Human beings are the only species that does not die, but perishes. That is, we are fully conscious of our end. Of all the other animals-- we suffer. But because we are aware of our end we can achieve a relationship with life that no other animal can--we can thrive.
Death is right. Death is real. The warrior understands this and does not wish it to be any other way. Death makes virtue possible because you realize that there is no life beyond this one and so there can be no ulterior motive beyond doing good as an end to itself. The acknowledgment of our own mortality is the first step toward true autonomy, purpose, and virtue. It is only after we have understood that we are going to die that we can make sense of the world and find our place in it without delusion or fantasy, without false confidence or courage. Our most important priorities come into focus. Confusion becomes exceptionally rare. We love with greater intensity, feel with greater depth, and possess a greater capacity to experience wonder and awe. In short, we become attuned to both the suffering and ecstatic joys of the world, transmuting both into revelatory wisdom, insight, and strength. The warrior becomes the living embodiment of the tension between the Eternal and the transient, honoring both truths equally. It is the honoring of both that gives rise to a life that is truly purposeful.
Death concentrates our efforts and clarifies our intentions. Without it we cannot act purely. The first existentialist, Søren Kierkegaard, writes, “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” When we do not focus on death, our mind is divided, thinking about a great many superfluous and trivial things, and not focusing on what it is we are doing. When we are not one with each moment that arises, we are not present in our own lives. A multitude of sins slip in when we are not present, poisoning our efforts and our experiences. A single act is no longer a single act but an unfocused effort that is often unsuccessful or at the very least one having mixed results. If the unfocused mind was the strike of a sword, it would feel as if it were wielded by several swordsmen, awkward, uncoordinated, the swordsmen pulling in opposite directions, hands clumsily grasping over hands for the hilt—strength diluted.
There are no hidden motives, no double-mindedness once we have accepted our own deaths. Like the kamikaze, we simply act, not worrying excessively about outcomes because there is ultimately nothing we can do but what is in our immediate power to do. We are 100 percent in the present and nowhere else. In Miyamoto Musashi’s Book of Five Rings, he writes, “It is said the warrior’s is the twofold Way of pen and sword, and he should have a taste for both Ways. Even if a man has no natural ability he can be a warrior by sticking assiduously to both divisions of the Way. Generally speaking, the Way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death.” For us, the Way of the Sword must be the Way of our lives. There must be no difference. In the same way that samurai trained with their swords, we must train with our lives. The quality of our lives must have that sense of urgency, that sense of care and concern. Leave nothing on the battlefield, exhaust all your resources. You have but one life. Wield it as the sword it is.