Monday, January 29, 2018

samurai sass ... not

The other night, because there was no other soporific reading material on the night stand, I picked up "Hagakure,"a book that "grapples with the dilemma of maintaining a warrior class in the absence of war and reflects the author's nostalgia for a world that had disappeared before he was born," according to Wikipedia. It's a kind of Marcus Aurelius minus Marcus Aurelius. It is more etched and starchy and wrapped in the robes of the samurai.

The world has rules, the book asserts and there are greater and lesser fulfillers of the demands the purity quotient. "Don't be a slob" might be one short-hand. Or "get over yourself" another. Discipline is required and the author seems convinced that he is an adequate purveyor of what is requisite and pure.

In various forms, there are hundreds of books that do similar work from differing perspectives. "Don't be an asshole" echoes and re-echoes in the human spirit, I guess. But with advancing age, the willingness or capacity to accede to such advice tends to wane. Life has a way of gob-smacking all and sundry with or without the assistance of vaunted tomes. And when, perhaps, the gob-smacking is somehow absent, there is always the gob-smacking reality of "being right." Who in his right mind would want to live with that cangue.

Given the flab and lassitude of age, I am no longer a fan of the very rules I have followed. The best I can manage is to hope that whatever good such rules instilled will somehow stick and be exercised ... without exercising any goodness. And if the glue doesn't work, there is always the gob-smacking that life can and will administer.

I belong among the lesser mortals whose ranks I imagined I could outstrip ... most notably, me.

There was once a tale of a samurai warrior who had not eaten for several days but nonetheless ambled down the street picking his teeth as if he had just finished a fine meal. The story was told as a means of instilling a spirit of unwavering assurance. Death is a small matter. But I always wondered, when I heard that tale, why a man of determination and clarity would show off by picking his teeth.

These days I agree with my question.


  1. I imagine the problem with rules, whether written or passed orally, is they are subject to individual interpretation. Agreement, like understanding, are rare commodities.

  2. Perhaps your author failed to provide his readers with an adequate background to the “Ways of the Samurai.”

    I recommend looking up Bushido. See Wikipedia for a decent overview. Assorted martial arts sites do a nice job as well. (does anyone go to the library anymore?)

    For a quick chart showing the seven essential virtues representing the distillation of Bushido see

    In the Samurai movies made by Japanese filamakers in the 1950’s we usually find that while the samurai had courage, honor and loyalty, the elderly were often portrayed as lacking any of the virtues of Bushido.

    I originally assumed the elderly behaved this way in these movies merely a plot device, then in later years as actually due to the weakness of age, later as a passive agressive response to their place in society. Now I wonder if more than the decline of physical strength and stamina there is some declination in the mental processes causes some people to lose their values.

    I suspect that these value never were never really examined and adopted as core values but were just grafted on through desires to please, get along, avoid getting fired, arrested, etc.

    While I am not really a rigid rules type of guy, I do believe in adhering to basic principles. I hope I don’t feel that can or should or be coerced to abandon them. It would be a nightmare if it was due to failing mental capacity.

    On the flip slide, I am inclined to ignore many rules and values externally imposed by self-interested persons and entities. It is more from experience and thought and not so much from age I tend to think.