MyWorkshop - Aja

Echoes of Aja

Dear So,

Remember when you wrote me your "weird self introduction" and mentioned the story of Masamune and Muramasa? I've been thinking about that. Something about it sounds good to me, but I'm not sure what. I thought it had to do with the swords and the sorcery that created them. I wondered, if it were possible, what steps would one take to imbue an object with magical qualities? Real magical qualities. It think it would be in the details (not some fancy incantation), the rub of a quiet thumb, skin subtle, something just slightly below or outside normal perception, so as to "sneak into" the object, to create a presence felt but not known, an appeal without appealing. No one can do this, of course. Or so they say...

The magic in the story led me down this path, for instance, are there other accounts. How many people were there? Could there have a been a multitude of witnesses, each with their own interpretation? Some swearing they saw...

"...magic, I tell you it was magic. Muramasa's sword would cut, Masamune's would heal.And it repelled any leaf heedlessly charging at it, repelled it, I'm telling you, a miracle..."

  • Woods Used: bubinga, ebony, boxwood
  • Size: 13" x 6" x 3-1/2"" (approx)
  • Storage: keepsake box
  • Price: sold

You know that one of the ways to judge if a chisel is sharp is simply to look at its edge. If you can see the edge, the chisel's not sharp. Which means if you can't see it, it is sharp. Interesting, don't you think? The absence of evidence - you can't see it - provides the evidence - it is sharp.

Let's consider the circumstances:

Of all the ways to test for sharpness, why drop your sword in a brook? Which of them suggested this test? Why? Was it, possibly, the monk? Did he know what would happen?

So there they are, at the stream's edge, master and student. Was it a beautiful day? It should be. Let's let it be a glorious day, springtime, sun streaming through the trees, a serenity of bird songs and flower fragrances. The brook gently gurgles. Muramasa lowers his sword - I've heard it called "10,000 Winters", a bit chilling, you might say - into the waters. Leaves strike it and are severed. A gold fish (please, not a koi, please) errant on its way to supper, leans against the edge and is instantly decapitated. This is one sharp sword. A swallow skims the surface and... is split in two. A sword, for sure, for WAR. For victory!

Muramasa is elated. He spent hours, days, weeks, crouched over this sword, working it, perfecting its mettle, sweat-drenched and coal-fired, beating it, imbuing it with a warrior's heart - a sword should, must have such a heart - with one thought, to win, to prove its worthiness, to show the world, to show that old man...

Who, gently lowers his sword into the running waters.

A shy smile.

Muramasa waits. And nothing happens. Nothing.

Muramasa begins to giggle, a chortle, then an outright guffaw. He had nothing to worry about. The old man knows...nothing? Is that possible?

The fish swim by, uncaring, unknowing of their carefully tabulated significance. Leaves sail downstream, swirling into the future, unharmed. Birds peer down from a lazy breeze. Nothing happens. Nothing at all. Minutes go by.

(You can hear the music, can't you? An angular banjo...)

The monk has been watching. He walks toward them, bows. The world shifts. He explains what he's seen. He's watched the swords in the stream. He's studied Masamune and Muramasa. He knows that Muramasa's sword has done exactly what it was supposed to do - slaughter life. And he's seen Masamune's possible (very possible) ineptitude. He cannot know, there is no evidence that Masamune's sword did anything. Nothing happened. How would he know, what could he have perceived to persuade him that Masamune's sword changed the water's current so that nothing would strike it? He could not have seen that. There was no evidence, there could be no evidence. It was just a sword in the water, thngs floating idly by.

But he's a monk. It's about the monk. He knows things. His words ascribe qualities to the swords in the model of their makers. Both swords. Both makers. He's been sitting there by the stream, watching, (strumming) and he quietly suggests that these creators have perfected their craft to such a degree that they have imbued their swords with their own personas, their very souls, and by doing so, by postulating that this could be true, that by our own works and our own hearts we can perform miracles (like making a sword that cuts anything, or, better yet, making a sword that hurts nothing it shouldn't)... he sets us free.

Best regards,
Steve