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 second 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.
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.
“In the words of the ancients, one should make his decisions within the space of seven breaths. It is the matter of being determined and having the spirit to break right through to the other side.”
There is nothing like making a decision and moving forward on that premise. I remember the first few years of architecture school, having conversations with fellow students that were not sure they wanted to follow through with that major. No doubt, architecture is not for everyone, but when I was talking with someone with promising talent, and had demonstrated exceptional creativity, I had to ask, ‘why second guess what path you have chosen.’ For me, anyway, it made it a bit easier to get through the stressful times on the long road to a degree in architecture, when I remembered the reasons I had originally decided to be an architect. It makes it easier when you just decide that you are where you are supposed to be, and concentrate on being the best you can right there.
“When one has made a decision to kill a person even if it will be very difficult to succeed by advancing straight ahead, it will not do to think about going at it in a round about way. The Way of the Samurai is one of immediacy, and it is best to dash in headlong.”
Clearly, nobody is dying here… no one gets killed. Metaphorically though, if we go back to the battlefield of a desk full of tasks or a sheet full of red lines that is mentioned in the paragraph on FOCUS in the introductory post, think of “dashing in headlong” to begin knocking out those tasks and completing the changes redlined in the drawings. Ask yourself, when you sit down to begin a productive day, do you “go at it in a round about way”? Or are you more like a hawk taking a bird, and dashing in headlong.
“Among the maxims on Lord Naoshige’s wall there was this one, ‘Matters of great concern should be treated lightly.’ ”
“Master Ittei commented, ‘Matters of small concern should be treated seriously.’ ”
You have heard the quote “God is in the details”. That is why details get so much serious attention in building design. The details are where a building keeps from leaking, where a design lasts for ages, and where thoughtful material transition can enrich the experience of the space. You may also have heard “The Devil is in the details” when there is a leak or a connection breaks, or a material transition is clunky, clumsy, or just doesn’t work. As for matters of great concern, think of the lightly sketched gestures that become expressed in the form of famous architecture. When looking at iconic building through the history of modern architecture many of them can be boiled back down to an initial concept sketch by the architect. That sketch is usually treated lightly, an expressive gesture of the pen or pencil over the paper that leads to the great concern of an iconic piece of architecture.
More quotes and parallels are to come in the next post in The Way of the Samurai Architect series. Until next time, live nicely!