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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.

Beady Blue Eyes

On AMBER EYES AND OTHERS

My whole life I dreamed of the glamour of high school. I recall flipping through my older sister’s yearbook, pointing to the homecoming queen, and saying, “I am going to be just like her.” I can assure you that prophesy never came to pass. For the first few years of high school, I kept to myself, intimidated by others’ friendships that had existed before they could say each other’s names. I was a new girl in ninth grade, and even going on into my junior year, I still hadn’t found my niche. My dreams of being crowned homecoming royalty were completely shot down when I realized I would never get asked to a dance or go on any sort of date that I, myself, wasn’t paying for.

Here’s the kicker: I never thought I was unattractive or weird. Of course, I had my quirks like everyone else, but for the most part, I believed my ugliness remained in the past and, as the entirety of junior high seemed to be, just a bad dream.

I had just gone over the hump of my senior year in high school when I met him. He was in my clothing class, and his face wasn’t a new one to me. I had seen him since I moved there in ninth grade. He hung around the people I was never friends with, and he went to parties I was never invited to. Still, he never caught my eye, and he continued to never catch my eye as we gabbed while he made ridiculously hideous pajama pants. Although he was of an average height, he seemed lurpy. His blonde hair fell like a short curtain over his forehead, and he flipped it out of his eyes about every two minutes. Beady, blue eyes peeked from underneath his blonde drapery, and even though they were small, they were somewhat pretty.

We became friends.

Somehow we got entangled in a dare. Driving down the frontage road in our friend’s car, we stood up so we were out of the sunroof from the chest up, and we kissed. It was just a joke, and I never thought it was anything more. The next time, the encouragement for a kiss came from a stranger. Beady Blue Eyes and I sat on the top of a picnic pavilion in the middle of the night. Someone drove by and chanted for us to lock lips. I never thought Beady Blue Eyes had the guts, but before I knew it, his hand was on the back of my neck, and we kissed a kiss that lasted no more than two seconds. This was a joke too, I thought. We were no more than awkward friends that had been tricked into kissing two times now, and that’s that.

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