A man is severely deflated because of marital problems. He goes to his friend’s place, plays a game, hears a story about a local legend, and heads back home with a new hope. If a samurai was able to escape the blade of fate, so can he if he fights valiantly enough. Seems that he has a shot at reviving the love of his disheartened wife! He just needs to believe that it is possible hard enough.
A couple is not able to go back home. They left their hometown six months ago. Now they are “trapped” in this hot springs inn. It’s warmer back home, and their first winter in the mountains is starting to look intolerable. Hot springs are a source of happiness to many but these two have come to share a sense of fatalism about their lack of money, courage, and prospects.
There are daily banquets for breakfast at the inn but all they want is a hot bowl of rice gruel. They have bedspreads like everyone else but their feet search for warmth inside the padded skirts of their kimonos instead. Their unwavering melancholia is worsened by the cold weather. We may not be defeatists, like these two, but having the blues because of really bad weather is something that we can all relate to.
When it rains for hours, days, weeks, months… when what we hear all day is the dripping sound of cold water… when the sun is taken hostage and we keep waiting for it from behind heavy clouds… when this happens, we tend to forget the sunlight, the way it licks the skin, and all the shiny things that took place before life got cold – the clear sky, the lightness of things, the spur-of-the-moment trips…. That’s when we begin to feel like we’re forced to stay in this bleak jungle and it freaks us out.
Coldness and darkness can lead us to sheer madness! The more they linger, the more we tend to forget all about the bright things that took place before it got dark; things like the face of the lord, order, safety, sanity… such a reaction is only human. As you can see, our nature in its raw state is volatile and in need of self-control. Discipline (in the positively pleasant sense of the word) molds us and, as time goes by, defines us. I personally look forward to saying, on one of these winters, “I’m Light and I’m Warmth.”
A big part of why the husband in the hot springs inn is cold and weak is due to his inability to make his wife happy. His pride is wounded; she’s outside the house, standing right in front of it. She misses the comfort of her home and dreams of peace. She desperately needs to get in, but every time she tries, she fails to cross the threshold. So, she lays on the periphery of these two worlds and looks into the abyss. With a sad face, she rests her head on her elbow and tucks her feet under the kimono’s skirt. She keeps looking into the vast hole with a heavy heart. And where is he? He’s looking at her HELPLESSLY.
Such weakness can weigh on a man greatly, so much so it can remove the ‘worth’ from his self-worth. After that, nothing remains but a naked, empty, and sad self. First, it kept the husband from doing ordinary stuff like pulling the covers up and looking for a job. Now, it’s branching out to threaten the wife. He cannot save her. He cannot even save himself. It seems to him that all he does is either wrong or useless. He’s no good for his woman or any other woman. He’s unsuccessfully fighting for their domestic bliss and looking in vain for a way back home.
Pride is a warrior’s shield. And we are all warriors; each in his own way. Each against his own demons. Samurai warriors and heroic role models of the like are not dead. They live inside each one of us; some are fully alive, some are fighting for their existence, some are hermits staying in remote places of the psyche, some are self-unaware, some are lethargic, some are injured, some are recovering, etc.
Pride is the air we breathe. Pride is the water we search for so desperately when our soul is parched. Pride is the open space we dream of when we’re incarcerated. Pride is the stars we wish for when the sky is black. Pride is on the same team as self-love and respect. Pride is the enemy of vanity and physical force. It abhors violence and oppression, for it promotes health and happiness.
Same goes for the haunting and ambiguous feeling we call ‘love’. Winter man is still in love with his mate. He’s cold, but so is his wife. He can feel it, and he can feel her. Yes, he’s weak, but now he realizes that he must do something about it. He’s ready to enter the battle and come out victorious. How will he do it? He must use the fighting technique of the local legend who’s a samurai of the Tokugawa period, a temple founder, and a husband. Seems like a reliable character!
In his internal dialogue, he wonders if he too could make fate give way. His fate is none other than his mate. He can sleep with her anytime he wishes, but if their hearts are strangers to one another, what’s the use? Then, suddenly, he remembers what the samurai did.
For about a month, the warrior tried to change a fixed image in his head. The image of a sword slashing him in half. During his countless contemplations, he tried to turn this hardboiled image around until he succeeded in derailing the sword’s path through the power of imagination. When his worst fear became real, what he had imagined also became real. Meaning, when his foe lifted his sword to kill him, the weapon was physically derailed, without the samurai having to make any move.
Lesson learned, winter man may have said this to himself, “It’s true that I’m not a samurai, not a son of the gods, not even a vessel to some god, but this can only mean that I have to try harder than anyone else. I mustn’t give up on myself too quickly; the tiniest progress can lead to greatness if I keep working on myself. I also mustn’t make haste because all great things need time and training to mature.” This is most probably how winter man got his emotional boost. This also must be why he actually summoned the image of his wife and asked her in his heart to make a move. Maybe it’s because he’s moving toward real change this time.
When he told her, “Get up off that bed and sit up straight,” he must have had this inexplicable feeling that his mate was sleeping and not asleep. She wasn’t fighting the cold or anything else, wasn’t asking for his company or anyone’s, wasn’t calling out to him, nor to any angel or demon. She’s merely existing; simply floating on the surface of life like a leaf without convictions. And the most tragic part is that she’s content with so little.
She needs someone who can get to her, touch her, make her SEE. She needs a kind friend, a caring partner, a support system… she needs him. To be honest, he’s the only person she’s got – whether he has such qualities or not. And what they both need to do is pick up the pieces, sit upright, and get to it. If they could shake their passivity and start a conversation, they might very well start fresh and put an end to a rotten scene that has become a regular routine – them sleeping next to each other with their backs turned.
Yes, they have to reconnect. Talk things trough, yell, scream. Fight, fuck, reconcile. Feel passion, live, kiss. Do everything they can to escape their conjoint lethargy. Cold weather doesn’t necessarily equal a cold life. What definitely equals a cold life is the absence of ‘love’, hope, or feistiness. That’s what I believe winter man came to understand that night.
On the way back to his lonely mate, the lantern was shaking wildly in his hands. It must be because of his racing heart. His dancing spirit. His lighter and faster steps. Her heart has to be rekindled like his in order to join the dance. This should be his number one priority. There’s no time to loose. Now is the right time to redeem what they have once owned and lost.
What the legend of the samurai teaches us is that we cannot make the impossible possible if we don’t visualize it as a possibility and believe in that vision. How are we to accomplish something if we do not have the slightest idea about what it is, where it is, or how it looks like? Knowing something, even if it’s just one thing, is a good start. Because piece by piece, peace and clarity can take shape. Give yourself a second chance… and a third, and rest assured that things will eventually fall into place.
The only saving grace of winter man is that he knows who his mate is and he knows how tight their bond is. What he needs to do is visualize his wife differently. He must say to himself, “She’s a glorious cactus. Deep down, she’s not the lotus that brings a dreamy forgetfulness. If she induces in me an unwillingness to leave, that’s because I do not want to leave her. I love her…. If I envision hard enough cactus leaves rising to overpower the lotus, then I believe that something that resembles cactuses will rise within her. This something shall take form and gain consciousness. I must do this for as long as it takes to make her see me and feel my love.”
As he starts to act more like a fearless samurai, as she starts to act less like a lotus, and as they reconnect body and soul, their entwined hands raise to the heavens and their prayers touch the sky with such an indescribable sweetness. Indeed, not all prayers are the same. Some are born from weakness, some from humbleness. What’s the difference?
When I say, with a trembling voice, “Oh Lord! Look at me. Look at what I am subjugated to. See how devastated I am. Please come down and save me…” that’s weakness. When I don’t lift a finger, and except that everything works out just fine, this can only indicate that I’m setting myself for disillusionment and atheism. But when I say, with complete conviction, “My dear Lord. Look after all your warriors. Land me a hand when I am about to launch myself into battle. Keep bad thoughts away from me. Bless my fears. Bless my wounds. Bless my tears. Bless my haters. And when the battle ends, I only ask that you would be proud of me. Thanks God, you rock! Amen.” that’s strength.
I leave you with this amazing line from winter man after he regained composure. He said, “The true joy of a moonlit night is something we no longer understand. Only the men of old, when there were no lights, could understand the true joy of a moonlit night.”
Same goes for everything that was true and wholesome once before. Same goes for humility and honor, languor and slowness, simplicity and sparseness, innocent fun and freedom – freedom from overbearing material possessions, freedom from urban stress and work overload, freedom from the web of staged lies, freedom from self-centricity and body image, etc.
It is our duty as independent and rational people to decide for ourselves what values we wish to embrace in our lives and amid our communities. Let’s shed all the hardships and negativities from which we need to free ourselves. Shed them all so that we see it all.
Let’s strip down until nothing remains but the sky, the earth, and our mate. Strip down until nothing remains but our unsullied essence and divine spirit. Ah, how wonderful is it to be baby bare and filled with crystal-clear joys! In winter and in summer, in autumn and in spring.
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