Japanese kanji for love Above the inoperative fireplace in the room where I sit hangs a calligraphic rendering of the kanji for love.

I stare at it sometimes.

The eleven strokes of the painting, which differ from the icon shown here in being softer and more whimsical, splay each in a different direction, rise and fall, grow thin and wispy then fat and solid -- coming to a quick and hesitant stop or swinging about in restless curves.

I suppose it is a bit spurious to force semiology upon kanji, but it's an evocative representation. It made me wonder how the distinction that I employed in an old poem, between love, yearning and "adoration" (by which I probably meant infatuation or what we ridiculously call a "crush"), would appear in kanji.

I had idly thought that the other two concepts might be simpler in form, but I was disappointed. Well, momentarily disappointed. Both ideas, not having the centrality of love in the human ontology, require more than one symbol to be expressed. Infatuation can apparently be expressed as a juxtaposition of "grasp, take hold, take to heart, tenacious" and "heart, mind, spirit". That isn't canonical, just someone's interpretation. Yearning conjoins "concept, idea, think, thought" and "desire, expect, full moon, hope, ambition, aspire to". Full moon!

Speaking of love and its likenesses, and of Japan, and of reading more or less into foreign cultural artefacts than is perhaps reasonable, you may wanna go see the film Lost in Translation.

Joseph | 8 Jan 2004

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