people were standing in that specific part of the reserve was to take pictures of the cherry blossom trees. It was at that moment that I noticed the bed of pink that filled the sky above the group of people. We took a moment to admire the long row of pink flowers emerging from the tall trees. It looked like it came straight out of an exquisite painting - the angelic nature of these flowers was intoxicating.
The hype was becoming clearer to me, however what I still could not wrap my head around was the rate at which people were flocking in and out - rushing to take pictures as if the beauty of these trees was momentary. The need to know ‘why’ escaped my mind as quickly as it had entered and we continued with our afternoon stroll in the park. It was only after listening to a song, almost a year later, called ‘Blossom’ by Georigo Schultz in Kitchen Mess’s ‘For Da Bossa (FDB)’ mix, that the thought revisited my mind.
Sakura, (a.k.a cherry blossom in English), is a tree that can be found all over the world and usually blooms in springtime. This warrior of nature is highly revered and held as sacred in both Shinto (ancient Japanese) and Chinese cosmology. The speed at which people were flocking into Battersea Park that spring afternoon to capture the pink flora became apparent when I learnt that the flowers of the Sakura tree bloom only for about 2 weeks until they drop to the ground and wither. The temporary fulfilment of these trees reveal a series of important lessons in Shinto cosmology.
(a) Everything is impermanent. The short period in which the Sakura tree shares with us its mystical pink flowers reminds us of the temporality of life and all processes associated with it. We may be in a season of sorrow, uncertainty and pain - however, the sun shall soon shine, and we will move through the darkness. Equally so, we may be in a season of joy, abundance and unprecedented laughter. The cherry blossom reminds us to fully embrace the bliss, sink deeply into it and make memories in it. All we know to be true is the present, whether it be uncertain or tranquil, it should remain undisturbed by the shame of the past or the anxiety of the future.
In Shinto cosmology the Sakura also represents two sets of complementary opposites. (b) Birth and death and beauty and violence. Because of our exposure to European science and its ways of classification, often our instinct may be to place two things that appear to be different in opposition with one another. ‘Good vs evil,’ ‘day vs night,’ ‘darkness vs light.’ When we take a deeper look into the nature of life, we begin to learn that two things that may seem to be on opposite ends are not only interdependent, they emerge from the same source. We do not only die when our soul transcends this planet - parts of ourselves die everyday when we transform and refine our behaviours and actions. Perhaps it is in accepting death that we truly embrace what it means to be alive.
The weight of death is accessed only through the boundless appreciation of life. One cannot exist without the other - so perhaps they are the same. For it is in dying that we greet new meanings of life, and in living that we discover new ways of dying.
Bushido, known as ‘the way of the warrior,’ is a moral and lifestyle code that governs the life of a samurai. The cherry blossom holds great symbolic virtue in the life of a samurai. It represents the often short, but passionately colourful journey lived by a samurai on this earth. The life of a samurai reminds us of the profound coexistence of beauty and violence. Where we can become warriors of light - fighting for the precious things we hold dear to our hearts. For love, fulfilment and self-mastery are the joys in life worth fighting for.
Watch: Now x Beautiful Chorus - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-maXAEWByQ
Listen to: FBD (For Da Bossa) x Kitchen Mess https://hearthis.at/kitchen-mess/02-kitchen-mess-kitchen-mess-fdbfor-da-bossa/