When people ask you what you do, you could respond: ‘I’m an Unemployed Samurai’. Of course, they will think you are crazy and probably run away. And yet it’s good to bend the the fabric of reality sometimes; to create a rupture in the normal discourse is one of the jobs of an unemployed samurai, in my estimation. And the unemployed samurai is a wild card.
Of course, we must have good reason to be so capricious. We have to be skilled rather than impulsive, thoughtful rather than childishly anarchistic. The unemployed samurai is a serious madman rather than a casual one: he or she works on the question: who am I really? Certainly, we don’t have the answer, and there are several identities and sub-identities within us — and we can’t be reduced to any one of them.
Note: I’m not saying here that identity is only ‘socially constructed’ or any of that crap — of course there are rules to the game and you can’t bend them too far, no matter how far you live outside ordinary society. Not that our categories aren’t useful, only they never tell the whole story. Furthermore, I’m not saying that everyone should be an unemployed samurai, for it is a risky occupation. Better keep your day job — for the unemployed samurai is on a perilous mission.
So then, who is the Unemployed Samurai again? He could be a trickster but not a court jester because he has no court — he is more of a fighter than an entertainer, more of poet of circumstance than a showman. Not that he is revolutionary particularly; he doesn’t want to usurp the society as a whole, but rather tries to restore harmony and meaning in the local world.
What’s the difference between a social justice warrior and a unemployed samurai. Revolutionaries, damaged by ideology, have so often made a hell on earth, but the unemployed samurai has a different spirit of reformation. He makes a garden out of the wildness. He is too animated and engaged by whatever dragon he is fighting to be overly theoretical about it; he works with whatever obstacles or treasures are right in front of him. In other words, the unemployed samurai is a pragmatist involved in real battles, not in disembodied abstract ones.
The map is not the territory as the saying goes, and a label does not reveal the person — the unemployed samurai is not easy to pin down. On the other hand, without his code of ethics or style, the world quickly becomes a dense jungle full of snakes. In our confused and chaotic world, the unemployed samurai’s job is to show us the terrain, to take his sword to all the snakes of verbiage and that jungle of abstraction, and reveal the living waters beneath.
How does he do that? There is no recipe. Unlike a soldier, the unemployed samurai doesn’t march in formation, but walks over the whole landscape, taking in the flowers and the airplanes, the apple trees and coke bottles. He is an individual in search of a real job — not ordinary employment. His real job is life and death and meaning.