Ramadhan: “In Praise of Shadows”
I’m in the middle of reading the book “In Praise of Shadows” (陰翳礼讃 , In’ei Raisan?) writen by Japanese author and novelist Jun’ichirō Tanizaki (originally published 1933, translated into English 1977) . Through contemplative observations of architectural forms and design, he tries to explore the meaning of beauty in forms as it is viewed from the shadows that they make in contrast to the light that casts them, a ‘meditation’ of aesthetics of the East when contrasted to the West. This foreword by Charles Moore (School of Architecture, UCLA) is very eye opening,
“.. in the West our most powerful ally is light…it comes with the thrill of a slap for us then to hear praise of shadows and darkness; so it is when there comes to us the excitement of realizing that musicians everywhere make their sounds to capture silence or that architects develop complex shapes just to envelop empty space.”
Modern science, as an invention of the West, can be traced back to Newton’s observations of light as it passes through a prism and broken apart into its many colors, it can even go so far back as the use of the sun to measure time as opposed to the moon. So I am made to wonder, what would science be like now if it was discovered as a contemplation of shadow instead of light, taking the moon, not the sun, as it’s clock? Measuring silence instead of sound?
“…I always think how different everything would be if we in the Orient had developed our own science. Suppose for instance that we had developed our own physics and chemistry: would not the techniques and industries based on them have taken a different form, would not our myriads of everyday gadgets, or medicines, the products of our industrial art—would they not have suited our national temper better than they do? In fact, our conception of physics itself, and even the principles of chemistry, would probably differ from that of the Westerners; and the facts we are now taught concerning the nature and function of light, electricity, and atoms might well have presented themselves in different form.” – Jun’ichirō Tanizaki
Geneticists now use these patterns of silence in our genomes to measure how much they have changed. Things that seem nothing in fact represent the bulk of who we are, a theory on the evolution of life forms developed by Japanese biologist Motoo Kimura.
Fasting is a measure of strength in faith, where faith is a belief in something in the absence of things, in the cast of the shadows from the forms that make them, whilst moving in between light and darkness, in sight and blindness, between the seen and the unseen, between knowledge and faith. The month of Ramadhan to me is a mediation of this other way we view the world. A contemplation of life as it occurs in praise of these shadows, a celebration of movement in the night, as the bareness of the scorching daylight make way for the night and our thirst ends.