Date Masamune. The name itself is the echelon of power. He is one of my most favourite historic figure and I absolutely adore this valiant being. He is the One Eyed Dragon of Oshu and a single eye is enough to instill fear in the hearts of not only humans, but demons as well.
Well keeping my admiration aside (I could talk about it the whole day), I would like to talk about the quote in the above image.
Rectitude carried to excess hardens into stiffness;
benevolence indulged beyond measure sinks into weakness
First, let us decode the meaning of a few words:
1. Straightness; the state or quality of having a constant direction and not being crooked or bent. [from 15th c.]
2. (now) The fact or quality of being right or correct; correctness of opinion or judgement. [from 15th c.]
3. Conformity to the rules prescribed for moral conduct; (moral) uprightness, virtue [from 16th c.]
From the above meanings, we can interpret the following,
1 talks about the physical aspect of rectitude.
2 talks about the idealistic aspect.
Whereas 3 is the amalgamation of both.
If rectitude implies ‘straightness’, it suggests a constant state of mind in a human context. The inability to accept change and move on. The firmness of the mind in its self indulgence.
If rectitude is ‘the quality of being correct’, then rectitude is a self perceived virtue. What is right for one man, is evil to another. It is subjective.
If rectitude is ‘conformity to the rules of morals’, then it is obedience to norms. Self prescribed or socially prescribed.
If we look closely, rectitude is almost the same as stiffness. But Date sama has used both these words. Maybe he is trying to tell us something different. Let us try to interpret.
When he says,
“Rectitude carried to excess hardens into stiffness”,
he seems to imply rectitude in an idealistic sense and stiffness in a physical sense, like face value, something tangible.
Let us take an example appropriate to Date Masamune samas time to understand this better:
There are two warring states. One is equipped with western styled rifles and cannons and the other chooses to fight with katana (swords). The state using traditional weapons justifies its morals by the usage of non-western goods and thereby retaining the cultural pride.
On the contrary, the state using western weapons justifies its morals of triumph by using any means possible. The virtues for culture lie within the heart, no matter what means used.
In most of the cases, it is obvious that the state with advanced weapons will emerge victorious. They’ll reign over all. If the state using traditional weapons had changed their strategy to suit the changing times and not fallen victim to the stiffness of their rectitude, they would have a fair chance of winning too.
So this stiffness of the reluctance to use new weapons was a tangible quality. We could visually gauge the rectitude of this state; carried to excess in the time of war.
So now let us interpret the following :
Rectitude carried to excess hardens into stiffness,
The constancy of morals is an appropriate thing, but don’t carry it to more than what’s desired. The quality of being excessively virtuous will make you resistant and reluctant to change. This will hinder your growth as an individual. You will no longer be able to adapt to change. And that will be your end in this game of survival of the fittest.
1. (uncountable) Disposition to do good
2. (uncountable) Charitable kindness
3. (countable) An altruistic gift or act
It is very clear that benevolence is the epitome of humanity. Compassion is one of the seven virtues of a samurai. Benevolence is the instinctual desire to do well for the society.
Benevolence is not only kindness in terms of service or financial or physical help; you can even be benevolent with your trust. Giving people the benefit of your trust is a kindness of your heart. But benevolence should be confined to certain limits.
That’s what Date sama is trying to explain. Anything in excess is lethal. Be it rectitude or benevolence.
Benevolence is like sand. You can hold a few of the grains in your palm but a fistful would just repel away.
“Benevolence indulged beyond measure sinks into weakness.”
Excessive benevolence is deceptive like quicksand. If you try too hard, you will sink faster. But this quicksand is your inevitable downfall. Be kind, but be shrewd.
In Date samas time, one had to be sly to protect the fiefdom. Armies were massacred ruthlessly and people went to war at a very young age. There were betrayals. So I can understand where his words come from.
Turning a blind eye to reality under the pretext of ‘trust’ is the greatest mistake. Many civilizations have thus fallen down.
Benevolence is a virtue. Being kind and helping people physically, emotionally and financially is totally alright. But we must keep this habit in check.
Are you providing your shoulder for others to cry on to such an extent that it hurts?
Are you being so emotionally kind that you are incapable of defending yourself by protecting your own sanity?
Are you being so financially kind at the expense of not being able to feed your own self?
If any of the above is true, then it’s time to change. So in this regard, we can interpret the next two lines,
Benevolence indulged beyond measure sinks into weakness,
Be kind. But not so kind that you bet your self identity over it. Judge people. Analyse their motives. Everyone doesn’t require an equal amount of kindness. If you cross the limits of benevolence, you will be taken advantage of your foolish behaviour. You will become gullible. You will become vulnerable beyond help. Do good to those who need it aka do good to yourself and be just towards yourself.
(Image source – Wikipedia)
Rectitude carried to excess hardens into stiffness;
benevolence indulged beyond measure sinks into weakness.
Thank you for checking out this blog!
Do comment and let me know your suggestions if you want me to interpret other quotes from anime / manga or by Japanese warlords.