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Crying Facing Forward


Some say that Saturday April 8th 563 BCE is the birthday of Siddhartha Gautama a.k.a. Buddha. The descendant of the one who had most light, Gotama, had more than ten epithets but my favorite is Sugata because in Japanese, sugata means the form of someone and also, the character, 姿 contains the two characters, next and woman from which we can invent a whole bunch of etymological mashes. The one who has most light is the form of a next woman?


Sugata was also the family name of a judo protagonist in Kurosawa Akira’s TV series, Sugata Sanshiro. If you’re as old as I am, you’ll remember the series in which Sanshiro takes on all sorts of baddies, using what he learns in judo, 柔道, which literally means the soft way. Many in our generation had Sugata Sanshiro in our heads when we were playing sports or facing other challenges, remembering the line in the theme song, “If you’re vexed, cry, just cry proud, facing forward”.


These days the bravado of the song sung by a woman makes me laugh, but it also reminds me what I used to tell the kids when they were little – about how there’s nothing wrong with crying. I wonder about that a lot in this day and age of tech-enhanced uber-happiness, where we are always encouraged to look happy and be positive even when we’re feeling, you know, fine or even, FINE.


Would Buddha consider crying facing forward a good teaching on his alleged birthday? I don’t know. But a good release of energy stored in anticipation of something that doesn’t work out the way you wanted it to could be worth a try this weekend if you’ve never experienced the Sugata Sanshiro style of crying before.


Happy birthday Siddhartha.

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