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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.

Metaphors on the Humanist Shore: Upstairs Downstairs.

On XXploring the humanist shore

This post is something I wrote in 2010 for another audience, but it really got started in a meaningful way in 2005. That's when Sam Harris's book The End of Faith challenged me to re-consider questions that I hadn't worried about for nearly twenty years -- since Darwin, speaking through the witty little sermons of Stephen Jay Gould, had taught me a new way of thinking about the world.

What I learned from Harris was that, although it had been a great relief in my early thirties to lay aside my religious preoccupations, I could no longer afford the luxury of ignoring religion and its adherents. That kind of ignorance was a sort of intellectual cowardice. And worse, religious ignorance was dangerous -- to everyone.

So from 2005 to 2010 I read (of course!) a hundred or more books, moving from religion to philosophy to brain science and evolutionary theory (some of those books "belonged" to more than one discipline). I took a few courses, and talked to lots of people with different viewpoints -- all in the service of making sense of religion. And, oh yeah. The oddest result of reading Harris's book was, I ended up a Buddhist.

A second point of origin, in creative tension with the first, is a comment by Ron on an earlier discussion. According to Ron and others, Buddhism isn't really a religion, but a philosophy. That led me to ask myself: What the heck is philosophy? (That is, what does it DO that lets it outcompete other kinds of thought we might engage in?)

Sometimes considering two questions is a lot more productive than considering only one of them! I'd like to offer some answers to these questions (and to a related question, what is science?) and let you guys kick holes in my ideas. Cause that's the way I roll, lol.

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