I read "The Samurai Ethic and Modern Japan" by Yukio Mishima recently. Fascinating book - it's an analysis and review of Hagakure, a 17th century book of samurai ethics.
Lots of interesting ideas. Many I disagree with. But none more fascinating than this one - Mishima writes about externally-focused morality.
In Hagakure it says, "A samurai must never seem to flag or lose heart."
This remark suggests that it is a defect to seem to flag, to seem disheartened. The most important thing is that a samurai not manifest externally his disappointment or fatigue.
It is natural for any human being to become dispirited and worn out, and samurai are no exception. However, morality asks one to do the impossible. And the samurai ethic is a political science of the heart, designed to control such discouragement and fatigue in order to avoid showing them to others. It was thought more important to look healthy than to be healthy, and more important to seem bold and daring than to be so.
I don't entirely agree with this, but it's fascinating. On the upside, this can become a very action and results oriented philosophy of morality. For instance, the book also talks about grooming. In this case, appearing to be well-groomed is being well groomed. Appearing diplomatic is being diplomatic. Appearing to boldly engage than the enemy in combat, more or less, is boldly engaging the enemy in combat.
The downside still lingers today - it's why you'll see half-running in Japan around an office, where people make the motions of going fast, but without results. That's the external focus without understanding the internal spirit you're supposed to have.
Still, I like the idea overall. Cultivate the action and appearances of a successful, determined, ambitious, loyal, serving person. The best way to do this? Become successful, determined, ambitious, loyal, and serve. Understand the spirit of why these are valuable things, then cultivate them in the world around you.
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