Friday, June 04, 2004

Simply Brilliant

BUSHIDO:THE WAY OF THE ARMCHAIR WARRIOR
by EVAN EISENBERG
Issue of 2004-06-07
Posted 2004-05-31
Knowledge is not important. The armchair warrior strives to attain a state beyond knowledge, a state of deep, non-knowing connection to the universe: in particular, to that portion of the universe which is rich, powerful, or related to him by blood.

The unenlightened speak of “failures of intelligence.” But the armchair warrior knows that “intelligence”—the effort of the mind to observe facts, apply reason, and reach conclusions about what is true and what ought to be done—is a delusion, making the mind turn in circles like an ass hitched to a mill. The armchair warrior feels in his hara, or gut, what ought to be done. He is like a warhorse that races into battle, pulling behind him the chariot of logic and evidence. When the people see the magnificent heedlessness of his charge, they cannot help but be carried along.

The warrior spirit resides in the hara. It is this spirit, and not any deed, that is the mark of the true warrior. Thus, a man who has avoided military service may be a greater and braver warrior than a man who has served his country in battle, sustained grave wounds, performed “heroic” deeds, and been honored with clanking, showy medals pinned to his garment.

Because human beings are prone to illusion, the sounds and sights of battle—the groans of the wounded, the maimed bodies of one’s comrades—may remain in the mind for many years, like a cloud that confuses judgment. Hence, a man who has fought on the battlefield and has later risen to high office may be fearful of leading his people to war. Such weakness does not afflict the armchair warrior, who at all times is firm in his resolve.

The armchair warrior does not fear death, especially not the death of other people.

The unenlightened mind is easily swayed by pictures. Since it fails to grasp that life and death are illusions, the sight of the flag-draped remains of those slain by the enemy may make it susceptible to weakness and feelings of pity. Therefore, the armchair warrior does not let the people see such images, except in settings that can be properly controlled, such as his own campaign advertisements.

Luxury is the enemy of Bushido. It saps the strength of the people and makes them weak and complacent. Therefore, the armchair warrior strives to take wealth away from the poor and the middle classes and give it to the wealthy, who are already so weakened that they are beyond help.

So-called wise men complain that the armchair warrior is producing “deficits,” emptying the coffers of the state and sinking it ever deeper into indebtedness to usurers and foreign moneylenders. In their “wisdom,” these so-called wise men are like the scholar who came to speak with Nan-in. Pretending to ask a question, the scholar flaunted his learning for ten minutes while Nan-in, attending politely, brewed a pot of tea. When the master filled the scholar’s cup, he kept pouring until the tea overflowed the cup, ran onto the table, and dripped to the floor, forming a great puddle.

The scholar, astonished, asked the meaning of Nan-in’s action. “The mind is like this cup,” said Nan-in. “If you do not empty yourself, how can you expect to be filled?” The coffers of the state, too, are like the cup. If they are not frequently emptied, how can they be filled? Thus, the warrior takes it upon himself to empty the coffers of the state into the pockets of his friends, his relations, and other members of his class. Knowing well the corrupting power of luxury, he distributes these treasures with reluctance. They are accepted with equal reluctance. Yet not one among his fellows shirks his duty.

The goal of life is awareness; the goal of awareness is freedom. If the people of a foreign land do not wish to be free, it is the duty of the armchair warrior to force them.

The warrior strengthens his resolve and that of his followers by chanting sutras, mantras, or other strings of words, such as weaponsofmassdestruction or linkstoalqaeda or bringingdemocracytotheworld. It is not important that these words bear any relation to reality or even that they have any definite meaning. All that matters is that they be chanted repeatedly and with great urgency.

The Chinese word for “crisis” combines the characters for “danger” and “opportunity.” For the armchair warrior, the significance of this is clear. Every crisis is an opportunity, and the lack of crisis poses a grave danger. In crisis, the people turn to the warrior for guidance. Hence, if a crisis has not occurred, the warrior creates one. If a crisis is subsiding, the warrior inflames it. The seventy-third hexagram of the I Ching is interpreted as follows: “Two towers fall. When smoke fills the people’s eyes, they can be led anywhere.”

Once, a group of travellers were on a perilous journey, in the course of which they had to cross a river. Unluckily, their guide forgot the location of the bridge, so the party had to ford the river, which, at the place they then found themselves, was shallow but very wide. After several minutes of wading through the icy water, the travellers began to grumble, “This guide is worthless! Let us abandon him and find another!” Sensing the discontent of his charges, the guide cleverly led them into a deeper part of the river, where the current was stronger and the footing more treacherous. “Help us!” the travellers cried. “Esteemed guide, do not abandon us!”

The unenlightened believe it to be the height of felicity to have no enemies. The armchair warrior knows, however, that only a steady supply of enemies can assure him the loyalty of his friends. When so-called wise men warn him that in rashly slaughtering his enemies he is merely manufacturing more of them, he smiles.

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