A strange and terrible and wonderful practice.
I would never do it myself, nor would I ever encourage anyone to do it. All of which goes without saying; it doesn’t belong to our time or to our culture.
But, in an extreme way, it is reflective of what is missing from our society. It is the polar opposite of who and what we are.
In a way, the Christian story and mythology is a similar trope, thought not nearly as pure or as focused as the Japanese tradition.
But the ideas are the same:
- Ritual self-sacrifice
- The primacy of the social order
- The understanding of the smallness of the self
- Appreciation of the relative weights, consequences of battle and concession
At some level, and in some circumstances, concession in the interest of the greater good requires more strength than the fight for immediate and personal interests.
This is an understanding that we as a culture have lost. I count myself amongst the lost; I will fight to the end—for my position, to prolong my life, for ideals, etc.
But in fact, despite my inability to embrace these things myself, I see their importance.
Throughout history, and in each of the great religious traditions, the repression and sublimation of the self have been seen as the greatest moral virtues. I agree with this, even if I cannot embrace them.
This is what we have lost, and it is a great loss indeed.