Mishima's Manifesto--The Beginning

from Guns and Steel
Yukio Mishima

Let the reader not chide me for comparing my own trade to the white ant. In its essence, any art that relies on words makes use of their ability to eat away--of their corrosive function--just as etching depends on the corrosive power of nitric acid. Yet the simile is not accurate enough, for the copper and the nitric acid used in etching are on a par with each other, both being extracted from nature, while the relation of words to reality is not that of the acid to the plate. Words are a medium that reduces reality to abstractions for transmission to our reason, and in their power to corrode reality inevitably links the danger that the words themselves will be corroded too. It might be more appropriate, in fact, to liken their action to the excess of stomach fluids that digest and gradually eat away the stomach itself. (p. 8-9)

Hmm, and this reader finds himself asking if it is true?  It is undeniably true that Mishima viewed words and his craft in this way.  But is the effect of words corrosive? Do they actually break reality down into consumable abstraction? And once consumed, isn't there also a constructive aspect tot he words? Isn't a conversation of this sort (the post I'm composing) evidence of that constructed reality? I would argue that words take absolutely nothing away from reality. If anything, they are additive. Reality exists whether or not words are used to descirbe it. Words cannot take anything away from reality, because that argues that they, in fact, change what IS into what IS NOT, or warp what is, when at best they can warp the perception of what is.

However, there is a sense in which they can disrupt reality by training us in ways of thinking and expressing reality which neither expresses reality nor truly allows us to understand fully the nature of it.  Words can act as constraints on our ability to express, and perhaps thereby even to perceive reality--but that doesn't mean that what we cannot express properly isn't there to be expressed.

We must start by saying clearly and categorically that reality is much more that a state of mind or perception. The state of mind is part of reality, but it doesn't encompass the fullness of reality because there is more to what is real than our perception of it.

And in this brief consideration, we haven't even begun to really deal with what Mishima says.  I've indicated a series of demurrals about the objective condition of Mishima's statements.  But one must examine what his statements mean in terms of an aesthetic for the written arts.

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