As I write this there is a group of students working on their Odyssey of the Mind project in the next room. I have watched the movie, The Last Samurai, for the umpteenth time, but it is a movie that inspires me. It inspires me to work to be a better person and to be someone who digs deep to try to improve. I wish I had the discipline that those amazing men must have had. I guess my being in the Marine Corps offered some of that. It is interesting that the Marines talk about honor, discipline and tradition. Once before I wrote about the Japanese group of warriors called Samurai. They have a code by which they lived called Bushido. It was based on principles and those principles , or that code, is something that I wish I could adhere to better than I do. These eight virtues are still the principles of Japanese culture in the 21st century. There is something to be said for a code of life based on honor and respect. To live a life of rectitude and loyalty is quite admirable. It is actually the respect the movie seems to have for the Japanese culture that most resonates with me. I am not a huge Tom Cruise fan, but I must admit there are times in this movie I respect how he goes about his craft. His work to use the Japanese language and demonstrate a sense for the Samurai culture was impressive. There is a scene at the end of the movie after the final battle, where Algeran (Cruise’s character) presents the sword of the Samurai leader to the emperor. The emperor, realizing some important cultural issues at hand, asks Algeran to tell him how this amazing warrior (played excellently by Ken Wanatabe) died. Algeran answers, “I will tell you how he lived.” Such an important statement. It is not who we are, it is much more about how we have conducted our lives that is important. Those who have children leave more than heirs, they leave examples of their life. We are the products of the lessons we have been taught.
I have thought about that a lot lately. What do we leave behind. As I noted in an earlier post, if I have no children have I lost out on a legacy? Yes, perhaps in the most profound way, but I do hope that things I have taught in my classes has an influence. I do believe I have had an important influence on at least one of my nephews or nieces. I am relatively confident that I have. I was once told if you profoundly influence 3 or 4 other people in your life you were successful. I am not sure I can claim that, but I would like to believe I have made some difference in the lives of my students. I have been told that my classes are difficult, but that when a student walks out of my class knowing that they learned something of importance. I think of it as he or she got the education they have paid for. This is important, especially when the cost of an education has become so prohibitive for many. The amount of debt they will carry for the next twenty years or more is substantial. What has a person learned in the time they are in college. It is certainly more than what their books offer. It is my hope they have begun to understand who they are and why what they do matters. So many are focused on only the piece of paper. College is so much more. Life is so much more.
So much of my life I have worried about what others thought or about what others wanted me to do. I am confronted with choices once again, but they are choices of consequence. They are choices of eternity, and again I can hear my colleague Dr. Lee arguing that idea with me. I have to decide the best course of action to take. I spoke with my cousin today. She is one of the couple people I trust implicitly. She is a person I love deeply. She is a person who has cared for me almost 2/3s of my life. She is a nurse in California. She has been there for me on two other occasions and I remember crying with her on the phone. Today there was a third time and she was as supportive and caring as she has always been. It meant a lot to hear her words. She is a wise woman and she has been through a lot, but in her own words, her plate is large and she can handle a lot. I am grateful for her counsel. While I have not made a final decision about the course of action I will take, I am certainly leaning toward a particular course. It is a course that allows me to take charge of my life. It is a choice that allows me to move forward with my own understanding of dignity.
What I know is I have a lot to accomplish yet and I will work diligently and intentionally to accomplish those things. I wonder what it might be to have some small measure of peace, a peace that I believe “we all seek, but few of us ever find” (The Last Samurai). I wish at times I was a better person, a more profound and intelligent person, a person who made some significant difference, but I know such ideas are a bit foolhardy. They are selfish and self-serving. I do believe I am merely a person who found his way into the world, a bit by accident when you consider my beginning. I am a person who has defied death in, through, or by my very birth. That along with some of the other things that have occurred merely remind me of the blessings I have received so many times and in so many ways. I am still blessed. I have friends, and I have a family, albeit an unexpected one. I have my extended family and I have amazing colleagues and a great place to work. All of those things together give me much more than many have.
I am not exactly sure what the next weeks and months will bring and, again, I am not sure what my decision about these newest issues will be. I will have to ponder and process. I am good at that. I am pretty comfortable pondering and wondering about the “what if” questions. As I have noted, that has always been part of my life. It will continue to be so. The picture is of me a few weeks before I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, which eventually turned out to be Crohn’s. It is one of the last “pre-IBD” pictures I have. My hair was certainly a different color back then.
As always, thanks for reading.