The symbol of a circle in Japanese is an Ensõ. It is not a Japanese character, it is a symbol. Circles are symbols of many different things. We use them to represent a mathematical integer, we use them for letters. The invention of the wheel changed the world of humans. I am very fond of the Zen Buddhist ensõ circle. I like that it is a practice as much as a symbol. You make one every day, it is always different, yet it is still a circle. It reflects you, your mood, your feelings, your sleep, or happiness so many things can change it. Sometimes it is very round, sometimes it is complete. Sometimes, there are breaks in it but you always can identify it as a circle. It is not in its perfection that it gains its value, it has intrinsic worth, like the people that make them. That is something, about which, it is worth taking your time to think. Infinity and life have be likened to a circle, come to think of it, so has time itself. George Santayana wrote, “Studying the past is necessary to avoid repeating past mistakes”. This thought brought about the saying, “Those that cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it”. So we could also say it is like being caught in a loop, or a circle. We can see this evidenced in the history of civilizations all over the world. It is much easier to recognize it on an anthropological level, than it is on an individual level, (after the basic don’t put your hand in fire type of learning situations), yet the principle is sound. Throughout human history we can trace back each great civilization to its turning points. We can follow the rise of China’s dynasties and kingdoms as well as those of Egypt, Persia, Aztec, Mayan, European, and so on through each history. Studying of history allows us to learn which leader/leaders brought about the change that made each civilization great. Following the same history we can see which leader/leaders, or lack thereof, brought about the beginning of the fall. Since we can do this you would think that we would not keep making the same mistakes necessitating this cyclical rise and fall. Sadly, it seems that just because it can be identified easier on an anthropological level, it is harder to change on that level. The evidence for this is vast. We don’t even have to look very far back to find world wars and unnecessary aggression but it does not matter how far back we do look you will always find these same societal power games perpetrated. It never ends well and yet there it is over and over again. Sometimes, it is even the study of the history that pretends to give justification for this aggression. A notion of righteous revenge, as if such a thing can logically exist. Looking at the date as I write this September 11, 2020. I remember the history lessons that might have enticed people to seek the impossible goal of a “righteous revenge”, September 11, 1565 September 11, 1683 both dates in which unnecessary aggression was turned away. It makes me think of the mantra “Never forget”. I know for certain that I will not ever forget, I know for certain that I don’t want anyone to ever forget. I just want to make sure we remember for the right reasons. Let us never forget those that needlessly died. Let us never forget, the first responders that rushed in to help. Let us never forget, the heroes that risked their lives in service to someone that needed help. Let us never forget, the feeling of the strong consoling those in need of it. Let us forget the desire for revenge. The purpose of the strong is to protect those that cannot protect themselves. This is true throughout our collective past as humanity. If you were to turn back the wheel of time to see the role of the strongest in society, when society lived in caves, they were needed for protection which they gave and in return they were treated well. They were able to hunt and lift the heavy loads, they were compensated and given respect. Somewhere as we continued rolling through time it became less about the physical strength. Money could make up for a lot of physical prowess, it could hire or buy others to preform the tasks that earned respect. Watching the struggle for equal rights throughout history, and right up until this present moment, again reminds us how easy it is to see the folly when viewed through that anthropological lens. It also reminds us of how difficult it is to change things on that level. Still we continue to return again and again to the same struggle. There have always been events in our lives or in generations that seem to change things. Things that impact people across every level. Things like, plagues, earthquakes, hurricanes, or man made things like wars, all leave scars. There were two earthquakes in Japan that had a profound effect on two artist named Murakami. One took place in Kobe in 1995 as Haruki Murakami was returning to live permanently in his native Japan after living in Europe and America for some years. He dealt with the crisis by writing a book of short stories called “after the quake”. It was cathartic for him to look inside and find some way to move forward. He did it in the way he understood for himself and shared it with us. The second earthquake that changed our second Murakami took place in 2011. This event led Takashi Murakami to embark on the Ensõ. He created 500 of these symbols, over various other symbols or alone. It was his effort to do as the practice prescribes. Make them but do not judge them, allow them to be. Look through them to infinity and beyond their boarders to all of space. This, I believe brings us full circle. What can we put together from all of this going around in circles? What I take from it is that our society is made of individuals going through daily life, their circle is small but important. As societies, throughout history, it takes a great individual leader to move things in a positive direction, as society forgets the lessons of the great leaders of the past we crumble, sometimes slowly, sometimes all at once as a bad leader takes the controls and ideas of “righteous revenge” or “unnecessary aggression” against a people or ideal. Bad leaders use excuses to form unity in lieu of actual leadership. Our only hope is to follow the path of the artist in our time of crisis, to do the hard thing and look at our own circle of life. To take a deep look within and make the changes individually there. Be our own leader, make the difficult but right choice to correct things within us that we recognize as less than our best. Each of us making our Ensõ practice daily, reading what we have done without judgement but with understanding, then applying those two principles to all around us. If we can each individually do this, perhaps we can form a new cycle not dependent on the rise and fall but unity of all.
COMING FULL CIRCLE
Ensõ Earthly Desires 2016 by Takashi Murakam