An Observer, Not a Judge
The longer observation proceeds judgment the better the quality of judgment.
This law of reality made such an impression on Ken at a young age that he devoted himself to observation. He’d go as long as possible before passing judgment. Quickly he learnt that it was entirely possible to forego the latter.
His father Shō had similar values. The law however hadn’t become engraved on his soul as it had with Ken. Shō encountered this truth at a much later age, after years of premature judgement. The guilt of his past actions outweighed his commitment to this newfound truth. In some way, that’s what made Shō the perfect father and teacher to Ken.
Shō was nearly exemplary in his patience for new information, his diligence in observation. For him to rush to a conclusion was as rare as the sun rising in the evening. But when it happened it was so contrasting, and the results obviously much poorer, that Ken had no choice but to notice.
Most people’s hasty decisions go unnoticed as there is no contrast. Their entire lives are a chain of hasty decisions. Ken was grateful for the example of his father.
You might think of Ken as neutral, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But perhaps not neutral in the way you might think. He didn’t live a boring life void of joy, pain, or sadness. He felt all those things and the shades in between. He laughed. He smiled. He jumped out of airplanes. He cried. The difference with him is, he has never thought “it’s pathetic that i’m crying” or “it’s good that I’m laughing”. His life was highlighted by the mere absence of “should”. He never schemed, he listened instead. He didn’t struggle against reality, he befriended it.
That didn’t make him the most pleasant friend to confide in. If they brought up a person who had wronged them, instead of taking their side he simply listened and asked “is that so?”. If they complained about the ways of the world, as soon as they were done, he’d ask “is that so?”. As you can imagine, this rarely satisfied those who were used to hearing reassuring words.
One of his friends, after pouring his heart out, was met with a response characteristic of Ken. This infuriated him and led him to shout at Ken “Is that all you can say? After all that I’ve told you! You should really have an opinion by now.”
Ken was truly sad to see his friend this way. He couldn’t hold back his tears as he replied. “For me to pretend to understand this chapter of your story, I have to pretend to understand the whole of your story, and for that I have to pretend to understand my own story. And soon I’ll be pretending that I understand the whole of life. I can’t do that. At least not until I’m done observing.”
Years later, appearing by Ken’s deathbed this friend cleverly asked “Surely now that you’re ready to leave this world you must have some faint understanding of life, at least your own.” Ken happy to see his old friend, couldn’t muster the energy to speak but didn’t want to disappoint his friend. He pointed towards a brush and paper in the corner of the room. The friend brought it to him. Before drawing his last breath this is what he drew on the paper: