You may have noticed on my website’s home page, I feature this quote in a sidebar widget:
True beauty is something that attacks, overpowers, robs, and finally destroys.
The line is from Japanese author Yukio Mishima. I’m not sure how I first happened upon Mishima’s work — I may have noticed author Jack Donovan reference Mishima in some of his writings, and I’ve definitely noticed Donovan quote Mishima in social media.
The stuff is great. Shades of those hard men who dominated Russian literature. But delivered with a samurai’s sword.
Beauty is something that burns the hand when you touch it.
To see human beings in agony, to see them covered in blood and to hear their death groans, makes people humble. It makes their spirits delicate, bright, peaceful. It’s never at such times that we become cruel or bloodthirsty. No, it’s on a beautiful spring afternoon like this that people suddenly become cruel. It’s at a moment like this, don’t you think, while one’s vaguely watching the sun as it peeps through the leaves of the trees above a well-mown lawn? Every possible nightmare in the world, every possible nightmare in history, has come into being like this.
For clearly it is impossible to touch eternity with one hand and life with the other.
HEAVEN AND EARTH
If we look on idly, heaven and earth will never be joined. To join heaven and earth, some decisive deed of purity is necessary. To accomplish so resolute an action, you have to stake your life, giving no thought to personal gain or loss. You have to turn into a dragon and stir up a whirlwind, tear the dark, brooding clouds asunder and soar up into the azure-blue sky.
The special quality of hell is to see everything clearly down to the last detail.
History knew the truth. History was the most inhuman product of humanity. It scooped up the whole of human will and, like the goddess Kali in Calcutta, dripped blood from its mouth as it bit and crunched.
Only knowledge can turn life’s unbearableness into a weapon.
Yet how strange a thing is the beauty of music! The brief beauty that the player brings into being transforms a given period of time into pure continuance; it is certain never to be repeated; like the existence of dayflies and other such short-lived creatures, beauty is a perfect abstraction and creation of life itself. Nothing is so similar to life as music.
The past does not only draw us back to the past. There are certain memories of the past that have strong steel springs and, when we who live in the present touch them, they are suddenly stretched taut and then they propel us into the future.
Mishima died in 1970 and his death is a fascinating story. (Note: his politics were not without controversy.) From Wikipedia:
On November 25, 1970, Mishima and four members of the Tatenokai, under pretext, visited the commandant of the Ichigaya Camp, the Tokyo headquarters of the Eastern Command of the Japan Self-Defense Forces. Inside, they barricaded the office and tied the commandant to his chair. With a prepared manifesto and a banner listing their demands, Mishima stepped onto the balcony to address the soldiers gathered below. His speech was intended to inspire a coup d’état to restore the power of the emperor. He succeeded only in irritating the soldiers, and was mocked and jeered. He finished his planned speech after a few minutes, returned to the commandant’s office and committed seppuku. The assisting kaishakunin duty at the end of this ritual (to decapitate Mishima) had been assigned to Tatenokai member Masakatsu Morita, who was unable to properly perform the task. After several failed attempts at severing Mishima’s head, he allowed another Tatenokai member, Hiroyasu Koga, to behead Mishima. Morita then knelt and stabbed himself in the abdomen and Koga again performed the kaishakunin duty. This coup is called “Mishima jiken” (三島事件, “Mishima Incident”) in Japan.