Rayati and welcome to class! Today’s topic is The Way, and I would like to start with a quotation from our own dear and wise Sushuri-chara. She is talking about Novaryan culture here but I think what she says is very applicable to Japanese culture as well:
Herthelani – and particularly Novarians – tend to be “passive” in the sense of looking for the “right” thing to do and expecting a consensus of some sort . . . There tends to be a “way things are done” rather than a “way I do things”.
. . . Being a “passive subject” sounds negative from the Western – or the Westernised – Tellurian point of view. From a Novarian perspective it is reassuring. It is the surety of following the right way rather than having to invent a way for oneself that will probably be wrong. Ultimately, it is the sense of acting in harmony with the universe and its Creatrix rather than against it. Of treading the steps of the Cosmic Dance laid down from eternity rather than ambling in one’s own random fashion.
In describing The Way, Dr. Condon [John C. Condon, the author of With Respect to the Japanese] gives the example of U.S. and Japanese teachers’ responses to children’s requests for help in drawing their families: “The Japanese teacher would usually assist the child, not infrequently taking the child’s hand and guiding the crayon . . . In the American schools, the teachers encouraged the children in words: ‘Just do your best.’ ‘It’s your father and your picture and you should try to draw him the way you see him.’”
Condon continues: “The Japanese teacher’s direct guidance of the child’s drawing, in contrast to the American’s encouragement to ‘draw your picture the way you want it,’ suggests another important part of Japanese life: learning the proper form.
“The suffix ‘-do‘ as in judo, kendo, bushido means ‘the way,’ but the idea of a correct ‘way’ extends far beyond traditional martial arts or flower arranging or calligraphy in Japan. There is a right way to exchange condolences, a right way to greet one’s superior and a right way to greet the new year, and a right way to offer a drink, accept a gift and decline a compliment. The way to learn the way, of course, is to be taught by those who are older and wiser, more experienced. One’s elders and superiors command respect in part because they know a lot.”
In fact, the right way to do these things often involves a set phrase; in other words, the very words that are appropriate to say in a situation are often fixed. In practice I found this to be surprisingly liberating. It is something like participating in the Sacred Year: there is a certain joy that comes from obediently following the way of thamë, and as our own Sushuri-chara has said, “while this CAN be ritual, it also, when things are going as they should, represents the reality of the situation.” In other words, when thamë is achieved, the “right thing to say” is also precisely what one is feeling at that moment–it is truly magical!
The Way can also be tied in to our last topic of Collectivism. In the last lesson I suspect it sounded like I was equating Individualism with selfishness, and indeed the two are not seen as separate in Japan, where the word for “selfishness”–wagamama–literally means “my way.” To do things in one’s one way, instead of The Way, is a sign of autonomy in the U.S., where it is considered a good thing, but in Japan it is athamë at best and selfish at worst. In fact, there in an expression, katte ni suru, which might be translated “do whatever you want,” and is quite a scathing insult as it implies that the recipient is no longer a member of the group due to being unwilling to follow The Way. In a Collectivist culture, there could hardly be anything worse.
Is this simply a matter of different perspective? Are there legitimate but differing traditions in the East and West? It is possible, especially given that what we currently observe in the U.S. is something like hyper-individualism, or atomization, instead of whatever would be the legitimate culture.
Another perspective would be to associate Collectivism with the pole of Essence and Individualism with the pole of Substance. Recall that in our last lesson I said that to a Japanese person, the feelings of one’s friends are “more concrete” than food. And from a Déanic perspective, that is entirely true: all of the manifest universe (including food, of course) is an illusion, and only Dea is real. Our maiden’s souls are fragments of Dea’s Spirit, and therefore the only real things that we know. So if we had a choice between creating harmony with our sisters or eating our own preferred food, clearly our sisters’ souls are the weightier consideration. I shall expand on this subject more in our next lesson on External and Interpersonal Realities.