Kanako Iiyama

“Water is the face of fire.”

“Water is the face of fire” is a family motto given to Kanako by a family elder when she was seven. As a family motto, fire (whose forms are rapidly changing) represents a person’s relatively infinitesimally short life. Yet, the family line, each family member’s true identity, like water, is eternal and unchanging.

The motto is akin to a Zen koan, a paradoxical anecdote or riddle used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and awaken us from the preconceived notions that frame our perceptions.

The coexistence of seemingly incompatibles, water and fire, implies that our perception of something and its essence may be significantly different, though both are aspects of the same thing. The nature of water is forever-unchanging, while the nature of fire is forever-changing. As water is the face of fire, beneath the calm appearance of water lies a wildly-changing essence. While we tend to perceive something as static, that’s a misperception; for the universe’s only constant is change. Moreover, while water and fire seem incompatible as parts of one thing (an object and its face), they, like everything, are different aspects of the same thing; implying everything is one.