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Last night, I attended the Culture of Japan event at the International House of Charlotte. It had been a while since engaging some in the culture of our Asian friends, and brought back several memories of my youth.

One thing that stuck out from that night was the lens. Japanese are a proud people, and it was interesting to hear how persistent they have had to be at various points throughout their history.

This persistence, and patience, showed in their food and arts. Watching the demonstrations of calligraphy and flower arrangements were not just impressive for the final product, but the space in between where they just seemed to breathe with life freely. I’ve had a hard time doing that lately.

When it came time for the tea ceremony, I volunteered to take part and just for a moment, was comfortable in seeing life from another’s end first. Usually, I’m in a position where I am listening and relating, but at that moment I was learning how to live (respectfully). The abilities of the presenters to not just speak but teach was settling.

The ladies were often being asked by women in the audience about items I would consider to be more about beauty and form. I realied after one of the questions/comments about the kimono and obo that I also appreciated this form. Asking the male leader about things, he too talked of this appreciation of beauty ad form, and how that order is such a part of the Japanes cultural identity.

I understand a lot more now the relations between the US and Japan and why both want to be regarded with more respect, while honoring traditions. But, it also seems that we’ve somehow forgotten how to appreciate the space that life breathes between us. As a good designer will also say, white space is a breathing part of the form too. It is best to let that space create life, and watch/learn from the symmetry that results.

There was nothing about tech except for some pointing to Japanese companies in various industries. This too was refreshing, and kept my Finnish mobile in pocket until the flower arrangements (should have taken a picture of the woman and her calligraphy, strikings beautiful). A tweet from last night shares that pic.

It was refreshing to listen. And reminded me why I’m tired and felt weight here when I returned from my travels. Charlotte while nice for families is so because its generic and predictible. In a sense, it is a different kind of safe. I like those experiences that break that up and share culture and life that is normally not present here. Such viewing of others and sharing of their lives isn’t weighty and allows for that space for air to come through.

Maybe it is the case that I need to travel/move more often. Or, just be the kind of guy who breathes a lot more towards the forms and beauty that others are constantly speaking, but there is little space for them to have life flowing of their own.

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