SELF-UNDERSTANDING – with Hokusai

Last week I had a rather stressful day. You know the kind – everything just seems to add on top of one another, forming a huge wave that threatens to drown you. I had come to work early and was determined to leave early as planned, despite the workload, thus skipping breaks.

By the time I left the office, I felt exhausted and even shaky. The heat and sun of Swedish summer did not help to ease a sense of dizziness. Still, I was determined to follow my plans for the day, to visit an unusual art exhibition with prints of Hokusai which was in Stockholm for only a very short time – I did not have much choice to postpone.

When I finally arrived, feeling irritated and tired, I was immediately caught by the fascinating colours and intricate details of Hokusai’s prints. The art was working its soothing effect on me and I was able to put my stress aside. What happened?

hokusai detail
Find humour in your struggle

This print particularly captured my attention. It shows a normal, if annoying aspect of life – a windy day, the wind proving quite a nuisance to the poor travellers. Their writings and hats are being blown away and they struggle to move forward against the persistent push of the wind.

Yet Hokusai does not show the storm as a dangerous, mighty force of nature about to crush the humans. Rather, the scene seems almost calming with its quiet blues and greens. The viewer is placed at a distance, slightly elevated from the level of the travellers – observing without partaking. From here, the situation appears even humorous, the wind a petty problem, the travelers struggling exaggeratedly, small figures like caricatures.

I suddenly saw myself in these figures, straining far too much against the stresses that were blowing through my day, ripping time out of my fingers like sheets of paper. Yet the trees and the grass just patiently sway with the gusts of wind and the mountain towers over everything, unmoved.

Chuckling at the mirror of myself in these little figures, I recognized how preoccupied I have been in the little challenges of the day. Suddenly I was able to put my stress and exhaustion into perspective and see it for what it is. It’s not so bad after all.

 

Artwork: Katsushika Hokusai, “Ejiri in Susuga Province”, part of the 36 views of Mount Fuji

 

 

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