Dwelling on how the Way of the Samurai can be used to improve one’s pursuit of happiness through work, trade, or profession.
This is the fifth and final post in a series that expands on terms heard in architect’s and intern’s circles like BIMJA, CAD-JITSU, WARRIOR INTERN and other notions that metaphorically equate up and coming architects to lethal martial artists. I haven’t had any formal martial arts training. However, the discipline, practice, and pursuit of personal perfection inherent to the martial arts all raise my interest. This interest came to a peak when I was introduced to Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai.
Please visit the initial Way of the Samurai Architect post to read the introduction to this series, more info, and links about the Hagakure and the movie Ghostdog. After each quote are a few words on how I find parallels in my own life, since, you know, I don’t actually roam from village to village wielding a katana in life and death battles and Klan drama to serve my master. Although, the sense of urgency feels like that sometimes, there is similarity. There are lesser battles day in and day out. There is a master, or client to serve. There is livelihood if I succeed and the lack thereof if I fail.
Presentation (Complexion) is Everything
“It is good to carry some powdered rouge in one’s sleeve. It may happen that when one is sobering up or waking from a sleep, a samurai’s complexion may be poor. At such a time, it is good to take out and apply some powdered rouge.”
It may happen, when one is sobering up of working after an all-nighter, an architect’s complexion may be poor. At such a time, it is good to… NO. Architects do not apply some powdered rouge after having all-nighters. Maybe it is something they should try, though. I can remember walking around looking like the dead, after slaving over a studio project all night long in school. A poor complexion makes a bad impression. The stakes are higher if you are out in the professional world. I find it funny that in the Hagakure, there would be this passage about this simple remedy for a poor complexion. Although is shows that presentation is everything, down to the personal details of complexion hygiene.
“The way of the samurai is found in death. Mediation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day when one’s body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears, and swords, being carried away by surging waves, being thrown in to the midst of a great fire, being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great earthquake, falling from thousand foot cliffs, dying from a disease, or committing seppuku at the death of one’s master. And every day without fail, one should consider himself as dead. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai.”
I am including this quote to show the elemental dedication to the Way of the Samurai. Parallels to practicing architecture, though… I am not sure there are any, other than that level of dedication to The Way that perfect daily practice brings. Think of how deep your dedication to the substance of your way runs. Is there anything this intense that you meditate upon on a daily basis? What could that be in The Way of the Architect? Maybe it is daily meditation of heated debate of building code interpretation with building officials. Maybe it is daily mediation of defending your design intent against value engineering proposals. Maybe it is daily meditations of enforcing construction details with a contractor that is cutting corners on craftsmanship and sound building practices. Please comment on this post and let me know what you meditate, or could meditate on day in and day out.
The End Is Important
“In the Kamigate area, they have a sort of tiered lunch box they use for a single day when flower viewing. Upon returning, they throw them away, trampling them underfoot. The end is important in all things.”
Indeed it is. In the movie, Ghostdog takes a young girl as a protege, more for genteel living of a thoughtful life, not in his role as an assassin. As a matter of fact, he took great care to shelter her from that part of his being. He saved a briefcase fill of $100 bills from his work, and made arrangements for her and her caretaker to have some of it after his death, at the end of the movie. The Hagakure was part of that gift. The preparation and planning the gift shows Ghostdog’s forethought and awareness of how he would meet his end, and the last determined action he would take after he was killed.
In architecture, the end of a project can be marked by both substantial completion and final completion, as this post describes. Topping off ceremonies are also a sort of end, as the building has reached its highest point, but much work usually remains after topping off. Any one of these milestones in a project are great opportunities for celebration. I attended a seminar on construction administration (CA) where the instructor was adamant that the architect build money into the CA budget for project morale events, including a party, cookout, ceremony, or celebration at topping off and substantial completion. You can imagine what a positive effect these get togethers can have on a job site, after months of the grind on a project – schedule crunches, lead time glitches, equipment issues, change order arguments, and (God forbid) removal of and corrections in the work.
This is the end of the Way of the Samurai Architect series.
Until next time, live nicely!