Katabasis Required 4:10

dark darkness loneliness mystery

How does a person run 100 miles?

How do people rise up from great tragedy?

Why does it take a war, a fight, a battle to bring people closer together?

In life and as part of our work, it always amounts to some fight or battle.  I am not telling you that I understand why this seems to be a requirement. I am saying it is.

The fight or battle can’t be trivial, it must be grande.  It must be able to prove that a person can travel towards the depths of the underworld and somehow find their way home.  If you don’t believe me, think about your own life.  Think about the stories that you remember or the people that you have come to love and respect.  They were there for you in difficult times.  They helped you out of a situation.  There was something that was challenging or difficult.   For whatever reason, we require the journey.  As a matter of course, we take it many times in some cases even if don’t want to take the trip.  Aron Ralston talks about how the rock that took his arm, saved his life.  It gave him something because he went down into the pit of darkness and despair and came back.  He was helpless and alone and he had to call upon the hero in himself to break his arm and cut the remaining meat, skin, and bone with a dull knife in order to free himself from death.

I was watching NKK news a few weeks ago and watched a story about Satoshi Fukushima.  He is a Professor of disability studies at the University of Tokyo.  It took me a while to find the story to share with you but I finally found it here. At 4:10 is where for me the story took a turn.  This story is inspirational, however, for Satoshi it is a journey to the underworld where he will be forced to leave a piece of himself behind.  I admit to you that I cried a lot over this.  I don’t know if I cried for Satoshi as he felt pain or if I cried because of the price he paid to come back.  I also challenged myself to think through what I believe I could or would do in this situation.   I don’t know the answer yet.  As much as I would love to tell you that I would rise about it all, I can’t say that I would.

We have to call upon our inner warrior and supporting troops to fight.  We have to understand our purpose.  We fight for a cause.   That is why companies have a mission statement.  The mission is the cause we fight for.   It is also why we have a flag.  We fight for the flag and what it represents.  It calls to us to come towards it and fight.   Even if we don’t want to fight, we must.

What about leadership?

I was 19 years old, I walked onto the USS Mount Whitney with a seabag and piece of paper.  It was less than three seconds before I knew that I would have no respect from these people.  I remember it clearly because it hurt like being cut.  It wasn’t until our first team training event where we fought a fire in the pit called “the dragon” where I earned my first virtual badge of respect.  I had to burn, fight and put out the fire before I was recognized as a team member.   Some of these guys were volunteer firefighters before they joined the service and they couldn’t stand the heat.  I fought admittedly through it to prove that I could do it and to be a part of the team.  When we did have real emergencies on the ship, I built relationships with people.  Not until I traveled towards some hellish experience would I have the respect.  In fact, for some people, I didn’t choke, suffocate and burn enough for them.

The stories of leadership are through trial.  One must lead because of purpose or a cause.  In some cases, when we become leaders or go towards the underworld, we do leave a part of us behind on the trip home.  Many heroes leave pieces of themselves along the road.  They come back more mindful and aware of what they have but they had to lose something to become aware.

I have to wonder if in heaven there are endless doors to some level of the underworld. Where spirits travel and face trials and danger in order to come back and have stories to share with loved ones.  These trials enable them to celebrate everlasting life in the universe.  If heaven were endless happiness and that was our target state, why wouldn’t we seek in our human form to live like this?

It has become important for me to recognize this truth.  I believe in being purposeful and I am passionate about helping people.  I also recognize openly that I am not the kind of person that would walk on stage and command immediate attention.  It takes leaving a piece here or a part there.  I think for most of us it does.  How do you feel about the people who have no experience?  What about the people that seemingly had it easy and lived a charmed life?  They didn’t face enough trials?  We don’t celebrate these people, we mostly find ways to be frustrated with them.

I think it is important to learn from Satoshi and Aron.  Aron asks if we could “learn from his experience with the rock and for us to find ours.”  Satoshi, “The opposite of hate is indifference.”  The key to his message is to make an effort in being “interested” in one another. I certainly became very interested in his strength, courage, and fortitude.  His resilience is astounding.

In recognition of this message, it is important and critical for us to understand that most of us must if we can find the realization of both our journey combined with empathy for others in their journey, we will all live more of a blessed and thankful life.

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com


What do you think?  I’d like to know.


2 Replies to “Katabasis Required 4:10”

  1. The opposite of “love” is “indifference “ is so true Howie. If we are indifferent to others we shut down or don’t care about communication with others. We become people with no purpose or with only single-mindedness of our own selfish needs. Satoshi said that in order for disabled people to become part of society they had to contribute with their own opinions and without awareness of the world around them they only become silent. When people are indifferent they don’t care to communicate with disabled or for that matter anyone to inform them of the world. The issue is we need everyone’s consciousness to make our society better not just the privilege few. As Satoshi said every astroid that hits the earth has impact even if many of us don’t every see or feel it.


  2. Dear Howie, These are great words of wisdom and quite informative. I enjoyed discovering Satoshi and somehow it reminded me of our Digital Transformation (DT) course at Columbia. In particular the super warm welcome by our students at the Inclusive Design session. I felt so rewarded that day to have had introduced this the curriculum, not immediately trivial for a DT course. It also reminded me of the speech from Aaron I attended at one of my internal Microsoft event. The power of seeking a meaning in tragedy and to reborn from the ashes . Thanks Howie, your blog made my day.

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