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 first in a new series that expands on terms heard in architects’ and interns’ 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. I offer this description from iheartintelligence.com.
Over 300 years ago, Yamamoto Tsunetomo dictated the quotes and wisdom that would become the book Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai. The book is described as “a window into the samurai mind, illuminating the concept of bushido (the Way of the Warrior), which dictated how samurai were expected to behave, conduct themselves, live, and die. While Hagakure was for many years a secret text known only to the warrior vassals of the Nabeshima clan to which the author belonged, it later came to be recognized as a classic exposition of samurai thought.” One amazing aspect of this book is the time in which it was written: long before Western influence on Japan. In Tsunetomo’s time, bushido was a code that related heavily to the Zen concept of “muga”, or the “death of the ego”. As time went on, the Samurai way of life became less of a mystery and different interpretations of bushido were made by many people. As old as the knowledge may be, the concept of Bushido is truly timeless.
The drive to study bushido, or the Way of the Warrior, and seek muga, or the death of the ego, plays integral parts in my personal practice and pursuits. If you are familiar with the relationship between ego and architects, this may come as a surprise.
To learn more, please read Hagakure, order it here. Or you can get and check out Ghostdog here, a Jim Jarmusch movie that Odd Fellows Rest called “…a gangster-samurai Indie film with a delightful sense of irony and an imaginative soundtrack.” in the post Movie Review: Sadness, Surreal Picnics and Funny Games.
With that intro, I will move on to the following quotes from Hagakure that are featured in that movie. 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 battels and Klan drama to serve my master. Although, the sense of urgency feels like that sometimes and there are similarities. 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.
“There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. A man’s life is a succession of moment after moment. If one fully understands the present moment, there will be nothing else to do, and nothing else to pursue.”
We work with ever increasing distractions all chipping away at our time, productivity and focus IF we let it. I know for some it is more difficult than for others to maintain consistent and steady productivity. This is why it is important to recognize a reactive response to one of these distractions or “attention grabbers”. I scheme at always maintaining a proactive practice. One way I can achieve a perpetually proactive practice is to make time during each day to stop, quiet the mind and ask myself, “What is the most important thing you should do RIGHT NOW?” When I first read this passage from Hagakure, it resonated deeply with that habit and made it that much more important to my days.
“There is something to learn from a rainstorm. When meeting a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. By doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you will still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to all things.”
Being resolved from the beginning is crucial in many situations, whether challenging, tedious, or otherwise perplexing. Learning new skills, accomplishing life goals, achieving key milestones, and facing impossible odds are all personal life experiences that will benefit from a strong resolve and solid strategy at the onset. In the example above, the resolve counteracts getting the “same soaking”. How does being prepared and resolved to get that soaking become “understanding [that] extends to all things”?
“According to what one of the elders said, taking an enemy on the battlefield is like a hawk taking a bird. Even though it enters into the midst of a thousand of them, it gives no attention to any bird other than the one it has first marked.”
If the field of battle is a desk full of tasks or a sheet full of redlines, imagine the proficiency gained by adopting a hawk like focus on the first one I see on top of the pile, or on the sheet. Do you know what I mean? How many times have you caught yourself shuffling business cards, mulling over the next call, or reminiscing about a good conversation with one of those contacts? I read the quote above and think about the minutes added to a day by eliminating the shuffle, mulling, reminiscing and replacing these time wasters with ACTION. Those minutes add up quick and I promise the actions make more positive difference to my effectiveness, and hopefully bottom line; more than the missed opportunities. Like a hawk taking a bird.
More quotes and parallels are to come in the next post in The Way of the Samurai Architect series. Until next time, live nicely!