It is said that Japan is the land of the gods. This description is a bit inaccurate since overlaying the Western concept of “gods” is a distortion.
Imagine that, the essence of meaning, when crossing cultures, oftentimes gets lost in translation.
For instance, as my teacher explains, what is normally translated as “god” to English speakers is “kami” in Japanese. However, this is not really about superhuman personalities, it is an indicator of dynamic energies.
When the Japanese use the term “kami” it is really the union of fire (Ka) and water (Mizu or Mi for short). Kami, then, is the presence and interplay of elemental forces. It is simply a way of recognizing the creative power of the universe manifest in the world.
Still, many people learn by way of cool stories rather than deep scientific or philosophical inquiries. (I must admit to being the opposite. Having had enough drama in my life, I’d much rather focus on principles than messy human interest pieces even though I do appreciate a good story occasionally).
This is why myths and parables are so prevalent. They teach while entertaining.
The Japanese creation myths are a case in point. Compiled around 712 A.D., Japan’s “Kojiki” Record of Ancient Matters put together a number of oral traditions that had been around since antiquity (and in a way that would legitimize the emperor’s rule, of course).
One such story involves the sun goddess, Amaterasu, who, after being frightened and embarrassed by her mischievous brother Susano-o, hid away in a cave and took all the sunlight with her. Plunged in darkness the other gods devised a plan to lure her out.
They started playing drums, singing, and laughing as a notably sensual female goddess, Ame-no-Uzume, began a lascivious dance.
Curious as to what was causing the ruckus outside, the sun goddess opened the stone blocking the entrance of the cave, slightly, to see what was going on. The others had placed a mirror in front of the cave and Amaterasu, unknowingly looking at her own reflection, emerged curious as to who could be equal her brilliance.
As she peaked further out of the cave, the other gods pulled her out completely and sealed the cave with a sacred hemp rope so that she couldn’t hide her light from the world again.
There’s a lesson here.
There are actually many lessons you could take away from this allegory. However, my read is that it is easy for events, people, or situations in the world to frighten, embarrass, or frustrate you. (I’ve had my share and the next incident is probably scheduled right around the corner)
However, retreating into a cave and taking the unique insights and contributions that only you have deprives the world of your gifts. That is not why we humans are here.
The Judeo-Christian Bible has a similar parable in Matthew 5:15. One does not light a lamp just to hold it under a bushel, but places it on a stand to shine that light into the whole house.
Despite the world, or more specifically the situations, personalities, and circumstances of our lives frequently being somewhat madding, now is not the time to withdraw or resign.
It’s quite alright to take a pause, reset, and get centered. In fact, I do exactly that every morning with meditation, inspirational reading, and journaling. Sometimes, even a longer retreat is required to get centered.
However, we must return to the business of living. We each have that inner spark that urges us to move forward even if we’ve lost touch with it.
At times like this it can be helpful to remember that motto of the great economist Ludwig Von Mises:
“Tu ne cede malis sed contra audentior ito”
Do not give in to evil but proceed ever more boldly against it.
Shine your light!