Orient and Occident East-West Synergy.
In the following I would like to attempt an answer as to whether and how the cultural distance between East and West can be bridged. Rudyard Kipling in his days said 'Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet, Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's Great Judgement Seat;'
These are the lines which are usually quoted. However, an Indian Maharajah and former Indian Ambassador to Washington D.C. I spoke to a few years ago correctly added the following lines, which are 'But there is neither East nor West, Border, not Breed, nor Birth, When two strong men stand face to face, Though they come from the end of the Earth' and he interpreted the two ‚strong men‛ as When two strong „minds‚ meet In other words, he contradicts or at least relativizes the common quotation of denial, saying that it is indeed possible to meet again to realize a synthesis. As a Maharajah by birth he is surely a reliable representative of the Indian subcontinent and as a former Ambassador of the Indian Government to the United States he is obviously an expert of Western and in particular US societal cultures.
Maybe he was one of those 'strong men' referred to by Rudyard Kipling, who can make East and West meet again synergistically, in accordance with the third line in Kipling's verse, because as a transculturally competent, Orient and Occident are reconciled in his own consciousness already.
Of course, the Orient encompasses not only India. There is also China and in particular Japan - on which we will focus in greater detail in this study - with their millennia old cultures and civilisations. I refer to Japan in particular, because Japan, due to centuries of isolation, has maintained a unique form of cultural autonomy, while India and China, through colonialism, have been influenced by Western cultures and civilisation in various degrees. Whereas India is a singularity in the sense that it has successfully managed the continuity of a highly diverse multicultural, multiethnic, multireligious society for centuries, whose educational system presently has to work in 58 languages, Japan is another true cultural singularity, at least its strong traditional undercurrent which still permeates modern high-tech Japan, one of the leading nations of the world, although or precisely because it had to reconcile a most traditional culture with a most modern technical civilisation. Centuries of cultural autonomy of Japan which still have their effect on contemporary 21st century Japan, have led to the notion of 'nihonjinron', a Japanese term, which means that Japan is actually singular to such a degree that it cannot be understood from outside, but only from within. China may be added in the sense that it has traditionally assumed cultural superiority: 'Chung guo', kingdom of the middle, a beacon of civilisation. All three cultures are unique and can be said to be singular in their own way, at least in the sense that their apparent complexity appears truly cryptic and hard to read, particularly for the non-Oriental.
But what is it that makes the East so different and unique and difficult to meet (again) and reconcile, as one would say in modern terminology? In other words, can the culture gap be bridged? Japan has spent most of its history in splendid isolation and due to geographic distance has managed to maintain its cultural autonomy to an extent that seems to make it the most cryptic culture of the three. Let's therefore look at it in greater detail.
First let's look at it linguistically, to start with: As has been pointed out by a Japanese anthropologist, among the some 800 languages of the world, the European subgroup of the Indo-Aryan languages is the only one not to have an equivalent of the central notion of ‘ki’, which - and this is important - points to a rational, static civilisation in the West on the one hand and an action-based, intuitive, prerational-based civilisation in the East on the other hand. The dichotomy would therefore be 'knowledge versus action'. Knowledge would be supported by a perception- consciousness-will circuit, while action would be spontaneity and intuition-based. The East-West bifurcation seems to have occurred through the advent of the 'philosophy of knowledge'.
- Quote paper
- D.E.A./UNIV. PARIS I Gebhard Deissler (Author), 2011, Orient and Occident - East-West Synergy, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/178698