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A Riff on Impermanence

Updated: Jun 27, 2019

Ikebana is described as the art of arranging flowers, but it is more than the sum of its parts. Once, when asked about an arrangement, a student remarked casually, “Oh, but it’s just flowers.” This is akin to calling a Tibetan Buddhist sand painting “just sand,” or Italian Madonnari street paintings “just chalk.”

All of these are examples of the commonplace transformed into the sublime. For Ikebana, the media, flowers, are everywhere -- in stands and farmers’ markets, back yards and public gardens. While the merits and mysteries of sand and chalk are undoubtedly vast, how can you miss with flowers as a foundation? Ikebana begins with a vehicle that is intrinsically alive and radiant. If you take just a second to consider a flower, it has you at hello.

In today’s world, the impulse to dismiss what might be considered impractical and ephemeral is fierce. Ikebana, like sand and chalk painting, is a fleeting pursuit. You can’t make money doing Ikebana. It’s not an Olympic sport and won’t impress on your resume. Like sand or chalk renderings, within days it will vanish.

How then has the practice of Ikebana endured for centuries? Because it has the power to stop time.

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04 jul 2019


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