Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bushido III - Courage

There are seven aspects to the ethical code by which the Samurai composed themselves - Justice, Courage, Benevolence, Politeness, Sincerity, Honor and Loyalty.  I have chosen to spearhead an organization which can help chefs and other service industry professionals to make positive changes in their lives and I believe that those who are looking for change will find it on this path.
Each week we will examine one of the aforementioned virtues and see if Bushido may be a good path for the Order of the Chef to use as a guideline in inspiring industry professionals young and old...

COURAGE - the spirit of daring and bearing

These are cheesy, right? ...the motivational posters we've all seen in myriad waiting rooms, eh? ...well even a cliche is a cliche because it carries enough weight to enrich the many.

...doesn't mean you aren't scared, it means you go anyway
Inazo Nitobe calls courage "the spirit of daring and bearing" and says that it is as simple as doing what is right.  It is the active manifestation of the virtue of Justice.  It is quite often the most difficult choice one can make, often involves sacrifice and thus transcends ego by its very nature.

Just as we follow a trend in order to push our business to the next level - or at least to keep up with the Kardashians so to speak - as humans we naturally seek to follow an easily assimilated lifestyle in order to keep our sanity.  Our sense of community.  We want to fit in with our surroundings.  So what if you were to find yourself in a restaurant, bound to 12 hours a day and sometimes with not much to do but wait for the next rush...slow restaurants are like this and can make big problems for people with very active, artistic minds.  Like chefs.

The nature of the restaurant is excess...people don't go out to eat for a special occasion and look for moderation.  The highest selling items are not generally low calorie broths and fruit salads, they're macaroni and cheese, steaks and fries and bourbon milkshakes.  Successful restaurant people know this, its not a big secret.  So in a place steeped in the energy and intention of excess, focused on providing a lush, decadent experience to every finger that touches a water glass in your humble establishment, in a place like that, why would it not follow to naturally attune to the same mindset?

Chefs are artists, someone told me today, and there goes along with the mind and mettle of an artist a tendency for compulsory, irrational and generally addictive behavior.  We sense.  We are experts at the visceral experience of life.  We can rock your world.  What on Earth makes you think we wouldn't know how to rock our own.  And we can do it well - any. time. we. want...

I've heard the argument many times that "I'm using my free will to [insert binge here] and if I just go home and be like all those 'squares' in their cardboard houses, I'll be executing my free will."  I say bollocks to that mentality and instead posit that free will is much more potent when it is used in conjunction with courage.  Courage to go against the norm.  Courage to have a sparkling water at a whiskey bar or eat a banana while you're working the pasta station or to go to a 24 hour gym instead of a 12 hour nightlclub.  Courage which is the spirit of daring and bearing - and to dare to bear the weight of isolation from the only people you see and bond with for 12 hours a day is not an easy spirit to assimilate.  But it helps.

When you can do it.

I don't pretend to be a teetotaler or anything, I go out with the boys and girls to the bars and the dance clubs and have fun on some weekends...and some weekdays.  Then I take time off from that.  And I have a support network, I go to my family and talk and find things to do to kill the time that adds up and is so easy to kill alongside all so many braincells.  I do yoga.  I work out.  I write this crap.  I share my story...and don't even need a dollar to do so.

I had to start somewhere and that was a very dim place from which I have travelled long and byzantine trade winds to uncertain shores by way of bottomless risks, but who can tell the difference between the risks of equally risky paths with absolutely opposite destinations.  Should I risk the next round of shots or the ride to the projects to score or the hours of sitting in stillness, squirming and crying and exorcising demons that most would never notice?  Should I risk exposing and facing my demons or should I risk their raucous festival under cover of shifty handshakes and code names for unscrupulous activities?

Courage has great bearing on the Order of the Chef.  We can help build courage because there is safety in numbers.  Even if you spend 12 hours a day surrounded by phase-happy college kids working a temporary server job while they figure out how to read the road map that leads their thumb finally squirming free of their toothless wonder.  Even if you're buried in prep-work and order-fire tickets from dawn til dusk and your only solace is the local flirt of a bartender who keeps you company from dusk til dawn.  Even then, we can provide a philisophical foundation for your courage.

Everyone carries a seed within them with the potential for great joy and abundant life.  Let's have the courage to find and nurture that seed.

1 comment:

  1. Courage. An amazing word with so many conceptions and misconceptions of what that word means. We can break it down to the middle English or French (heart, or more at heart). It takes many shapes, forms, functions, but the base, the origin, for me, says all it has to. More at heart.. The one's that take the chances, successful or otherwise, have that. In the kitchen, facing life's challenges head on, or by simply taking no action at all to sit on their hands knowing that anything that is tried would be vain to wait patiently for the outcome..