A Meteorological or Oceanographic Approach to the Self: An Interpretation of the “Gap” of Zeami
Jan. 6, 2022, 10 a.m. UTC // Jan. 6, 2022, 10 a.m. in UTC
Motokiyo Zeami (1363-1443) is the most important Noh performer, playwright, and aesthetic theorist in history. In my talk, I shall offer an interpretation of his concept of “gap (senu-hima, せぬ隙)” and “no-mind (mushin, 無心) as the musicality of the human body corresponding to the rhythm of the universe, the idea that the audience finds it interesting that the performer does nothing in the Noh dance. Zeami maintained that the gap is where nothing is done and should be interesting because of an underlying disposition by which the mind bridges the gap. It is a frame of mind in which you maintain your intent and do not loosen your concentration in the gaps where you’ve stopped dancing the dance. However, if it becomes apparent that you have adopted this frame of mind, then it is likely to turn into a dramatic technique in itself. Then it is no longer “doing nothing”; it is no longer “no-mind” which binds the many arts with a single intent. As the performer’s arts are bound together in the gap, the audience’s body is also drawn into the gap in watching the performer’s dance.
According to Zeami, this gap is the space between the rhythms, and these rhythms make the human body resonate with each other, which ultimately corresponds to the rhythm of the surrounding universe. By exploring Zeami’s concept of gap, I would like to propose an approach to or a view of the self that tries to understand the self by using as a model a dynamic fluid rather than a solid with clear contours. Such a study of the self would then be the equivalent to meteorology or the physical oceanography of currents. Finally, I would like to outline the relationship between the environment and the self using weather and currents as models.