Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Value of Life

Written on the 5th of September, 2009

Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki - it's the Hiten Mitsurugi style's ultimate move. But why did it take Kenshin, a master of this style, so long to learn it?

Kenshin, for the entirety of his life, has been locked in a constant battle with his inner demons. The particular demon in question was no demon to question - the hitokiri battousai - the greatest assassin of the late Edo period, his former-self, consumed him. Battousai 'the Manslayer' was a legend all over Japan, and especially feared in Kyoto, in the Empire's capital. Throughout the rebellion and the years that followed, Kenshin's name garnered fear and repute and as soon as the battle was over, and the Rebels had defeated the Loyalists, Kenshin disappeared.

The following 10 years he fought the ghost of his past, atoning for his former sins as being one of the most ruthless killers that ever wielded a blade. He would take up the sakabato or "reverse-blade sword" and made a vow to never kill another living being again.  He would instead make it his life's work to protect the weak and innocent people from the blade of the wicked with his sword and body as a sacrifice and atonement for his past. This Kenshin was the rurouni, the wanderer.  Fighting for the people and those he loved, this is Kenshin's 1st battle. Though he protected the people with his sword, through all the torment and self-loathing, somewhere along the way Kenshin lost all value of his own life as he convinced himself of being the peoples' shield.

Those who knew his former strength always sought to challenge him and would mock him for what they perceived to be an unforgiveable weakness: the legendary 'manslayer' turning peace-maker was something they could not stomach. And so they fought, they tested him, they threatened him, his loved ones, and all that was dear to him just to get a challenge from the legendary swordsman that was nestled deep within his soul. His enemies tried to awaken him, knowing it would destroy them and himself, but they didn't care. They wanted him to forsake the ideal that he so desperately tried to live by and the renewed self that kept his spirit alive. This is Kenshin's 2nd battle, to fight off his enemies, not with the strength of the Battousai, but as a rurouni, and not just to win the battle for himself, but to educate and rectify his enemies.

Kenshin's 3rd battle lay also within himself, but more so concerned his will to survive. The years of being a ruthless killer took away his desire for life, but it was this crucial ingredient that his master realized Kenshin lacked. This was the missing element in the otherwise perfect warrior. He had no desire to live, and so the manslayer that lived deep in his heart took over his soul, and though he learned to use that power to protect the weak, he didn't care about the consequences it would have upon his own self. It didn't matter to him anymore. Kenshin's fight was with his former self, one that he didn't always win and a battle which most certainly took its toll upon him.

This backdrop sets the stage for this scene, where Kenshin's master teaches him the final two sword techniques of the Hiten Mitsurugi style and the vital life lessons that come along with them.
The Kuzu Ryu Sen is an attack that comes from all angles, it cannot under any circumstance be parried or blocked. One is left to simply accept their fate passively. Unless  of course, they have the will to survive; a will so strong that it can defeat the fatalistic acceptance of the Kuzu Ryu Sen. This act of survival and love for life and of self, of pro-activism and care, strength, and will-power is the technique known as Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki. It took Kenshin the longest time to learn this move because he didn't have the courage to accept the responsibility of living his own life. It is here, that Kenshin realizes that he "still...[cares.]"  

It's a powerful scene for me not only because I love the character of Kenshin and can identify with him so well, [minus the killing part] but in fact, I feel it speaks to almost everybody in that everyone has a "manslayer" of some sort who attempts to dwell in their own dark side and even incite injurious (and self-injurious) action.  For some its drugs, for others its sex, food, sports, music, games - whatever it is, everybody seeks that escape from reality which feels good in the short term but hurts them in the long-term. It's the pursuit of their "fix" or their "song." This is the manslayer in us all. It's this manslayer that eats away at us, no matter how well we hide it or channel it into something positive. Here is also where I relate to Kenshin.

I have tried to channel my negative traits into a positive path in life by seeking to help others and hope to stay committed to this goal. However, my own internal "battousai" sometimes gets the better of me and I lose sight of everything that's important, and on occassion, even the beauty and gift of life itself. I too echo the statement of Kenshin where my own "chaotic revolution" stripped me of all desire for life. But its this very element that is missing within me as well. To feel the love for self, the love for life and to cling to it, to not seek death, to not accept fate fatalistically, to not accept the blade of Kuzu Ryu Sen though it scoffs at us hoping we desperately accept and give-in - No. This is not the purpose of our existence.

We are meant to be great, to be strong, to stand up and defend, to work hard, to live every moment, to cry and laugh, to hurt and heal, suffer and enjoy every breath of life that we are blessed to have - we were meant to fight back the blade of Kuzu Ryu Sen and the blade of "absolute death" and all it throws at us. We are not meant to throw in the towel. We were meant to fight back with the blade of life. We are the blade of Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki, and today we are unsheathing this blade. Today, we are no longer hitokiri battousai, we are rurouni. Today, we have mastered the technique!

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