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 fourth in a series that expands on terms heard in architects’ and interns’ circles like BIMJA, CAD-JITSU, WARRIOR INTERN and other notions that metaphorically equate emerging 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.
The following quotes from Hagakure are featured in 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.
Form is Emptiness is Form
“Our bodies are given life in the midst of nothingness. Existing where there is nothing is the meaning of the phrase “form is emptiness”. That all things are provided for by nothingness is the meaning of the phrase “emptiness is form”. One should not think that these are two separate things.”
This Hagakure passage reminds me of the “form follows function” or “function follows form” discussion in architecture. If “form is emptiness” vs. “emptiness is form” are not two separate things, it stands to reason that “form follows function” vs. “function follows form” are not two separate things either. When a new building site is chosen, there is nothing there. The building design gives life to that site from the nothingness. The building design is form that captures space for inhabitation. It is truly a gift to be part of that process.
“Even if a samurai’s head were to be suddenly cut off, he should still be able to perform one more action with certainty. If one becomes like a revenging ghost and shows great determination, though his head is cut off, he should not die.”
This is a remarkable statement and testament to the samurai’s ability to fight while being many steps ahead of his next move. While the quote attributes this to determination, I think the samurai’s presence in the fight, with an inherent choreography to carry out, shows that he has anticipation of an opponent’s intentions.
When I am in a business negotiation, I strive to by many steps ahead of the conversation. I’m sure most people do the same. While I should never have my head cut off in business dealings, there are surprises that come up that could be compared to that moment in a battle. If I had this samurai determination, I should still be able to take that surprise in stride of the talk, and come right back to the aim of my own goals in the negotiation.
Spirit of an Age
“It is said that what is called “The Spirit of an Age” is something to which one cannot return. That this spirit gradually dissipates is due to the world’s coming to an end. For this reason, although one would like to change today’s world back to the spirit of a hundred years or more ago, it cannot be done. Thus it is important to make the best out of every generation.”
Zeitgeist is literally translates to the “time ghost” and has loosely been called “The Spirit of an Age”. I think this quote is talking about ghosts and spirits because once a time has passed, it, with its spirit, has died. This is why you cannot have it back any more than you can bring back a beloved relative that has passed, although you have fond memories of time spent with that relative. These memories have come from making the most and best of those moments, and will be all you have moving beyond those times together. You can see how this and the zeitgeist are the same and how we must make the best of out time together, as much as our generation because once they both are gone, we may not have them back, but we will have our memories.
More quotes and parallels are to come in the next and final post in The Way of the Samurai Architect series. Until next time, live nicely! ~Jes