People are pretty heart-breaking. Even those ones who we despise. In fact, the people who we believe to be complete idiots are the most devastating. If you are an Unemployed Samurai, you are heartbroken about such people all the time. You just look into their eyes and see two things: beauty and tragedy. This is what life is made of.
The tragedy of life consists in the fact that we do not let the heart be completely crushed — that we remain a hardened shell. The world would be a lot more livable if we just saw tragedy for what it is. From top to bottom, there is tragedy, dreams unfulfilled, lives unlived. And sometimes there is no rescuing people from the pit.
Those people with a lot of apparent openness, the ‘cultural creatives’, the social justice warriors, the intellectuals — have their own kind of tragedy; just as the tight-assed, conservative, provincial types do. Theses two ‘sides’ are complete locked in an eternal conflict, because they don’t see an individual, they see a category. There is no hope of reconciliation if we speak of others as ‘It’ instead of ‘Thou’ was Martin Buber put it. And every being, no matter how repulsive or dammed, is a ‘thou’.
The tragedy of having no boundaries is that one gets completely lost and distracted; the tragedy of having too many boundaries is to be cornered by lack of vision. Life is a tightrope walk between the extremes, and people fall off into the void of extremes all the time. You fall off if you are too ‘one-sided’, if you are too much of an ideologue. If you allow your vicious opinions to block your vision, you tend to see cartoon characters instead of human beings.
If you fall off to the left you begin to describe yourself as ‘the victim of the universe’, even from your ivory tower. You want to get all the victims in the world together and create a murderous revolution, to bring down people to your level of victimhood. You align yourself with all the wretched beings of the world and you pretend to fight for them, from your high chair at Yale or Princeton. You live on the scraps of disappointment and resentment; you view every success as a conspiracy against your imagined utopia. The dishes pile up in your sink and the devils start to appear at your doorstep.
If you fall off to the right, you spend your days building walls around yourself. You become nostalgic for a gold era that never existed and you want to herd humanity back there — to a cowboy country where men were real men and women were real woman. You view every innovation as an attack, every scrap of chaos as a possible invasion of your own cleanliness. Your life becomes a rigid routine, you put plastic on your furniture to keep away children — you are constantly terrified of ‘aliens’. And you are so protective of kin and kind that you will send your ballistic missiles to crush everybody who is a threat to your little kingdom.
The Unemployed Samurai lives somewhere between the extremes. He knows that ‘the middle way’ is best way. In a way that is why he is ‘unemployed’, because he doesn’t fit in either camp — and isn’t seduced by extremes. This samurai won’t abandon his brother or sister in the ditch, and doesn’t take sides artificially. The war the samurai wages is for the individual soul, not for an abstraction. He or she is too broken hearted to do otherwise than help-out. And although the Samurai might not make the best bureaucrat in the world, you might want to call him when you are in a serious pinch.