Vox Populi is not Vox Dei

“Saul’s second sin was to spare Agag, the king of the Amalekites, together
with the best of his livestock, instead of killing them all, as God had
commanded. His excuse was: “because I listened to the voice of the people” (I
Kings 15.20). In other words, he abdicated his God-given authority and
became, spiritually speaking, a democrat, listening to the people rather than to
God.” Vladimir Moss, An Essay in Universal History, Vol I. P. 64
Many people postulate that democracy can function just as classic Kingship does. The fact of the matter, though, is that it fundamentally does not. The things that people desire to do are not necessarily reflections at all of what God wills — especially in a day and age where religiosity and Christianity are eschewed by the masses and perhaps even more especially when God is written out of the system of government itself.
Moss also goes on to make another very important point — a point which is made repeatedly in his Essay on Universal History — that the nature of the monarchy within Israel, and as how it should be in other societies, is one where God is central to the ruler and is part & parcel with the nature of how the government should function:
“To modern readers Saul’s sin might seem small. However, it must be
understood in the context of the previous history of Israel, in which neither
Moses nor any of the judges (except, perhaps, Samson), had disobeyed the
Lord. That is why Samuel said to Saul: “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to
hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and
stubbornness as iniquity and idolatry” (I Kings 15.22-23). For even a king can
rebel, even a king is in obedience – to the King of kings. Only the absolutist
despot feels that there is nobody above him, that there is no law that he, too,
must obey. His power is absolute; whereas the power of the autocrat is
limited, if not by man and the laws of men, at any rate by the law of God,
whose independent guardian and teacher is the priesthood of the Church.” Ibid, 65
Not even the King is above God. If he is a true autocrat, he has to serve God in everything that he does. He cannot be someone who does his own will. You could say that the will of the King, and the nature of the King, are not at all the vox dei that people are looking for, either. Rather, the voice of God itself, to Moss and within Western understanding, is the Bible.  We should look nowhere for the manifestation of God’s will in an abstract, ideal sense other than the sacred writings.
The point would then stand… If even the voice of the King, or the will of the King, does not necessarily function at all as a measure of the will of God… How could the will of millions of people be thought of as fulfilling that function?
Moreover, the idea that the will of the people on secular affairs and totally uninfluenced by Christian thought would somehow manifest a will of God also seems to be out there. Of course, God can use a crooked stick to do whatever he pleases, and we cannot simply say that God never does interfere in secular, democratic or even despotic states. But the notion that these systems fulfills some kind of role in the actualization of God’s will through a just process is not Biblical and is thoroughly ahistorical, and there is no reason to believe that it possesses the mechanics to do so.

Creativity as an Intelligence

When we think about intelligence, it is clear that there are different kinds of intelligence. I am very much open to the idea that some of these fields of intelligence overlap or tend to correlate with one another. For instance, someone who tends to have really poor scores in many other fields is likely to also have a very poor score in the field of memory or geospatial reasoning. Someone who has outstanding scores in several fields probably is more likely to also be more creative than someone who has very low scores in other fields. I do not want to make this sound like I am pumping up snowflake reasoning that everyone, even the dimmest among us, can necessarily have some outstanding hidden talent that distinguishes them from others.

However, it is important to note that there is the potential for people to be outstanding in certain area or areas while lackluster in others. The “idiot-savant” type does exist. And, perhaps, it would also be true that some “sets” of intelligence correlate better than others, and correlate far less than others.

For the purposes of this blog post, let’s divide intelligence into just a few fields – this isn’t meant to be overly thorough or exhaustive, heed you, so be charitable. There is an entry on Wikipedia for the “Theory of multiple intelligences” and perhaps those categories are pretty good, so I will borrow from them but try to condense them.

Geospatial reasoning: Intelligence that involves the analysis and navigation of the physical world.

Psychosocial reasoning: Intelligence that involves navigation of human relations and one’s own psychology.

Logical: Intelligence that involves abstract reasoning, categorization, etc.

Computative: The raw ability to manipulate numbers, quantities, etc.

Verbal: The navigation of language and words as well as the narrative and poetic.

Memory: The recall of things.

Musical: Intelligence regarding sound.

Visual: Intelligence regarding visual composition.

Wisdom: [Soft] The ability to tackle ethical or existential questions while adequately appealing to social or theological principles that is pleasing to one’s own psyche and to the group.

Strategic & Tactical [soft]: The ability to analyze and come to solutions based on logical, computative, geospatial scenarios, and perhaps even the cunning reasoning employed within a debate.

Creativity [soft]: The ability to produce, synthesize, or analyze some kind of intelligence in a way that is novel, unique, dynamic, or otherwise impressive.


The categories marked “soft” indicate that these fields of intelligence cannot necessarily be regarded as a hard or measurable intelligence. Perhaps they can also be thought of as something that can even be acquired.

What is also true of them, especially of creativity, is that they may very much defy the normal perceptions of intelligence. Anyone can look at a man who is able to quickly assess the problem with a complex machine and deliver a solution while others familiar with it are dumbfounded as skilled. Anyone can be impressed by the perfect recall of  difficult material without prior planning and view it as  a feat. The fellow who can still recall the correct meaning of 100 words of a different language he was only exposed to the day before. The ability to process and compute difficult information immediately is one of the most impressive displays of them all, and we all clearly understand how such a thing occurs.

There isn’t a mystery in any of these – it involves simply someone having a brain that functions better than the normal person when it comes to that category. And it is even true that it is easy to understand a person who simply hears tones or sees color in a way that is more distinctive, sharp, and superior to the way others see it.

However, the other skills have a certain mystery. For instance, a man with an advanced engineering degree may lose a chess game to a child simply because he does not have the profound strategic insight of a kid who has simply traveled down a few chess games before in his life. A Professor of Philosophy might appear quite foolish on a topic next to a wizened, illiterate old man who, through life experience and a deep connection to the society around him, is able to give a sort of proverbial knowledge with broad appeal.

Perhaps the most mysterious of all is how a man or woman can simply construct a song or a paint a picture of something that is not really based on anything but is a totally original synthesis. Of course, there may be a loose amount of inspiration from other things, but ultimately inspiration can lead to results far different than the originally inspiring thing.

This kind of intelligence is perhaps the most interesting because it literally defies what we would think about the physical workings of the brain.

How is it that someone who has less developed reasoning skills than others is still able to creatively or tactically engage the material in a way that is superior to others?

Perhaps this will be researched extensively and we will have some kind of answer for it. But it is worthwhile to note that the mystery itself is rather delicious.

Chaos On United & The Postmodern Man

The bloodied United passenger and the absolutely massive support he has received is the perfect symbol of the demise of Western man: he no longer operates in a way that is rational and fluent in modernity. He has watched the last decade of news where violent confrontations forced by the absurd choices of perceived “victims” can be excused and the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the Police or other authorities that are merely enforcing the laws of modern man governed by completely rational systems of laws, contracts and behaviors. It is a perfect Luciferian inversion of Order-Into-Chaos: a system of regulations, the social customs demanding actors be rational, understanding and cooperative and aware of the necessary consequences of failure to comply are all thrown out the window because the zeitgeist has changed so quickly that policies cannot keep up. We become hostages to the irrational actors around us.
The United passenger is free to act absurdly & expect our sympathies, he is free to be unaware of the ‘fine print,’ he says to hell with his Terms & Conditions. He expects a perfect product — not one that is in any way flawed. He demands a Utopian marketplace. He and his supporters don’t want to live in the old world of rationality & modernity, where we seek to understand the mechanisms that allow us to consume at competitive prices and they have entered a post-rationalism and a post-modernism (and many of them have resided here for decades). All that matters is the feeling to consume, the individual man and his passion to consume, and the failure of the company to thoroughly indulge him & bend to his demand. In the postmodern, postrational state all that matters is the series of pictures & sounds that we see — if it looks & sounds like a victim in the 25 second YouTube(tm) or Facebook(tm) video, it must be a victim, and to ask us to be reasonable about the circumstances is too much….
Forget that the failure of United to fly out 4 staff to another destination could result in an entire plane (or two) being canceled and then hundreds more inconvenienced… the post-rationalist will not follow the logical demands of the sequence presented to him, but he will seek to escape the scenario and jump to another one, one that is not possible of even being anticipated…
… “Why isn’t the product perfect & flawless to begin with? Because the product wasn’t perfect, that man had to scream like a wild animal while being removed by legitimate security forces..!”
It has basically come to a point where we can no longer even relate to one another on the grounds of an objective, rational language. The bland legalese & contractualism that defined the 20th century is breaking down. The customer, certainly, is King, but he has to agree to the conditions of the purchase. If he chooses to throw a bizarre temper tantrum we will fall back on still more regulations concerning how a person ought to be handled.
This scenario becomes the Enlightenment’s complete nightmare: rational, clearly defined regulations & legal terms developed by a successful private enterprise and executed within the precise scope of the law are regarded as a nightmarish burden upon infantile postmodern man.
This points out something quite scary about postmodern man as well: he is unwilling to speak the ‘universal language’ of the contract, of the legalese & the meeting in the neutral space. Yet, he is supported by the masses who are fickle and foolish.
It coincides perfectly with the death of political dialogue that we see on University campuses. It is as if people no longer wish to speak to one another but are satisfied completely with emoting & signaling based on their observations and if anyone were to question their conclusions they can’t even.

A Generation of Jokers

I made some grave mistakes in my 20s — mistakes that were probably deeply rooted in my the attitude I had from a young age. I also suspect a massive amount of people within my generation, the generation before mine and the generation after mine are in the same boat.
Our parents didn’t want to force anything on us too much; our schools weren’t very serious about the work that we did until high school, and even then the message was this will matter in University. I was never taught to be serious in my relationships with girls, in fact I was told that I shouldn’t be too serious and it is very unlikely that I’ll end up staying with any girl I like as a teen.
This was also the style of Jesus I knew as a Protestant American: He forgives everything and we’re bound to make mistakes. I can learn from all of my mistakes. Nearly everything else about this is irrelevant — whenever you’re asked, say you’re a Christian, say a few prayers for your sick Aunt and occasionally be “thankful” about food on the table — mission accomplished.
Our generation is so uncomfortable with the grave that it is intermingled with the venial and pathetic.  Our weddings are even kitschy. Our clothing and musical tastes tend towards the ironic. Everything seems like a satire — caring itself is as a satire.
Without becoming too personal… I feel that I had not come to the conclusions which I needed to be at until much older, and this is not because there has been some tremendous ideological drift between myself and myself 10 years ago. But it is because I did not treat the topics with the gravity that I should have, and never did I even think it would have been necessary.
Dare I say, this is how elites want their subjects to function: farcical tax farms without a broad and deep appreciation for the political, theological or philosophical.
Be the opposite of your generation — be grave.

Transcendental World View & Secularism

Every government is based off of a transcendental world view, thus there is no such thing as a truly secular government because there will be a philosophical position that underwrites it which has profound ramifications.
Of course, if we mean to say that there should be a ‘separation of church & state’ and we are living in a small city-state of likeminded people with almost a libertarian and minimalistic government, it might seem foolish to say that this sort of secularism is self-defeating. In some cases I can see how it really is merely the suspension of officious religious institutions with the government.
But when we talk about 21st century Americas & Europe, it should be clear that this doesn’t fit the description of any of these nations. We see that there is a very set dogma that comes with it. This dogma does not grow completely out of “secularism,” but it grows out of the transcendental world view…
This is one reason that I have respected Libertarians: they actually are pursuing secularism. Of course, their transcendental world view does begin replacing religion and in some minimal way it is not ‘secular’ but this is a far cry from the way that Western liberalism seeks to uniformly build the “values” of the society from the top down.
What is the position of myself? That secularism is unnecessary. The existence of a state Church that very specifically honors and pays homage to its ancestral church is not just acceptable but is preferable. It comes, of course, with its own problems: the Church can become corrupted to some degree by the state, and the state to some degree by the corruption of the Church. Moreover, there is always the potential of the Church taking on more power than it can rightfully handle and disgracing itself.
It would make sense to have the minimal relationship between Church & state to not be an outright theocracy but rather to do things such as entrusting significant amounts of education and other cultural institutions to the Church. It would make sense also to require religious tests for certain offices.
But even in this there has to be a certain minimalism. The government shouldn’t actively work to agitate or overly interfere. It is the phenomena of being so rigid that when a strong wind comes you snap in two, or if you try to grasp water in your hands it slips right through. The positive influence must be comfortable and not overbearing.

Ben Shapiro Almost Understanding the Problem

Ben Shapiro, famous cuckservative & capitalist commentator who is occasionally borderline heroic in his challenging of the Left, and Dave Rubin who hosts a meandering internet talk show where people smarter than him [minus Gary Johnson] try to pull him more towards classical liberalism & occasionally genuflect on atheism, had a surprisingly poignant moment in one of their talks (linked) where they addressed how the Left has basically successfully placed the (majority white) right wing into a box & therefore spawned some of the Trump success. Shapiro eloquently talked about how when people talk about how the system is destroyed because of identity politics they are ruining the fabric of the society and threatening the whole system…
Shapiro (and Nod-Along Dave) are capable of these basic deductive tasks but are blinded by their faith to their abstract concept of “democratic values.” They truly think that the root of democracy is all of us as individuals before a government, free and equal, coming together to solve our social problems via lively discourse and free & fair elections. But they never account for the real picture:
Premise I: In a multicultural religious plurality of a society there is no real groundwork for the direction of our values anymore. There is a massive diversity in opinions and in ways of life, and therefore there is a massive diversity in not just competing means to fix problems but in problems themselves.
Premise II: People aren’t actually that smart. Think of all of the people that you know. Think of the number of them that can keep up with you in a political or philosophical discussion (assuming you are reading this because you are an interested party)…
For the same reason that I shouldn’t be involved in the decision making process of a NASCAR race team these people really shouldn’t be that involved in the decision making process for a body politic.
Eventually these fools will simply go with whatever intellectual (or even sub-intellectual) can translate smart ideas into their populist speech. It’ll be tribe against tribe, can cut decent deals with other tribes and the tribe that has the most loyalty & the most votes wins.
[Conclusion] A plural democracy will reduce itself into this kind of tribalism; and even if you actually believe that democratic societies can solve their problems adequately, none of these people will have the space or power to even address their own problems because they are not even in a government meant to represent them. They are in a government meant to represent a dozen different tribes of people with differing situations and problems.
But what Ben & Nod Along Dave believe is that we can defeat this by somehow pulling people back into this sense of being individuals united in a democracy… sure, the Gender Studies department & Black Lives Matter are going to lay down their arms & give up their points for you.
Frankly, Ben Shapiro should know better. He is a grown man with a brain who can formulate good arguments. But he’s a Believer, and he assumes something like corporations and the system itself will be able to pull out a victory because they have the money & the means to do it (I don’t believe he is naive enough to actually think ‘We The People’ will maintain the Republic).
It’s really a sad state of affairs when we see him talking this way:

Drift, Not Doom: The Beginning of the End

The middle class was always spoken of in near sacred terms by my father. Perhaps you can get this from a lot of cold war era conservatives. It was a validation of the American way of life because, by every indicator, the American family (and in a broader sense, the Anglosphere family) lived head & shoulders above anyone else. The Europeans, of course, are (were?) included right up to the Iron Courtain in these considerations — we had rebuilt them and aided them because, after all, the North Americans are the sons of Europe & we are Europe  beyond Europe. The middle class was the important difference between us & our enemies and it represented the fruit of our system: to be able to live free and live with great means, with a permanent sense of upward movement.
Le petit bourgeoisie was vital to our success– in order to have a good society, you had to have an Americanesque middle class which was highly educated and capable of not just managing the large scale production and having their members become the innovators of technology, industry and culture, but also competent participants in the society as a whole. For even the Americans of the sixties were not naive enough to think that good society happened in a vacuum, and that the economic circumstances alone were enough for them to be considered successful.
The Soviets were daily reminders of what happened if the people were sucked into a Leftist narrative: a spiral of degeneracy. The Fascists were representatives of those brought into some classic Traditionalist & Fascist ideology: a culture of jingoism, murder and racism in their own right. In my father’s time, it would seem quite clear that the happy medium was reached and the delicate balance was unlikely to be screwed up.
And it is the destruction & dismantling of this middle class, and its ruin through egalitarianism & social degeneracy which marks the decline of the West as a whole. We can see it in the rise of household debt, the ever increasing amount of illegitimate births and divorce, the general rise in divorce and its substantial decline being partly explained in the lack of marriage and, of course, who can look at the rise of LGBTQ as its own set of indicators as the decline of a moral consensus let alone a moral consensus with a meaningful posture. While some of these numbers do not add up to a sense of the world falling apart around us and there is no real sense of doom in the now, we can see that the US has massive political divergence & polarization, and while ironically the pessimistic attitudes of conservatives towards the state of the society are nearly always firmly rebuffed by optimistic liberals who saw their perspectives triumph over the last decade these are the same people who ultimately were weeping openly on November 8th.
While there is no sense of imminent doom, there is a sense of drift. We can explain away the doom simply: do we imagine that the economic infrastructure of Rome or the Ottomans began collapsing overnight when the leading citizens became increasingly incapable, childless and decadent? Of course not. Rome would go on to fund mercenary armies and the Ottomans would be able to raise massive forces from their human tributes and vast stretches of land. Just as such, the Americans hold in their hands the reigns of limitless capital and possess the petrodollar. No one can afford to turn their backs on them because they hold the practical means of production — whether or not it is in the hands of a capable Stoic who steers the ship towards success or it is in the queer hand of an anemic wastrel, people are going to do business with the people who have businesses.
The drift is what is worrisome because it represents an internal negation. America ceases to represent a method of doing things, a collection of values, a way of life. It comes to be associated with the political crisis of this negation. While the economy might continue to function it will do so in diminishing form simply because, without direction, without a projection of interests, the spheres of influence will naturally wane and competitors will eat up portions of the Empire (con ti partiro…).
Is this about gay marriage & transgender restroom use? The trend is to diminish these things and say that they are issues too small to be relevant, and to also energetically gesticulate and point out how there is no conceivable direct connection between mah gay frands & their cute baby. In reality, though, it is all about gays at the altar & crossdressing men in the women’s locker room — it simply isn’t entirely about gays & bathrooms. These are merely symptoms of society’s drift apart through which we get society’s self-negation and thereby the diminishment and decline of the American state & people.
The proper framing of social degeneracy has to encompass more than just the things we immediately do not like because it is outside of our 1990s comfort zone. Without the increase in  illegitimacy rates, divorce rates and the arrival of the open society and the concept of openly indulging in whatever impulses we would have never come to the point of equating the open relationship and the gay marriage with the traditional family, nor would we have come to a point where whites feel so guilty they feel somehow obligated to bring in the totality of Syria and excuse the illegal immigration of unskilled workers. The list would go on — but the point stays the same: the drift started far earlier, and just like all things it must have seemed slower or as if it was some natural conclusion of the decisions that people had made before.
And it is only with this drift that we open up the potentiality of a great dissolution, and while a civilization-ending moment isn’t on the immediate horizon it isn’t difficult to see  America as a divided place with significant amounts of our people more interested in the dismantling of our tradition and belief than in carving out a future in an increasingly challenging world.
But let’s be entirely fair: many are simply more interested in playing video games & getting drunk which is its own kind of self-destruction.

The Biggest Problem & ‘The Two Sets’

This is my biggest problem with politics: I do not like the political architecture we’ve inherited. I think this is true of many of the people here. For instance, I have seen Craig U., Brian A., Damien H. and David T. really speak extensively about these just very different political ideas that just aren’t feasibly going to come about in our lifetimes barring some unpredictable drastic changes… But I have never minded that because that is where the most fascinating and exciting ideas exist, IMO, and I am very guilty of believing in things that just won’t ever be seen in the current political framework & ideas….
This creates sort of an interest barrier between people. There are people who, when they mean politics, refer to everything within the current framework. To them, politics only consists of the inherited framework & it will only remain as relevant as what is conceivable.
This is why Bernie Sanders & Donald Trump were so exciting to have… they are ‘anti-establishment,’ and to some degree they could thus be seen as rejecting the political architecture they’ve inherited. Of course, not entirely, but it’s a great start.
So this produces these funny gaps in dialog… When one person wants to talk politics they have a very good depth in the last 100 years of American / British / Korean or other relevant political history; they want to talk about issues so very directly relevant to _what is happening and what is likely to happen, and the best possible choices among the likely ones. Of course, these are things that we all discuss as well, but you can see their faces fall when and they feel that the topic is derailed when I want to talk about how the last 100 years have been a mistake, or that ‘of all of the likely choices & options, I hate them all, and I want to talk about the way it should be.’
… In a sense, there are people who want to talk about ‘the politics in this generation’ and those who want to talk about ‘the politics of every generation,’ and there are those who think in terms of ‘what this generation is to do and what that means’ versus a broader political philosophy.
I feel this produces “Two Political Sets” for each person.
(a) The Ideological
(b) The Immediate
The examples would be obvious… The Fascist who votes for Donald Trump; the Libertarian who votes for Trump; the Christian conservative obsessed with theology & issues of abortion and euthanasia who votes for Trump, all of these having an “Ideological set” that they try to fulfill through the “immediate.” For the sake of space I won’t enumerate the opposites of these.
I feel the ‘ideological’ is the most compelling and most interesting set, so I focus on it. I used to thumb my nose at people who worry about the ‘Immediate’ more than the ‘ideological,’ but I understand how focusing on the reality has its own merits. In fact, I am often jealous of people who have a wide range of familiarity with each politician and all of these relevant movements that are happening, and often times these are the peopel who have very good raw data on the benefits of X or Y when that is a topic I do not concentrate on very much.
I think the ‘Immediate Set’ gets a bad reputation because there are millions & millions of people who don’t give a fuck about the Ideological set and thus they are always political trainwrecks with no real basis for discussion; this is also true of religion. There are the “immediate” religious people who are not well versed in the “ideology” and thus cannot bring forward a meaningful, accurate & persuasive defense of their views. perhasp “Ideological” and “Immediate” sets have a very broad range far beyond politics.
… I think I need to be able to say that in an the ideological sense I am a Traditionalist or a sort of Fascist, but as this holds no reality in the Immediate sense I am a “reactionary” who is also quite strongly a representative of the extreme ‘Republican’ ideas. It seems very, very weird to reduce this giant ideological viewpoint to what I view as the shallow, immediate set of ‘Republican’ but in another sense it is also liberating to, at last, feel comfortable in a title that has real world grounding.
I think we should all feel comfortable in both the “ideological” and the “immediate,” and from there we can even have better discussions when we recognize that “Now I am supposed to talk as an ideologue with a great architecture,” and “now I am supposed to talk as a Republican/Democrat, Conservative/Liberal, Left/Right with just the immediate architecture.”

Whitewashing & Cherry Blossoms

There was something universally silly about the film The Last Samurai. It was a story that could have easily enough been told by an all Japanese cast and the foreign nature of Tom Cruise’s character, while providing the opportunity for contrast with the Japanese cast and setting, seemed like a third wheel on the audience’s attempt to take in the experience of the last Samurais.

While discussing the film with my good friend Jon Twitch (who is from the other side of the political spectrum of me), we both found it rather disturbing. He broadened my horizons by pointing out that even Dances With Wolves could seem like a whitewashing of events in American history as far as it attempted to capture native American life, and to do so felt the need to insert a relatable white figure into the cast. Touche. But there was something different about Dances in the sense that Lt. John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) was central in ways besides merely his interaction with the native Americans. In a very real sense the story did focus on the horrors he suffered in war and the ‘journey westward.’  But nonetheless it does tell something that one of the more popular films ever about native Americans is understood through the eyes of a white hero.

I had also felt that the accusations of The Revenant being a whitewashed telling of native American experience were unfounded. To me, clearly, the purpose of the film was a complex plot of man against nature and man against man, and the unique perspective of DiCaprio’s character was meant to crisscross into a lot of powerful stories from the beginning.

Whitewashing is back in the spotlight with the film The Great Wall which is oddly enough being directed by a Chinese native and features two Chinese stars who have a lot to benefit. I think that while whitewashing is a relevant narrative for the Western world we forget that in the age of globalization one of the goals of these films is to bring together as many stars from divers backgrounds as possible to increase the market share of the film when it goes to China or other places. Never underestimate the willingness of Koreans to see films for the mere presence of a single Korean actor or even there simply being Korean text (such as Moon 2009).

It might behoove us to analyze this from the perspective of the bottom line sometimes, more than thinking about it in terms of a nefarious attempt to interject ‘whiteness’ (for lack of a better word) into the film. Not everything comes down to an americentric interpretation of race and ethnic relations. 🙂

But nonetheless… The Last Samurai was disturbing. Perhaps moreso in the fact that it seemed to be such a great film with powerful symbolism.

One of the symbols, of course, is found at the end when Tom Cruise’s character is observing the death beneath the cherry blossoms hints at the parallels between a Samurai and a cherry blossom. This is not something that is cleverly revealed by the film writer Edward Zwick came up with — it is actually a very old concept that was even included in Japanese textbooks from the late Taisho period.

I dug around the internet to try to find out just how old we can take the cherry blossom as the symbol of the Samurai representing their ephemeral nature and willingness to die unselfishly and with great candor… There are references to the fact that the Japanese kamikaze painted cherry blossoms on their aircraft, and we see that the Judo symbol has a cherry blossom on it, We are assured in what appear to be good articles that the symbolism must be quite old, but sadly there is nothing more concrete that I found in my initial searches.

But as the history of Mon is quite old, we can imagine that this does go back deeper into feudal Japan and may be as old as the concept as the Japanese warrior.

It Is Good There Are Buddhisms

Depending on your perspective, it can be a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ thing that there are drastically different canons, doctrines and schools of thought within Buddhism. Some people find it troublesome, but ultimately you could see it as its own manifestation of upaya (skillful means), and right in line with the original Buddhist doctrine. It is worth noting that there is evidence that even after Mahayana had become distinctive there were monasteries where both the Theraveda & Mahayana monks would live side by side.

Unlike Christianity, doctrinal differences generally did not create too many problems. And it is now that we can say it is fortunate for Christians that there is less emphasis on differences in sect and more emphasis on our universal principles.

There are many ways to relieve suffering. There are many ways to conceptualize the world around us. One can make an argument that ‘right view’ is rather narrow, and I’ll even tend to agree with that, but other than upholding the Five Precepts it is hard to be too concerned with people deviating within the general doctrine of Buddhism. Especially on issues of cosmology where we have a rich heritage of deities in some schools, the deification of Buddha in others and a sense of ‘godlessness’ still in some others, there is plenty of room for people to express themselves and practice how they want.

This is the reason that some people can essentially practice Buddhism as a sort of philosophy and others practice it more in the vein of a religion. This is the strength of Buddhism, and is not a weakness.

If we spend too much time trying to narrowly define it or to argue doctrine within it we are missing the very point. The Buddhist and the ecumenical Christian, the academic and the philosopher should rejoice in the plurality of Buddhist thought.