So, what is an appropriate bushido perspective (or ethical warrior code) — outside of the Japanese settings and in our context here, that is. Certainly, an Unemployed Samurai is not a person who relishes aggressive and cruel acts, but neither is he social justice warrior, with a naïve notion of violence. This series attempts to define the positive sense of a compassionate, eccentric warrior outside of collective ideologies.
You might ask: why is the warrior archetype still glorified, in the face of the real horrors of war? Well — we don’t have to get to a point of genocide for there to be real conflict. A close look at the human ape reveals that underneath every peaceful relationship is the shadow potential for war — and it’s pretty easy for things to escalate. People and society, consciously or unconsciously, undermine and destroy what is precious within us at all times. It’s a miracle that there are relatively peaceful societies at all. As Leonard Cohen sang: ‘there is a war between the people who say there is a war and the people who say there isn’t’. And if you disagree you have already engaged in a war of opinion.
Of course, there are different kinds of wars: wars of survival, wars of the heart, intellectual wars — cold wars and hot wars. There are wars where people literally tear each other apart, and there are wars of subterfuge between family members or lovers. There are wars between the people who want change and those who want things to stay the same. There is a war between man and women — and you might argue that a good intimate relationship is necessarily punctuated by a nice little war every now and again.
Everywhere, and in all times, there is either the potential for a state of war, or an actual war going on. Most fundamentally, we are engaged in a jihad with ourselves and our own different sub personalities — the war between the conscious and the unconscious mind, for example. War, or separation, or duality, or a state of attack and/or retreat, is always going on, in one way or another.
So how do we achieve the warriors real goal, or what Chogyam Trunpa called ‘Victory over war’? We transcend war by entering the space between us, by dissolving into each other, while still remaining ourselves. That space might be the moment when we drop our machine guns and have a soccer game — it could be the union of two beings in a state of passionate love.
Of course, most of the time the Unemployed Samurai is in the trenches, fighting whatever war appears in front of him. That is the nature of our lives, for better or worse. We can’t live in peak experiences or peaceful states all the time obviously — and we can’t rely on the political or material situation to sustain us. Mostly, we are knee deep in corpses — fighting the corpses of forgetfulness, the corpses of idealism, the corpse of ignorance. The Samurai’s job is to cut though these corpses, sometimes joyfully, sometimes manically, sometimes systematically — but mostly it is a challenging and thankless job.
So why does he do it? He does it because he knows that the real victory is a state of fullness, to which nothing could be added and nothing subtracted. That is, if he fullfills his duty what might be waiting for him at the end of the war is a lap dance at the table of the gods, even as they drive the nails in.