A different kind of warrior
This week I finally finished the last of my Christmas reading set, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II. I wish I had the time to explain properly how I feel about the book, but given my circumstances a very brief summary will have to do.
An unbiased (in my opinion…) look at the Allied (read: American) occupation of Japan, I had some beliefs reinforced, and some new ones formed as well. It made me angry, it made me resentful, it made me feel empathetic, and it made me wonder. It also made me hope that man’s fate is not truly tied to his ignorance and fear. One point in particular I feel is that human beings certainly are capable of atrocious things. And serving in the military can provide a wonderful opportunity for their manifestation. I’m not saying all soldiers are bad, or even that most of them are. But the pressures and chaos of war, victory, and loss can quite easily drive these shortcomings to the surface in the most grotesque of fashions. Just another reason to hate aggression and those that see it as the most appealing means to defense (and avarice). If you really are interested in knowing in more detail the kind of things our boys (and theirs) do when overseas, well… knowledge is a grey area like virtually all in humanity, rife with as many ill-effects as benefits.
But it was a good book, and I can see why it won the Pulitzer Prize. John Dower’s writing is of high quality and he presents a broad range of material in a well-organized format. I have to admit I got a little bogged down in reading about the politics involved in the drafting and ratifying of the constitution, but I am appreciative of it as a necessary diversion from the normal text which I read. Interestingly, Japan’s charter was initially written (quite well) by very idealistic Americans, but then like most noble legislature, later gutted making it toothless and reactionary (by the same American occupation) under the duress of an overconservative, global influence-hungry administration.
I think I have a significantly better understanding of modern day Japan, at least from a socio-economic viewpoint. It was a good exercise for me mentally, on multiple levels. It may also be the longest nonfiction book I’ve ever read (564 pages), so I derive some very small degree of accomplishment from that.
Not one to break pace, I almost mechanically starting reading one of the books I bought in San Francisco earlier this month, choosing to catch my breath with the small and short, Hagakure, The Book of the Samurai. I currently don’t have time to go into any depth about the history of the author, but it’s essentially a collection of excerpts taken from a book written by a 17th century samurai who became a monk following his master’s death. It’s mainly didactic and was originally intended for the edification of a young, discharged samurai with whom the author became acquainted.
This book is “cool” in the way you’d expect, but I’m honestly interested in it more for its potential to aide me in my personal character refinement, rather than a cool email signature. Since these sayings and tales are bite-sized and easy to parse, I may substitute some of my normal blogging material over the next couple weeks with passages from the book, so you can get an idea of the content as well as concepts I find personally meaningful.
There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower you try not to get wet and quickly run along the road. But 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 still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.
Apt advice to myself, so often struggling to fight against the burden of my constant work and trying to force in unreasonable [normal] amounts of recreation. I suppose I may spend more energy and worsen my satisfaction and production in both by trying to deny that I must subject myself completely to the weight of my current position.