On the Nature of Character…

Who are we really…are we who we say we are,who our parents or spouse thinks we are, who our twitter follows think we are, our facebook friends think we are….are we who our employees, or employer thinks we are, who our best friends think we are?

I don’t know for sure…but I DO know, its NOT most of the rubbish said about you by people who hate you. We are defined by how we think, what we say, what we do….sometimes, cognitive dissonance steps in and we say one thing and do another…

White Aryans sometimes turn a corner, start seeing that Jews and Blacks are NOT their enemy,but instead, humans, just like them.

I think there are many ways of portraying yourself…by your words, body carriage, demeanor, how you treat poor folks and animals…right now, outside,the wind blows,but as it says in the Tao Te Ching, those strong winds won’t last all day. Change is the flow of life…nature abhors a vacuum, and life apparently abhors things staying exactly the same.

The pyramids had worn down, rivers wear away rocks, and we measure all this with this illusion called time.

When you were in your 20s, you thought you knew who you were…but you were wrong…
you thought you might live forever, that you were invulnerable…but you were wrong… As I age, I am thinking perhaps the Vikings had it right when they said the only thing fixed, is the day you die…the skein…the length of yarn that is your life, was fixed at the day you were born….and that, my friend, is the only thing you cannot change.

I have tried to live my life through a code…it was not bushido…but, it shared some tenets with bushido…you put loyalty first…you avenge your master, or your mate, or your child, or whoever you care for…and you try to tell the truth…although I see that Ninjitsu had practical virtues in getting things done, using deception as an operative principle, I admire the bushido way…not for its macho bullshit…but for the loyalty aspect…but the falling on your sword….hmmm…not sure about that one…

I guess, who you are….is the same as your original face before you were conceived…the Zen koan. One way of saying who we are is that in each nanosecond, you are the sum total of your thoughts,deeds, words,expression,body language, desires…and that you are defined again in the next nanosecond..such that each nanosecond is a bead on a necklace that loops in a twisted figured eight, like the infinity symbol…

As I have gotten older, I think much of who we are, from a physiological, morphological,
and behavioral standpoint, was determined at conception when our Mother and Father’s genes mixed and formed us…research, empirical research, and identical twins raised apart, seem to show that genes are expressed not just by our hair, eyes, size, facial features, but by our temperament, the diseases we tend to develop, what foods we like, and much more. If this is true…we are like a tiny echo of of our cave ancestors….and you know how scientists LOVE to explain things in terms of evolutionary processes.

But, back to who the hell are we….who am I, who are you?  I think we are like swords ….a sword is hammered, shaped, ground on a grindstone…heated til it glows…but it is not until it is thrust into the oil or water…the quench, that we know if the blade is strong or not…. My own quench has been at least 10 years long…with the last year or two as being the part where, perhaps, the sizzle of the hot oil, reveals a warp or crack in the blade…

The japanese katana makers sometimes shout a loud kiai, spirit shout, during the making of the katana, to infuse their spirit into the blade…many swear that each well made katana is almost alive…I used to reject the idea…but of late, I have begun to embrace ideas that I thought were foolish a few years ago.

But, I know that the one thing….the only true thing…that is real, is love…it is the glue that holds things together…. Taoists believe that the Tao…the way,process, path, is not a caring, anthropomorphic “God”, it is merely the energy that has brought things into existence and sustains them in their existence…Over 63 years, I’ve studied many philosophies and belief systems…I’ve been a Taoist, (I still am I think), a Zen Buddhist, a Jew, a Christian, and even an agnostic at times….because, I challenge my beliefs every day, much like a muscle builder works out to build muscles, I challenge my beliefs to see, do they still make sense, or has something I’ve learned or been through, mean I must change them. I believe we exist beyond the physical death. I don’t force my beliefs on anyone, but experiences in life brought me to that conclusion, at a time when I didn’t WANT to believe there was existence after death. I actually wanted it to be like turning off the light switch and poof, you’re gone…but experiences I’ve had,that I cannot deny, have proved at least to me, we don’t get to rest eternally after the ticker stops and the EEG goes flat.

To sleep, perchance to dream, aye, but there’s the rub, what dreams may come….with respect to Shakespeare (or Bacon if he actually wrote it)…one of the best bits of writing ever. “To be or not to be”…yes, that is the question…but I don’t think the “not to be” is accomplished by suicide…I think you keep on being..perhaps as an orb, floating through dark rooms at night, perhaps in Heaven, or, perhaps in Hell. The ancient Jews thought we all went to Sheol…the good and bad alike…I hope not…doesn’t seem fair…but then again, as we look around at life, it doesn’t seem to be based on fairness does it ?

No, it doesn’t seem fair….but that’s from OUR perspective. If you are sick, poor, have terminal disease, the unfairness quotient seems pretty damn high. If you are young, rich, in great health, the fairness quotient probably seems pretty high.

Much like the Middle Ages people who caught the Black Death,as we go through times of inordinately high levels of bad luck, I think some of us wonder, did we piss off the fates, is G-d “mad” at us… poor Job must have wondered that ….but, we get reassured that since Job passed the loyalty test with G0d,  he was restored wealth, more than he had before…

But,the loved ones and animals he lost, while his “trial” was going on, they were still dead, and did NOTHING to bring on their own demise and the wrath of G0d allowed by
Satan the Prosecutor,the Antagonist.

No, the character of the blade is NOT what it was before the fiery heat and quench…it is the metal , the strength, after it has been through the quench….did it bend, did it crack, or was it hardened, strong and true without cracks, after the test, the quench…the stress from red hot to cool oil.

Why do I revere loyalty ? Because it is a truth of character…being loyal especially when you yourself may lose your life being loyal to a friend, shows courage, truth, kindness, all the qualities we should respect. Betrayal, shows the opposite..cowardly, lying, unkind, unfaithful, the things we despise. There is a reason that even in a prison, with the worst of the worst, rats, tattlers, traitors, betrayers are despised…snitches get stitches they say.

In Bushido, it’s all ABOUT honor. Thats why they rip their abdomens out with a tanto and their second is ready with a katana to chop their head off if they display a moment’s hesitation. Honor is important. To be an honorable person is important.

After all is said and done, a man or woman’s word is all they have…they have an honorable word, or not.  To have no honor, to SELL your honor, to SELL out your friends, your family, for money, or to get a reward for yourself, is dishonor at its lowest.

It doesn’t matter what people say about you…mouths flap and air comes out, but in the end, it means nothing. The world turns, the rats squeak, and the water falls off the cliff no matter what. You cannot measure yourself by others opinion of you, bad or good. When you meditate, as in zazen, seated meditation…and focus on that small, still point, or when you pray if you are a Christian or Jew, it is that part of you beyond your body…that ineffable spirit in the dark…that is You…not the six pack abs, not the new car, not the skills at guitar, not hacking skills, no…that’s not you…its the part of you that is there, somewhere, beyond all that…not a part of all that.

In the end, you must account to yourself if to no one else…did I live my life with honor, with kindness, with respect, did I help the less fortunate, those who happen to get in a bad way, broke, sick, needing help, did I help animals…did I use my skills, my talents to make things better, or worse? That is the final question that you must ask yourself when you get near the end. Not “what was my score in organic chemistry” or “how fast did my car go in the quarter mile”…those things matter nothing in the end….it was how you treated others, it was how you were to your family, it was your ability to be loyal, honorable,respectful, to humans, animals, and yes, to this blue marble we revolve on.

Try to find honor within yourself, hold it forward like a light shining…follow that light…be one with it….help animals, help innocents, protect children, women, animals, and yes, your fellow man if he needs your help.

When the end comes, the question is, through it all, did I do the right thing….did I treat others well,  did I show respect to them, does the mirror reflect a good person or a bad one.

Try to find the goodness inside yourself and nurture that. Then, you will be able to find who you are.





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