Shibumi, by Trevanian
I was asked to read this book by a mentor of mine and at first I really couldn’t get into it.
It is a deep and profound story highlighting the massive difference in culture between Japan and the West, especially American. Reading it I felt a great admiration for the attention to detail, sophistication and subtlety of the Japanese culture and something bordering on disgust for the crassness of the American ways – but that is how it is written and how we are “supposed” to feel I’m sure.
Some of it I felt went on for too long, for example some of the cave passages but one chapter in particular I found fascinating with many deep insights into nature, culture and character – the chapter with Monsieur de Lhandes. In fact this chapter was a real highlight of the book for me… and I love this quote “one of the difficult things for egocentric Man to face is that he is a minor character in every biography but his own” – which is of course why people worry unnecessarily about what people think of them because the reality is they probably aren’t thinking about them at all they are too self obsessed!
I can see that paying acute attention to subtlety, detail, attaining perfection for its own sake is possibly true mastery and that honour can be an elusive but prized attribute. But as a generalist rather than a specialist I found the fixations to be bordering on obsessions which appear to lead more to agony and heartbreak than to contentment and joy and as such it left me moved but questioning and wanting something different.