Chronicles in Ordinary Time 14: the right thing to do

I’m a fan of [some] Samurai and Kung Fu movies… Japanese/Chinese Westerns. Unlike American Westerns, in these movies, the hero usually dies.
Today I watched Mibu gishiden / 壬生義士 / “When the last sword is drawn”; a story set in the late 1800’s, near the end of the Shogun period of Japanese history, when the Emperor was gaining power. In many ways the story has similarities to “The Last Samurai” in that it deals with the change from traditional Japanese life to the transition into the Age of the West. Interestingly, in an interview with the author of the novel from which the movie was made, he said that he wrote the story, in part, to remind his countrymen that they were still Japanese. “Sometimes I think we are half-American.”

The story tells of the Shinsengumi, described by the author as ‘dropout’ Samurai–mercenaries protecting the Shogun; and in particular, “Kanichiro Yoshimura, a Samurai and Family man who can no longer support his wife and children on the the low pay he receives from his small town clan. He is forced by the love for his family to leave for the city in search of higher pay to support them…” [C. Maginnis ]
Despised by his clan, the story tells of how he is truly an honorable man.

I enjoy these stories involving violent men and women, not for the violence, but for their stories of honor, bravery, sacrifice and decency. Stories that tell of the importance of tradition, family and keeping one’s word.

I also love the craftsmanship found in the sets for these stories. In my other life as an architectural/Code consultant, I recently had the pleasure of visiting a Historic Federal building in Old Town; a building that was clearly built in a different age; the ‘age of decoration’. Standing on the roof of the building, near a section where a higher roof overlapped; I saw that on the underside of this roof overhang, 4ft above the roof I stood upon, where only maintenance people would ever see, were cast ‘rosettes’ about a foot in diameter. I’m always amazed/intrigued when I see carving on the roofs of tall, old buildings. Decorations placed where few will ever notice. Placed there because it was the right thing to do.

I spent several hours on Thursday, Friday and the weekend editing and re-editing a video ad that should have only taken a few hours to complete. It took me 5 [delivered] tries to get it right [many more, undelivered]; and demonstrated to myself that it’s possible to go from moderately skilled to inept, in a matter of several months of inactivity. On my last delivery, I told the client to ignore my bill, because I was embarrassed by my performance. I expected the job to pay me for two hours of time; it probably took 10 or more. He offered to pay me for an additional two hours, so I delivered a larger bill with my 4th try, finished at 4:30a yesterday. While I remember watching the 4-part, minute-long promotional ad, I somehow missed the fact that I had put part 4 at the beginning as well as at the end. So I ended up sending the clientt a larger bill for something that wasn’t even acceptable…

I decided, when I was younger, that when I got older, I wouldn’t be one of those people who complain about their health all the time. So I avoid telling people much about this *interesting* time of my life. At the same time, I try to live transparently, and in such a manner that I can offer some wisdom [which only comes from experience, which mostly comes from lack of wisdom]. 80-90% of my sensory nerves are gone. My motor nerves seem to mostly be unaffected, but my brain has to work overtime to enable me to keep my balance, and other details. As much as I hate to admit it, I think the stress of my new life causes me to lose focus more than I’d like. I have more trouble finding words, and being able to express words, than I did a year ago. I make mistakes I didn’t make a year ago…

It would be ‘easy’ to simply quit, and decide I just couldn’t cut it any longer. I have a small pension, the equivalent of a low-paying job. And a really large debt load from 12 years of self-employment, most of them pre-pension. In many ways it would be ‘easy’ to just  idle away my hours watching movies all day. To do that would be [in my eyes] dishonoring me, dishonoring my family and dishonoring my Creator [not necessarily in that order]. I believe that my Creator loves me in spite of my failures and successes; I am blessed to have a family that believes similarly. Then there’s that other guy, the one in the mirror. He is the hardest to please. Fortunately, he was shown Grace and Forgiveness a few decades ago.

Prayer, Placebo or Prozac? I was diagnosed as ‘clinically depressed’ back in the nineties; but was either not offered a medical alternative; or was too proud to admit that it could help. I’ve finished my first week on Prozac, in theory too soon to expect much improvement. Last Thursday was the first ‘good’ day I’ve had in months. I still had all of my aches, pains and losses, but they were easier to bear/I had more energy. There are a lot of people who have me on their prayer lists. Improvement from the expectation of a pill’s working is a known medical phenomenon. Friday and Saturday were ‘new normal’–uncomfortable, but not crummy; as the last months have been.

All of this  brings me back to hero movies. Examples that show there are some things worth sacrificing one’s life for. Reminders that struggle can be worth the pain it causes. Reminders that it’s worthwhile to live for something larger than me.






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