When the historical Ronin’s were unemployed, there was nothing else for them to do but become Zen monks. Of course, if you fell out of favor in society, you could still become a monk today, but that might be just running away from your existential responsibilities. Personally, being a monk didn’t work out too well for me, and my monastic career lasted only one year. Perhaps that was because I’m not a monk by nature. I’m far too angry, horny, and pig headed — too attached worldly matters. I didn’t have it in me to, for instance, leave behind the world of women.
In some sense, the Unemployed Samurai has been kicked out of respectable society; but in another way, he is at the very centre of it. The country has become corrupt and his heart has been poisoned; he has been flung out into the wilderness to find the ancient keys to the city, to reform the laws of justice and hospitality, and to restore a sense of inner harmony and humour to the world.
Falling outside of society, going to the underworld, perhaps being eaten by a whale, are variations of the same universal story. One has to go in exile to be found — you have to be disenfranchised to muster the energy to seek a nobler occupation. The outsider or rebel actually contains the potential to raise up human culture, but first must through various trials and tribulations to be re-introduced to society as a hero. The archetypal hero begins as a pariahs to society.
Actually before he became a hero, the Samurai was a bit of an asshole, if I can be so crude—that’s why he fell out of favor. He liked power a bit too much, he was not sensitive to women and children, he had a tendency to hubris and violence. Maybe he was just to insular, egotistical, an overgrown child. Perhaps that is why he had to lose everything, and why he has been cursed to wander the earth, in search of his homeland.
The story of paradise lost and paradise regained begs the question: Was there ever as paradise without consiousness or wisdom, and were we ever there? Is a permanent state of childhood really paradise, not to mention the prolonged adolescence that seems to characterize todays ‘culture of pleasure? Many people seem to have lost their nobility and thus their place in the world through clinging to a various nostalgic paradise islands of entitlement.
Maybe real paradise is just being in the right place and in the right relationship to life; and maybe regaining paradise is finding that mythical centre. The centre is mythical because it’s not a real place and it’s location is always shifting—it is both a limitation and a horizon. We must continually go back to the centre, even as we are being thrown from it. The more advanced the hero is, the harder it is to remove him from the centre, and therefore the more chaos he can handle.
If one is favoured by the Gods, then the trails and tribulations may be all the more dramatic. This is as it should be, because heros do not thrive in mediocrity; they needs to face adveraries and sometimes death. The most advanced heros are those who have lost everything more than a few times; they don’t just go and hide in a monastery, but instead they enter the eye of hurricane, the dragons layer, the stormy sea, or the dark forest. They know that behind wherever chaos and darkness is present, some beautiful maiden waits to be ravished.