November 19, 2006

Good book about colleges...

This is a great book for students and parents thinking of colleges! Our daughter is starting to do so, so the subject is much on our minds. (Our middle son is applying to schools right now, but he's a singer, and is looking at conservatories and music programs.)

(As I've mentioned before, if you click-through one of these ads, and then buy the item, or something else, amazon.com tosses some crumbs to the Weidners, who thank you from the bottoms of their hearts.)

This is from one of the essays in the book, by Louise Cowan:

IN Kagemusha, the Japanese film director Akura Kurosawa portrays a beggar called upon to impersonate a powerful warlord. About to be put to death for thievery, this lowly figure is snatched from execution by royal officers who detect in him an uncanny physical resemblance to their chief. They hide him in the palace to understudy the great man and to master the ways of the court. On the death of the warlord, the officers pass this double off as the ruler himself, hoping by this deception to conceal from their enemies their vulnerability. The beggar learns to act the part of a noble and fearless leader and, as he grows in his understanding of his role, acquires its internal as well as external dignity. He successfully continues the impersonation until—after the monarch's death has been discovered and the ruse is no longer useful—he is driven away from the palace, a beggar once more.

But a strange thing has happened: this pretender has developed a genuine sense of responsibility that cannot so lightly be dismissed. The burden of leadership, with its peculiar blend ofselflessness and pride, has become his own. Despite his low station, he follows along after the troops in battle and stands at the last defending the banner of his defeated people, exposing himself to the enemy's onslaughts when all others have fallen. The film makes us question: Is this heroic gesture still part of the act? Where does it come from, this apparent greatness of soul thai finally requires in a counterfeit role an authentic death? Kurosawa implies that it issues from the depths of human nature itself. But if so, as the film makes clear, it hardly arises naturally. On the contrary, its realization has come about through schooling in a tradition. Such magnanimity, we are shown, requires mimesis—imitation. To remake oneself in the image of something that calls to greatness demands a heroic tradition displaying heroic models. Kagemusha is, in fact, despite its Japanese subject matter, in the line of the Western and Roman epics, an extension of the Greek heroic code. Like these classics, it uncovers the innate nobility of the soul as a driving force that issues in noble action. Kagemusha, a modern classic, speaks to us with a peculiar power in a time when all energies seem to be devoted to self-preservation and to bodily comfort...
Posted by John Weidner at November 19, 2006 9:32 AM
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