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Once-and-once-only – My thoughts on ‘Ichi-go Ichi-e’.

Posted by Sōsen Tyas on

Are you still the person you were ten seconds ago? And will you in ten seconds from now still be the person you are now?

The world is in constant flux. Things continue to develop and our environment keeps changing. We keep changing. In the past ten second you have read up to this point, and you may have wondered about the above two questions. You may have formed responses, or you may have realized something. Maybe you are just wondering what I am talking about. You are still wearing the same clothes. Your face looks the same. Your location maybe hasn’t changed. Everything is seemingly the same, but actually a lot has already changed. I could put up a list of external factors that have transformed while you are reading this, and that may affect your life somewhere in the near future. But I would like to turn my attention to what is happening internally.

You haven’t even spent one minute with me, but you already are a different person. My words have made you think, they may have raised questions, or triggered a certain feeling. At the very least, you will have read something you hadn’t before we met. These minor external impulses affect how we change internally, and each and every moment, every minute, second, or even millisecond, we will have changed.

You will be reading this text with a certain feeling, but you will never be able to experience that exact same feeling again. You have gained knowledge, you have had an experience that changed you and that will have changed how you read this text the next time.

In life, we can only have every encounter only once, for having it a second time will inevitably be different. Even if the environment is exactly the same, the people are absolutely alike, and the objects and topics are strictly duplicate, the time will be different, and we will have changed. In the tea environment, great precedence is given to this concept and understanding. Having the same occasion twice is sadly impossible, because the feelings of surprise or joy that you may have experienced during a certain conversations, or by encountering specific utensils, will never return.

This is what in the rite of tea is called ‘Ichi-go Ichi-e’ [once-and-once-only, 一期一会], or ‘every instant is a different encounter’. It however isn’t, or mustn’t be our goal to exactly recreate certain experiences. What is of importance is to understand that we can never feel the same about something, and that all emotions can only be had once. Therefore, and that is what the proverb actually alludes to, it is of utmost importance that we are present in each moment of our lives, and can be grateful for what we have received, because it is an experience that will never return.

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