Tuesday, January 11, 2011


"Lord Naoshige said 'The Way of the Samurai is in desperateness. Ten men or more cannot kill such a man. Common sense will not accomplish great things. Simply become insane and desperate.'" - Yamamoto no Tsunetomo, Hagakure

The word "desperateness" in the passage is the Japanese word shinigurai, which is literally translated "Being crazy to die". The idea is that of hurling one's self into the mouth of a tiger without a thought as to whether or not one will survive.

I write of it this morning as I ponder a conversation that I and Songbird had yesterday as I evinced my evident displeasure about my ability to make people care. I have for years now followed the teaching of The Elder, whose ability to convey bad news and contrary opinions in a manner which was carefully couched in language designed to be heard rather than immediately rejected. This is a useful application in many instances; however, it can be taken by some to mean that you are not forcefully telling them "Do this" or "No".

Songbird: "You know you like to have people like you."

Me: "Yes. I know. In the world of animals, I'm a Golden Retriever."

Songbird: "You need to worry less about them liking you and more about giving them your opinion, telling them what's right".

I crave the approval of others. I really do. I don't really know why I do, just that I do.

At the same time (and thanks to Songbird for making me think of this) I need to differentiate between approval and love.

I think that I often confuse these two items. Approval is not necessarily love, nor does love always equate approval. I want to be loved -but love is a hard thing to quantify from others at times, a hard thing to catch. And so, perhaps approval becomes the surrogate for love: it's easier to quantify and less difficult to cultivate (if it helps, you can substitute "like" for approval here. It's the same discussion).

The difficulty of course is that approval is far more fickle than love. Love is something (if it's real) that is not impacted by circumstances, by "what you can do for me"; approval often is. In fact, I will go as far as to say that approval is more often based on how you and your plans fit into mine: if they do, I will approve; if they don't, if they cause me strain or discomfort or even real work, I will not.

The other fact is that I need to become more selective of whose approval I seek. Not every single person is (frankly) worthy of me needing their approval - and that is not just a function of position or power, it's a function of what role they fill in my life. There are those close to me whose love and approval is important, as it should be; there are those outside (The famous "In-group/Out-group of Japanese sociology) whose at least approval, if not nice to have, certainly should not impact what I do.

So today, as I go about my job and my life, I need to be conscious of each interaction and what I am seeking from it.

To those whose love and approval is matter, who are critical to my life, who truly are involved with and care about me, I need to continue to pay careful attention that I am acting is a way that, while it may not always agree with them, is always concerned with my opinion of them - and theirs of me.

To all other, shinigurai.

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