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Excerpts from Hagakure, Chapter 1

I started reading "Hagakure," which was written by the samurai Yamamoto Tsunetomo from 1709 to 1716. I don't agree with everything in the book - some of the things Yamamoto-sama says sound crazy to my modern sensibilities, but there's some powerful quotes in here about bushido. Here's some I liked, with some thoughts of my own -

We all want to live. And in large part we make our logic according to what we like. But not having attained our aim and continuing to live is cowardice. This is a thin dangerous line. To die without gaming one's aim is a dog's death and fanaticism. But there is no shame in this. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai. If by setting one's heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he pains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling.

The first book of philosophy on bushido I read was the Budoshoshinshu. It had a significant impact on my thinking. One of the largest tenets of bushido is keeping awareness of your death in mind when you live. I try to do this, because it gives you a sense of urgency and importance.

A lot of times the principle is misunderstood - the principle is actually make preparations as if you'll live forever, but live this day that you'd be proud if it was your last. Bushido is not about being reckless. It's about keeping awareness of the end with you, and in doing so, living much more.

It's almost paradoxical - the man who is aware of his death, who relinquishes his claim on life, he lives much more fully. The man who is ignorant of his death does not live as much. Death is not something to be afraid of - it's something to be aware of. Being aware of it makes you more alive, and more effective, and more purposeful.

Hospital "The Late Arrival"

On Wellington Street

Late shifts at the hospital bring on problems you are less likely to encounter in the morning or afternoon. During the day, the people that come in are often scheduled for something. Late at night, the admissions are usually emergencies, things that couldn't and wouldn't wait till morning. People would come in at the last possible moment, and often this would make your work harder as you deal with not only a sick patient, but one that is tired as well. After more than my share of these shifts, I had come to realize that it was hard to be prepared for everything.

It had been a particularly rainy week, and so along with the normal worries that come from the job, there were also the threat of flooding and power outages. There were of course back up systems in the hospital, but the risk was still there.

As per the usual I was briefed on the patients I had for the night. Most of them were more or less routine, but one in particular I was warned about. He was a middle aged man, probably no older than mid to late thirties. The night before the man in question had stumbled through the Emergency entrance, his clothes soaked and on the verge of collapse. He had been rushed to a room, where despite the weather he was initially treated for severe dehydration.

His appearance had shocked me, especially so early in my career, and I had to stay on the other side of the cloth screen to keep myself from staring during the briefing. He had black hair and a large, sloping forehead. His eyebrows were missing, and the skin around it was heavily discolored. Much of the flesh on his face and arms was malformed, deep divots and pits running along the flesh, sometimes only settling slightly above the muscle. His nose was missing most of its flesh, and his eyes were dark and squinted even when open.

No form of identification could be found on him, and he refused to talk to anyone. A myriad of blood tests were given to him, and though the man seemed incapable of speech it was clear that he was suffering from a considerable amount of pain in the abdominal area. He was on a wide range of drugs for pain and digestion, and several x rays had been taken, though the results didn't reveal anything. He was also on antibiotics, as he had been found to have had a series of blisters on his arms and face. He seemed to have been stable by the end of the previous night, which is why he had been placed in the ICU with me. When I met him he was quietly resting despite the weather, and was much the same even after the briefing, when I had to go to his bedside and give him more medicine.

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