I think this is going to be another long post on the level of the series of posts I wrote on transactional love, earlier. So buckle up, here we go.
I have mentioned before that I was raised in a religious cult. This gave me a lot of perspectives that are unusual, and not understood by most people. I have come to accept this, and just consider it a fact of life that I will not, ever, find any common ground with my readers. So instead, I come at blogging with more of an explanatory focus. If I can’t find common ground, then the least I can do, is educate.
One of the things my church had as one of its core tenets was absolute certainty. No, let me capitalize that. One of the things my church had as one of its core tenets was Absolute Certainty. Of the things that they claimed to have answers to, those answers were absolute, not up for debate, discussion, or questioning. And for what they covered, that certainty was also fairly comprehensive as well. While their worldview was not entirely self-consistent, it was surprisingly self-consistent. They had answers for many things.
For example, they believed, as many millenialists do, that there was going to be an “end times”, occurring at some point in the near future. There was going to be a major world war, and then Jesus would return, and there would be a thousand years of peace. Everything we believed, acted on, etc., was based around this belief. We were certain.
Certainty is a hell of a drug.
As I left the cult that I was in, I realized that the answers I was given were insufficient, but my certainty that the answers existed never wavered – I was just given the wrong set. So I then went on a several decade spiritual journey, going through many belief systems, impressed by the internal consistency of many of them, but disillusioned by the fact that their answers were always insufficient. When you get to the core of any religion, including Christianity, any honest person will say, simply, “we don’t know”. Or, in other words, “we just take it on faith”. That’s been mostly useless to me, because if there’s one thing in my life that’s been unwavering for decades, it’s the search for answers, and finding the answers that people give me to be insufficient, at best – and stupid, at worst.
So my opinion of people tanked. My opinion of people, their beliefs, and their opinions, just tanked. And this was because they either didn’t have answers, or didn’t care to find answers. In my eyes, they were idiots. Are idiots.
For example, ask anyone “what is the meaning of life”. Maybe some of you will have this same answer – some will say something like “to be a good person”. That’s not an answer. That’s an appalling lack of thought. What’s a good person? What’s good? You can go down an entire philosophical rabbit hole with just that one question: “what is good?”. But those of you who might have that answer wouldn’t see it that way, and might even take offense to that characterization. You know what good is, you know what being a good person, and somehow you find meaning in that. Good on you. But it’s not good enough for me, and I have a very, very hard time with that.
So what does this have to do with Bushido?
I am not Japanese, so I know that there are levels to Japanese society that I am not, and cannot ever be realistically expect to be, aware of. This is expected. I don’t really like it, because in my drive for answers, it would be much simpler for me if I could pigeonhole a whole group of people into a few different categories. But I can’t. Every time I peel away a layer of Japanese society, another layer of the onion shows up, and I peel that away, and it’s an endless cycle of not having answers. And the sad thing – the depressing thing – is that I’m probably (no, in many cases, I am) asking questions that even Japanese people wouldn’t think to ask. And as with all other pursuits of answers, this is immensely frustrating to me. I can’t know.
So I found, today, quite by accident, actually, a concept called “Bushido”. It is supposed to be the way of the Samurai. Except it wasn’t. I read up on it, first on Wikipedia (which was highly unhelpful because its tone was more propagandistic and not encyclopaedic, big big surprise for Wikipedia). Not really the greatest. So instead, I found another article, from tofugu. This was much more informative, and certainly had its own angle.
Essentially, some guy named Nitobe wrote a book called “Bushido: The Soul of Japan”, in English, for a Western audience. His goal seemed to be to kind of Christianize Japanese culture for western consumption. Well, basically, it got translated back to Japanese, and indirectly helped cause the War of the Pacific. or something like that. And may be a cause of many of the issues that currently plague Japanese culture. May, anyway.
The point is, You look at Bushido, it says one thing, then you peel the onion back, and an entirely different layer shows up, one with much more nuance, and that most people wouldn’t even bother to look into.
There are no answers.
One of the things I hold most against God – and there are a few things I hold against him strongly – is the fact that death exists. I’m of no illusion that I have any power against it, or God, I’m of no illusion that there’s anything to be done about it, I know that considering the way the Universe is set up, maybe death is in fact a desirable thing (who wants an immortal Hitler?). But I hold it against him. In fact, I rather hate him for it.
That’s something that some people would consider heretical, or at the very least, disrespectful, but it’s honest. I don’t really put too much stock in the idea of heresy. I’m going to die anyway. What’s the worst that could happen? The early church fathers figured that one out, too, and so made up the idea of punishment after death, because if death is just inevitable, maybe hell isn’t. But it is what it is. I don’t believe in hell. Or, at best, I believe this is hell.
I don’t have an answer for it. There’s no available answer. The simple fact is, death exists, we’re all going to die, we don’t know when or how, just that it’s going to happen. And God’s to blame for that. And there are all sorts of lesser answers to be found. How to live a somewhat meaningful life inside this situation. How to treat other people who are just as much a hostage to death as we are. There are many, many lesser answers, and many of them are worth knowing. After all, there’s something to be said for making the best of it, right?
But the ultimate answer isn’t there. It’s not to be found. It’s not something that exists on this plane. Why does everything have to die, and following on, do we even matter?
This entire blog has been nothing but a cry for answers, in one form or another. I’ve posted about many different topics, and I’ve posted many, many questions. Why is one thing this way? Why is another thing that way? I’ve posted theories, my thoughts, some potential answers – and some of them are even good! I’ve made some of you think, I’ve made myself think, I’ve come up with more questions. Japan and the study of their culture has been a mirror for me to look into, and to think long and hard about my culture. If the Japanese people are just going along with their daily lives, completely unaware and unconcerned about how some fundamental things about their culture are just constructions, how much more in my country? Are there answers for that too? Probably. I don’t know them. And I’ll never find them out. I do know my country is built upon a bunch of shared cultural constructs that could just as easily fall, like a house of cards, like bushido.
There are no answers.
There truly are no answers.
We don’t even know what the questions are half the time.
I long for the certainty of my childhood. Certainly, I hated it. The idea that the world was going to end any day was scary, and has probably traumatized me for life. I have Complex PTSD, and while there were other reasons for that, that was probably one huge one – it’s a terrible thing to be on your guard every single day, knowing you might have to leave everything behind to go to the “place of safety” in Petra, Jordan. But it was certain. I had answers. I knew what was going to happen, I knew what God wanted, I knew that death wasn’t going to be the end of the story, I knew that even though there was going to be some tough times that shared the shit out of me, that it might turn out okay in the end (even though I really hated their idea of the Millenium, the idea of a peaceful and prosperous time was appealing). I knew.
And now I don’t know. And every time I think I have some kind of insufficient answer, a layer gets peeled off, and I know even less. And then there are the fundamental questions that I don’t only not know, but are unknowable. The answers to the most fundamental questions will not be found through science, will not be found through thought, will not be found through intelligence (the best you can get through intelligence is understanding where its limits are). They will not be found through anything but revelation, and even revelation is personal and imperfect.
There are no answers. And I hate that even more than I hate death.