The Unfettered Mind by Takuan Soho is a pretty short book, so I’ll keep the recommendation pretty short as well. For those skeptical of “Samurai” philosophy no thanks to idiotic movies like Ghost Dog by Jim Jarmusch (I was once forced to write a paper about how “awesome” this movie was by a professor whom was even more idiotic than the movie) … please hold your skepticism.

ANYWAYS — the most stand out reason for recommending this book is an analogy that Takuan makes about favoring long sword or short sword approaches in battle. He talks about how the long sword is good for cutting down enemies in the open battle field, but that in closed quarters one must use a short sword. He also relates this to how someone whom is strong may have an easier time wielding a long sword than someone whom is weaker. He juxtaposes various situations against one another and ends up delivering wisdom that, interestingly, is in essence the same wisdom delivered in the Reminiscences of a Stock Operator book regarding bulls and bears (optimism and pessimism).

Takuan explains how one should not favor long swords over short, bows and arrows over swords, or any one weapon over any other — he explains that the only thing one should favor is defeating the enemy and knowing what tools you have within reach to accomplish that goal.

While the comparison of not favoring one over the other can be made analogous to life, the most immediate example I’d like to present is how this might apply to writing a story.

In writing a story, the author can sweep over vast amounts of information by use of exposition. Alternately, the author can go into minute detail. Basically, the author has the tools of “tell” (exposition) versus “show” (dramatization).

Most writing professors will advise you to always show instead of tell, but that type of advice is counter to Takuan’s. In other words, why show in 1000 words what you could tell in 100? Think of the very first Star Wars film ever made — remember that expository crawl for about a minute or two. If they decided to “show” all that they told in the first 2 minutes, they would’ve had to make an entire movie. As Takuan suggests (as well as Lefevre in Reminiscences), it’s more important to be “right” to “win” than it is to allow one’s personal preference to run wild.

A final thought for the short recommendation that’s already becoming too long… the point is not the same as the Machiavellian approach which basically posits “whatever it takes to win,” but only to recognize the path to winning without wishing/hoping, or pushing one’s own preference into the mix. To be Machiavellian might imply to do whatever it takes in order to satisfy one’s preferences, whereas to be as Takuan or Lefevre suggest to put preference aside in favor of winning.

The Unfettered Mind, is a HUGE recommend as it may help you more clearly assess some situation in your life by applying any of the numerous abstractions Takuan presents.


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