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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.

Reading Will Save the World: The Artist's Way

On Where Pianos Roam

For my second instalment of Reading Will Save the World, I wanted to draw attention to a book that I've often revisited over the past few years.  Honestly, I would not be the artist and musician that I am today if I had not read this tremendously important book.  

Whether you are a writer, painter, musician, teacher, parent, gourmet chef, furniture designer, graphic designer, or breathing human being whose life involves some form of creativity, then I would strongly recommend reading The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.  It helped me walk firmly on my own path to creative self-actualization.  

Years ago, long before I ever moved to Nashville to pursue a life in music, I didn't really know what I wanted to do.  I had a great job as a Youth Programs Director for a small non-profit group in Charlotte, NC that helped teens who were questioning their sexuality and gender identity.  This work was incredibly important and deeply satisfying in terms of the people I was helping.  As much as I truly loved this job, I always felt that something was missing.  

One night, I was sitting around in my apartment working on a poem when the thought occurred to me that this particular poem could actually make a pretty good song.  So, I dusted off an old keyboard synthesizer that had been collecting dust in the corner of my bedroom.  Within an hour, a melody started to wrap itself around the poem, and I suddenly realized that I just wrote an actual song.  The second discovery was the fact that I could remember what I played without writing anything down.  Deep in my mind, I already knew that I could do this, but it's implications hadn't dawned on me until then.  (I don't know if there is any research out there on musical memory, but whatever it is, it is a gift that I treasure deeply.)  

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