Humility is something I have tried to practice for as long as I can remember. Considering the gargantuan size of our cosmos and the infinite distance of time our lives and being are very small. We walk on the back of a giant rock we call home and require the energy and light of a foreign star a million miles away to exist. Fragile bodies compounded of brittle bone and mushy flesh. We come out of our Mother’s womb covered in blood crying with no knowledge of the world. We have to learn to speak and walk before we can even begin to go to any institution of learning. How many of us even survive our birth of infancy?
It’s great to put things in perspective and understand who I am in the universe and not get ahead of myself. However value is just as important as humility as it lets me find joy in my existence. I have recently been reading the amazing manga Vagabond by Takehiko Inoue and what struck me was how much the characters were aware of humility and it’s importance. Another struggle for them mostly was finding how much they valued themselves and how much others valued them. What kind of strength is valued? Does a weak person have the same value as one who is perceived as strong? How valuable is belief in your own path and understanding of yourself?
I only started reading this manga because I picked up The Book Of Five Rings and I can comfortably say I am far more centered today due to the teachings of the author Miyamoto Musashi.
Musashi was a master swordsman from the 17th century who is father to a whole school and style of swordsmanship. He became renowned through stories of his excellent and unique double-bladed swordsmanship and undefeated record of 61 duels. The parallels in his teaching of the arts of war and the struggles of existence are amazing. One thing he stresses in his book is to continuously study, practice and investigate things thoroughly and only as a humble student can one have room for knowledge. The idea is that by reading his writings, one can become a true strategist from ability and tactical skill that Musashi had learned in his lifetime. He argues that strategy and virtue are something that can be earned by knowing the ways of life, the professions around, and perhaps to learn the skills and knowledge of people and the skills of their particular professions.
Even though the manga Vagabond is a loose fictional account based on Musashi’s life it reminded me of how fragile a human being is in both their physical and mental being. Swords continued to slice through flesh and expose fragilities of his unfortunate opponents who cross his way but things such as fear and lack of emotional self-control can cut down an opponent before a battle has even begun. The balance of humility and value of learning and what one has learnt was incredible to see translated in such a gorgeous spread of art. It was coloured with so much empathy for all types of people it made me sit back and reflect on how insignificant my life was in the cosmos of the existence of others. A warrior may have fought and defeated 70 men but did not understand the strength and struggle of a farmer trying to keep his family from starving. Inoue does an amazing job of humbling every single character while giving value to life. Everybody is nobody and somebody and this is undoubtedly our human experience. Isn’t it amazing that we can find value in ourselves yet be humble at the same time?
“Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men.”