Category Archives: Temple of the Golden Pavilion, The

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion: Read from April 08 to 18, 2014

This novel introduces a disturbing paradox: there are many people in this world who, at the very least deserve our empathy yet to actually understand them would actually cause us despise them because how disturbed they are.

I kept thinking of people who commit mass violence, such as school shooters while reading this book. Typically the range of emotion from learning such a tragedy has occurred is first outrage, “Who would do such a thing? Why did they do it? What has the world come to?”. When we learn who the culprit was we can then put a face to the crime and we say the person is sick and evil and they should be put to death. We don’t see them as human, we see them as monsters who are sick.

But are they monsters? What if we were truly empathetic and tried to get to know these people. What would we discover then?

Unfortunately, I don’t think the answer is an easy one because while religious morality tells us to empathize with even the worst people, if we actually could know the minds of such disturbed people we would be even more disgusted and confused. All we might discover is this person who committed such a terrible act is, in fact, a terrible person.

And so how do you empathize for and with a person who is so totally far removed from the rest of humanity, who is so wrapped up in their own delusions, whose point of view on the world is so fractured that you just can’t even force yourself to want to care about them?

That’s the paradox I discovered because of this book and with the main character Mizoguchi. Mizoguchi is, putting aside his skewed interpretation of humanity, an otherwise rational person. Yet all of his otherwise normal thought processes stems totally from a decayed root that infects the entire tree. His actions, his motives, his opinions seem to make a sort of sense, but only in the context that he is basically a sick person. And everything he decides to do, all his planning and his final actions are because he is sick, because he doesn’t care one shred for humanity.

Mizoguchi does not love or does’t care about anyone. And so how do we empathize with him? That’s a real problem here because it makes for a very difficult novel. On the one hand Yukio Mishima, the author, is giving us an insight into the mind of a person beyond redemption but because Mizoguchi is beyond redemption we have a hard time even liking the novel. This novel is basically a physical manifestation of the character Mizoguchi, or to broaden the scope, the novel is the manifestation of all such people who commit these terrible crimes. And so how can we ever hope to like the book if we hate what the book is showing us? The book shows us true ugliness and so how do we respond to that?

This is a very difficult novel but it is fascinating in that it confronts head on the reality of empathy for another human being and how difficult it really is, or if it’s even possible with a person like Mizoguchi.

90% done with The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

He’s reading Crime and Punishment, but not THAT one – the Italian’s Cesare Beccaria. In that book, on suicide, it says “Mankind love life too well; the objects that surround them, the seducing phantom of pleasure, and hope, that sweetest error of mortals, which makes men swallow such large draughts of evil, mingled with a very few drops of good, allure them too strongly”.

Kill the Buddha, indeed.

80% done with The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

I still don’t understand Mizoguchi. He’s an odd duck and it’s a little stressful to hear his story because he seems so disconnected from anything I would consider normal. He’s a wonderful character, but it’s distressing, too.

There is a correlation to Crime and Punishment, but Dostoyevsky’s Raskolnikov was so rational that all his other actions made sense. Mizoguchi is nearly senseless; he’s a chaos. Disturbing,

65% done with The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

“If you meet the Buddha, kill him.” Seems like Mizoguchi might not take this advise in the way it was intended.

So many of Mizoguchi’s problems seem to come because of his problems with women; he’s impotent (verbally and sexually) when he’s with them, he’s actually caused a miscarriage, Father Dosen with the geisha causes his departure, his mom- everything seems to revolve around his inability to connect lovingly.

50% done with The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

Kashiwagi is a manipulative jerk. He’s arrogant, and he’s a bully, too. He’s a great character.

A lot of what happens to Mizoguchi is not apparently easy to analyze. He does not have a strong sense of self and he’s cowardly, too. His experiences don’t effect him oddly – he notices unusual things around him – but he’s also immature. He’s a difficult character to understand.

Everything happens around, not to him

40% done with The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

The Zen story of ‘Nansen kills a kitten’ is frustrating but also beautiful. A lot of it speaks to interpretation and the uselessness of interpretation. The monks argue but have nothing to say – why not just put your shoes on your head instead? I like this as a reminder of analyzing literature.

Kashiwagi is a great character. His POV is easily quite unique. He’s not likable but that makes him likable.

30% done with The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

Mizoguchi is pretty much a sociopath and that means he’s almost perfect to be a Buddhist monk. His total lack of empathy looks, to others, to be a placid calmness, a zen-like state of being. Even his lack of humor could be explained away by his stutter. Nothing really effects him, except the ever growing importance of the Golden Temple in his mind. Everything good is in that temple because it is not in him.

20% done with The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

When Mizoguchi says things like:

“When people concentrate on the idea of beauty they are, without realizing it, confronted with the darkest thoughts that exist in this world. That, I suppose, is how human beings are made”, you both understand him and not, too. He’s a fascinating character.

You can really feel whatever it is inside of him build in pressure. He’s terrifying in how real he is.

This is brilliant!

10% done with The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

This novel kept being recommended for me because of the novels Silence and Crime and Punishment.

This is a beautifully written novel. The scene with Uiko and the deserter is, as he compares, right out of an old painting.

You can immediately tell Mizoguchi is a bit ‘off’. He’s sort of full of himself but detached, too. How much of that is because of his stutter or the other way around seems to be central here.