The Last Samurai
Let’s try to use a single movie to address all seven questions and give you a sense of the answers. We will use one of my favorite movies, “The Last Samurai.”
As you watch the movie, pay attention to how desperate Captain Algren is at the beginning. He has reached a point where he has no Meaning, Purpose, or Identity. I use capital letters to emphasize that these are not just words, but real things inside you and Captain Algren.
In his case, he must make these things real or succumb to alcoholism.
But there is something in Captain Algren, as there is in many of us, that is beyond words – a force, spirit, life power, or whatever you want to call it – that drives us forward. We may not recognize it at the time, but somehow we make the decisions, fate opens a door for us, and we begin.
This is about to happen to Captain Algren, and he will change all of his previous answers to the seven questions.
Below is a video that will give you a sense of the entire movie. Please note how much attention is given to mental states.
Then we will go over the seven questions and show how each is addressed by the movie. It is this transformation that made this movie such a hit.
Have you ever fantasized about being thrown from your mundane life into one where you are compelled to train and become the best you can be in body, mind, and spirit? This is what happened to Luke in Star Wars, Neo in The Matrix, and Captain Algren in The Last Samurai.
Take your time as you go through the questions. Try to “feel” the question, if you can. Try to identify with Captain Algren. Note that every step of his transformation is a matter of life and death, so he feels all of it very intensely, as is made clear in his narration.
#1 – What are you?
“There is some comfort in the emptiness of the sea. No past, no future.”
Algren is an alcoholic who has just been fired. He doesn’t fit in any better than Ronin Caterpillar and is at the edge of a cliff. He has no purpose and no meaning, and is slowly committing suicide. Then he is transported to another realm. The sea is like that – nothing in any direction you look, and the dark, unknown infinity below you. It cleanses you, prepares you. And now, in the strange new culture, Algren will reframe his life as he reanswers the seven questions.
The first one asks what role you choose. Imagine that your life is a movie, with a protagonist, many supporting characters, and the background of minor players never noticed and quickly forgotten. No matter what role you might have in the movies of others, you can choose to be the lead in your own. It is your choice, and when you make it, a very powerful affirmation.
It begins with three words: “I am the_________”. You fill in the blank to answer the first question. Don’t worry about the difficulty of fulfilling the role – that comes next.
#2 – How will you become the one to do the deed?
“From the moment they awake they devote themselves to the perfection of whatever they pursue. I have never seen such discipline.”
How can they be so disciplined? How can you? It comes from accepting a single value. This value, once you make it yours, will guide your actions, make you strong, and eliminate a vast amount of stress and uncertainty from your life.
It’s what you are, not what you have.
Once you accept this, the status seeking and empty greed are eliminated from your life. Consider: Algren could have just waited out the winter as a slob and returned as an alcoholic in the fall. Instead, he worked on changing what he was.
#3 – Who are you?
What does it mean to be samurai? To devote yourself utterly to a set of moral principles. To seek a stillness of your mind.”
You can see that his identity is changing with his discipline and learning. He is actually creating a new self-image.
And this can be a very powerful tool. With it come self-expectations. You would not want to violate your new code. And with that change come new heroes that will create a standard for you.
Later we will speak of, and create your Avatar. For now we will use Ronin. I use ronin as a free agent who is on the warrior’s pilgrimage, which you are by now.
#4 – How do you develop your super power?:
“There is so much here I do not understand.—and though it may forever be obscure to me, I can not but be aware of its power”
“Too many minds. Mind the sword. Mind the people watch. Mind the enemy.
What Algren is referring to can be called the totality of his being. By practicing Zen meditation, he accesses the non-linguistic portion of his being, which I often call “Accessing the Void.” This has to do with genius, creativity, and is a superpower that many have but do not recognize. When you become aware of it, that is the beginning of being able to access it at will. In the movie, Algren is struggling in Kendo training when he is told to focus on the sword, ignore the people around him, and the enemy while emptying his mind.
#5 – Maximum performance.
In combat, a quarter of a second can spell the difference between life and death. The same is true while driving. Sixty-five miles per hour is about 95 feet per second. A quarter of a second is 25 feet. If you are distracted or panicked, it will take much longer to react, potentially causing an accident. However, with years of experience, you will instinctively swerve or brake before having a conscious thought. In other circumstances, you may worry about appearances, scores, ratings, and your self-image. But when you act with “no mind,” these considerations disappear, and you can perform at your maximum and enjoy it.
Captain Algren is attacked by four swordsmen. Watch this scene carefully and you will see him relax as he tells himself, “No mind.” Also note that the movie really didn’t need this scene in the normal sense. It was put there for the express purpose of demonstrating, “no mind.”
#6 – Meaning: “A perfect blossom is a rare thing you could spend your life looking for it, and it would not be a wasted life. –They are all perfect. “
To know life in every breath, every cup of tea, in every life we take.”
Many blank canvases hang in museums of modern art, accompanied by complex explanations of why they are there. The excuses are as empty as the canvases. Some people seek meaning in some combination of words, but what they find is often as blank as the canvases extolled by those who are empty. Beauty and meaning are beyond words. They are deep parts of you, as much as hearing or sight. You can find meaning by looking at the sea, sitting alone in the forest, or looking at the night sky while sailing across an ocean and silencing the inner dialogue.
So, “A perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for it, and it would not be a wasted life. They are all perfect.” makes perfect sense.
#7 – You are a Stranger in a Strange Land:
“I have never been a church going man … there is indeed something spiritual in this place. I can not but be aware of its power. I do know that I have had my first untroubled sleep in years.”
It is crucial to understand the dystopia around you, lest you become a part of it. And that is as difficult as a fish comprehending water. The Last Samurai is about a clash of cultures. Our “modern society” has one set of answers to the seven questions that it wants its members to absorb. These values are personified by Omura in the movie, while Katsamoto embodies another set of seven answers. And you see how difficult it is for Captain Algren to transition to Samurai Algren.
Let me give you a minor example. There will be much more later. Imagine you are suddenly transported back in time to the Roman Empire. They use Roman numerals; Is, Vs, and Xs. Every arithmetic operation is confounded by a lack of Arabic numerals and the concept of zero. Play with that for a while and see how you would feel somewhat like a stranger in a strange land. Were Samurai Algren to return to the society he left at the beginning of the movie, how would he fit?
Here is the main point, it wouldn’t matter, if he kept his new set of seven answers. And by now they are bone-deep, and the transformation feels so good he will die to defend it.
By now, you may be getting a rough feeling for the system, but it will do you little good without the micro-exercises. I call them micro-exercises because you must do seven in less than 30 seconds. Just as you can’t learn swimming by reading and lectures alone, so too transformation involves “getting in the water.” This is not a video game, it is the real thing for when the shit hits the fan. Much more on the exercises later. For now, observe that Captain Algren isn’t reading a book; he is actually living the seven positions, sometimes at the risk of his life. The micro-exercises allow you to do the same daily.
Actually, you are living the seven positions as well. Part of the benefit of the 1eye System is to realize this. But your life is not words. If a video were taken of one day in your life, and you watched it with the sound off, you would still recognize those moments when you passed through one or more of the positions. For the system to work, it must be beyond words. For now, watch The Last Samurai, and then we will begin instruction in our system.