⟨ Wabi Sabi ⟩

The Love and Sorrow in the Japanese Language

The Emptiness that Comes with Being in Love

Text and Photography / Ron Lam
Translation / Iris Heung

日語中的「愛しい」,中文裡經常被解作愛戀,唸作Itoshii,但其實在古時,這字的讀音「Kanashii」,即是與「悲しい」(悲傷)同音。因為失去了,會感到寂寞而悲傷,戀慕之心,常懷著不安和愁緒,愛與哀,割捨不了,連從嘴裡滑出來的聲響都相同。

現在愛しい,不唸作Kanashii了,跟悲傷割開,聽來似乎積極點。看著愛人的笑臉,看著孩子的可愛舉動,聽到深愛的貓微小的打呼聲,都可以說一句Itoshii,語氣中帶著疼惜,只是不知怎地,仍然隱隱作痛。愛人笑時彎如新月的眼角多了幾道皺紋,年月輾過,我們誰會先離開?孩子搖搖擺擺向前奔,而他有天終將掙脫我們的手、我們的世界;某天,貓會否即使沉睡,卻不再打呼,身體也不起伏了。

日劇四重奏的一句對白,或許正如傳達了日本人看「愛」時的複雜情緒。第四集,松田龍平飾演的別府,向自小便暗戀著的,由松隆子飾演的真紀表白,未段他說:「愛しく愛しく、虚しい」(愛戀著,愛戀著,就變得空虛)。哀愁,始終伴著愛戀而來。

Pronounced as “Itoshi”, the Japanese word “愛しい” is commonly understood by Chinese readers as “love”. In fact, its ancient pronunciation, “Kanashii”, shares the same sound as “悲しい”, which means sorrow. We are bound to feel lonely and sad when losing something, and such insecurity has become an integral part of our affection for anything. Love and sorrow are inseparable in a certain way; perhaps that was why they shared a similar sound to remind us of the likeness of the two sentiments.

Now “愛しい” is no longer pronounced as “Kanashii” hence without any connotation of grief. You can say “Itoshi” when looking at your lover’s face, a cute move of your child, even when listening to the purring sound of your adorable cat. The phrase sounds so compassionate as you speak it, but it does not take away the inexpressible underlying pain. As time goes by, there are new wrinkles next to the crescent moon-shaped eyes as your lover smiles, you cannot help thinking who will be the first to leave. Imagining how your toddler will grow up and no longer need you can make you slightly blue. Looking at the cat, you wonder would it stop purring one day and never wake up from the deep sleep again?

A line in the Japanese TV drama Quartet has perhaps rightly concluded the complicated sentiments shared by the Japanese when it comes to love. In episode four, the character Beppu (Ryuhei Matsuda) confesses his love for his childhood crush Maki (Takako Matsu). In the end, he said, “愛しく愛しく、虚しい” (The state of loving someone will eventually bring a feeling of emptiness). After all, sorrow is just inseparable from affection.