Self-Sacrifice and Self-Realization
I’ve never really thought of myself as a selfish person. After living in the Japanese countryside though, being exposed to these mountain folk who have been living in these hills for thousands of years, my views about myself are shaking.
The way I’ve been trained and have taught myself to live in the West has been under an operating system of exploration. To discover the world for the first time, and to share with others what I find. To constantly cultivate oneself into a better human being. A block under one’s own chisel.
Here though, far out in the Japanese hills, this whole process of exploration and searching for the unknown is not a quality to be valued by individuals. The purpose of life to these people is not to be discovered or found, it’s already known and taught from the moment of birth: and that is, to continue life. To have children, support the community, and get a job that can sustain your local system. Everything is done for the group. They live entirely for the sake of others. It can’t even really be said that there is a clear definition between self and other; everyone is so interwoven. You shouldn’t go out on your own, you are an organ of a larger whole.
My entire system of values is turned on its head here. When I first came here two years ago, I have to be honest, I thought these people to be stupid in many ways. They don’t travel, they didn’t appear to retain or maintain anything they learned at school, they don’t read so much; they didn’t seem to have any desire to flourish. But now I realize that in many ways, it was I who was the fool. A selfish fool, perhaps. Their flourishing is different. I try to make every moment of my day a moment of cultivation and growth, reading and writing in every little ounce of free-time that I can find both at home and at work. But I see more and more how worthless all of this growth is if it is contained within the self. These people’s flourishing is through a different kind of knowledge, a kind of knowledge more in tune with the evanescence of life and the natural flow of the earth, perhaps. I feel strange studying now, when I could be interacting with other people. Maybe not bettering them or helping them grow, but just interacting, being a part.
I can learn and develop my mind’s articulated programming, but it seems that there are many inclinations that have been etched in stone, forever influencing the way I live, how I learn, and what I choose to learn. The difference between software and BIOS firmware in a computer. Programming behind the programming. With my deeper programming, I will never be able to be content living a life without this constant striving towards self-perfection. At some point I have seen that this is the path of righteousness for myself, and it always will be. The endpoint of all of this training and preparation is not simply the betterment of myself (this is a bi-product), but of making myself a more capable human being so that I can better help others. My goal is not to adorn myself with knowledge and skills to flaunt around and impress people or attain high positions over others, my goal is to craft for myself a set of tools so that I can help the human race with every ounce of potential that I have within myself. To make myself a drill so that I can really dig down and find the marrow of life’s truth, and to share it with others. I think this is noble and always will, even if it appears neurotic or selfish at times. Its the path I’ve determined to follow, and will also follow until I am no more.
To each his own. When I see the mothers of the children I am teaching, I see Buddhas. These mothers give everything, literally EVERYTHING so that their babies can grow and be happy. Their selflessness is perfect, and I bow my head to them in respect.
I have learned many things from the people here. In many ways, this rare opportunity that I have been given has allowed me to go back in time and view a world that is no longer in place. This old way of living is becoming extinct. When I go to the more populated areas of my prefecture or the big cities like Tōkyō or Osaka, I see the same modus operandi that I see in the big cities anywhere else in the world: self-fulfillment.
Everyone is on their path for a reason, and if we look into any way of life we can see beauty and the reasons why certain people and cultures live the way that they do. I seek to incorporate the beautiful things that I can from these people, and to walk through the gardens of these peoples hearts and simply admire that which I am not.