It makes my teeth ache when martial artists try to be “modern samurai” or “American samurai.” Samurai is a really specific thing, a specific class of warrior. In order to be a samurai, one must be born into the buke, the warrior caste. Not possible in modern America unless, I suppose, you descended from one of the recognized buke families of Japan.
The second element is that you were a bushi, a professional warrior. Making war, peace-keeping, policing, guarding—the bushi did them all, so for modern shorthand, you would have to be under a ‘profession of arms’ or what Van Canna calls a “Force Professional.”
And the third element is that you must be in sworn service to a lord.
Born into the right family, doing the job and working for someone else…
Obviously, I wasn’t born into any ancient Japanese families, neither bushi nor heimin nor the other caste (which I can’t remember right now…)
I was talking to K, being introspective. Both relishing the freedom and wrestling with the uncertainty. “I always knew who and what I was. I had my tribe and my status and duties within the tribe. I’m not a part any more.”
“You’re ronin,” she said.
I winced at the word, thinking of some long ago wannabe martial artists.
But, as usual, she hit a piece of the truth. For the first time in my adult life I am not in service. From a sworn officer in my old agency to a representative of a program in Iraq I’ve always been in service to a cause. In sworn service, which is something else. I always took the duties seriously, internalized them. Became, to the best of my abilities, the perfect retainer/representative/operator for the agency that I worked for.
I don’t miss it, the world is wide open in a way that it hasn’t been for twenty-three years. Yet I do feel something. Not quite an emptiness. A drift. A change in my identity. Things are new. Things are different.
A world to wander. Like a wave.