Some of you might know that I have a peculiar love for ancient or seemingly outmoded codes of honor. It's the reason I love Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog
, in which Forest Whitaker waxes philosophical as a pigeon-keeping urban assassin who lives atop an abandoned building, listens to hip-hop, works for a mid-level mobster in a dysfunctional crime family on the verge of bankruptcy, and strictly follows the Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai
. Two old, impractical (and completely implacable) codes of conduct crash headlong, and the result is a weird, violent, foul-mouthed, and (to me, at least) strangely compelling movie.
Film critic Roger Ebert opened his review of the film
with, "It helps to understand that the hero of 'Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai' is crazy. Well, of course he is." I, unlike Ebert, am not so sure. Here's a man who grew up alone on the streets, with nothing to believe in and no one to look up to; who is nearly killed as a boy and is saved by a generally cowardly criminal in a moment of sudden grace; who finds a way (or in this case, a Way) to survive, to rise above his weaknesses, to earn respect, and to pay back the man to whom he, in a very real sense, owes his life. The way of the samurai is not easy, but I don't see it as irrational. Self-sacrifice is difficult, but it can be beautiful, can't it? Perhaps his obedience to this ancient Way is what passes for beauty in his broken world.
When I launched my old blog, Yield and Overcome
, I was actually reading books like Hagakure
and The Art of War
. I was doing a fair amount of "kung-fu writing" and adopted the web handle "werdfu" to underscore my freelance avocation. But in the years since, I've watched our government and economy go dark, even as my own family and faith have grown bright as a beacon in the black. "Yield and overcome" seems too soft and passive a philosophy for tough times, too gray for this cold twilight. So in my Second Third
(as promised), I'm unveiling a new look and name for my blog: Archangel Stomp. Sound like a dance, and it is, in a way: imagine a mosh pit with the Devil lying prostrate at the bottom. Most of the old posts are there, and I'll still be fighting the Good Fight as best I can. Only this time, I'll be doing so more intentionally as a Catholic and a believer.
Perhaps obedience to this ancient Way still passes for beauty in this broken world.