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To forge a samurai sword, the steel of the blade is heated, folded and beaten until the blade is formed by 32,768 layers, welded to one another. Each layer is a hundred thousandth of an inch thick. All this is done to extremely accurate standards of heat treatment, through a ritual passed down from master to apprentice over the generations. The result is an obsidian-hard blade with great flexibility. These blades are legendary for their hard edges, soft inner cores and extreme endurance.

The same is true of the process by which a boy becomes a man or a girl becomes a woman. They are steel, crafted by the hammer of life. A hundred, a hundred thousand times, and with each blow made stronger; tougher more enduring. Like steel, this process etches a sharpness into the soul. A cold cruel edge that is needed, with the constant interaction our society requires, to survive. People often regret the formation of the edge, or chide others when they wield it. But like so much in life, it is necessary.

True success, I agree, like with a samurai sword, is that the interior is soft, flexible, and enduring while the bladed edge may eventually wear down. To become all edge, to be consistently bitter and harsh is failure, but to be all inner core – soft forgiving yielding, is naivety. And we know that naivety commands the highest price, we struggle hard to maintain it for our children at great price. We cannot afford it in adults.

This is not an argument for balance, being soft on the outside and hard on the inside is fatal, just as being the inverse is vital. It is an argument that we should not be surprised when people around us grow a harsher edge, when they respond to challenges by becoming more ruthless or efficient. Their circumstances will almost always have warranted the change. An edge that is made sharper with every blow.

 

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