Nothing this week
The past week of lectures centered on failure, success, and the consequences of both in this universe. I could not help, as lecture progressed on the sixth, but draw a comparison between Chomei and Thoreau. Both left their worlds out of perceived social ills, both became self-reliant recluses in order to further their introspection, both on themselves and human nature, and on society itself. One example of their similarities is seen in Hojoki, where Chomei describes how his appearance does not matter, being out of society, and how in the capital when he visits, people mistake him for a beggar (Chomei 74, 75). Thoreau made a similar point, in how once alone; man can define his own values and virtues. But as stated in in Evanescence and Form, Walden chose the life of deliberate self-reliance in finding true virtue, where Chomei did it out of resignation to the illusion of choice (Inouye 43). I must admit though, I am still struggling with the idea that things like Karma or a measure of success or failure can exist in this evanescent world as posited by the Tale of the Heike. It seems to say that, although one may fail, as sometimes it is inevitable, and although ones virtues or sins are taken into account, they may or may not be punished in the here and now, or maybe in the hereafter. I can come to terms with a world largely beyond one’s control, but a world in which one’s actions are totally meaningless seems beyond my comprehension. I cling to what Chomei says (75), “Reality depends upon your mind alone”. Is there wrong in defining our own measures of success or failure? I worry that without such guidelines of success or meaning we may fall into the trap of the Hikikomori, the modern day social recluses in Japan, defined by acute social withdrawal and failure. While failure may be necessary, I see danger in romanticizing it.