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Spiritual Almanac – Monday, January 4, 2021: Miyazawa Kenji

Jan 4, 2021

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Today we’re looking to the Buddhist writer, Miyazawa Kenji for inspiration. Born into a wealthy family in an impoverished region of Japan, he grew disillusioned with his parents’ obsession with money and social status. Against his father’s wishes, he abandoned his inheritance and became a teacher of agriculture and a social activist, who among other things, advocated for organic farming techniques. He was also a prolific writer of fiction, poetry and children’s stories. After his death from pneumonia at age 37, a notebook was found in a trunk. It contained a poem he had apparently written on his deathbed.

It’s a poem titled, “Be Not Defeated by the Rain.”

BE NOT DEFEATED BY THE RAIN

By Miyazawa Kenji

 

Unbeaten by the rain

Unbeaten by the wind

Bested by neither snow nor summer heat

Strong of body

Free of desire

Never angry

Always smiling quietly

Dining daily on four cups of brown rice

Some miso and a few vegetables

Observing all things

With dispassion

But remembering well

Living in a small, thatched-roof house

In the meadow beneath a canopy of pines

Going east to nurse the sick child

Going west to bear sheaves of rice for the weary mother

Going south to tell the dying man there is no cause for fear

Going north to tell those who fight to put aside their trifles

Shedding tears in time of drought

Wandering at a loss during the cold summer

Called useless by all

Neither praised

Nor a bother

Such is the person

I wish to be

 

Miyazawa paints a picture of a simple life — a life free from desire. But instead of causing us to retreat from the world, this freedom empowers us to connect with the world and help others, while constantly working to become better versions of ourselves. It’s a process that never ends. Even as he lay dying, Miyazawa wrote, “Neither praised, nor a bother. Such is the person I wish to be.”

Some more inspirational nuggets for today:

  • On this day in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson laid out a vision for the “Great Society” in his State of the Union speech. Drawing on America’s spiritual and civil religious values, Johnson outlined a massive legislative agenda of social welfare legislation that included federal aid for education, Medicare, urban renewal and conservation initiatives, economic development, programs to reduce poverty, crime prevention and the removal of obstacles to the right to vote. Standing before Congress, Johnson said:

“We built this Nation to serve its people. We want to grow and build and create, but we want progress to be the servant and not the master of man. We do not intend to live in the midst of abundance, isolated from neighbors and nature, confined by blighted cities and bleak suburbs, stunted by a poverty of learning and an emptiness of leisure. The Great Society asks not how much, but how good; not only how to create wealth but how to use it; not only how fast we are going, but where we are headed.”

  • Also on this day in 1853, Solomon Northrup regained his freedom from enslavement. Northrup was a free Black man and farmer from New York. On a trip to Washington D.C in 1841, he was drugged, kidnapped and taken to Louisiana where he was enslaved for 12 years. After he secured his freedom with the help of Washington Hunt, the governor of New York, he published his memoir, Twelve Years a Slave in which he frequently addresses the role of religion in justifying slavery. “I could not comprehend the justice of that law, or that religion,” he said, “which upholds or recognizes the principle of slavery.”
  • Today is the birthday of the physicist, astronomer and theologian Sir Isaac Newton. Born in 1643, Newton is best known for his laws of motion and gravitation. But he was also a noted theologian and Christian historian who saw the hand of a divine creator at work in the universe. As evidence of a divine creator, he reportedly said, “In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.”

Thumbs up, Isaac.

Be kind, take good care and we’ll see you soon.

 

“Be Not Defeated by the Rain” by Miyazawa Kenji. Public domain.

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