Friday, August 12, 2011

Architecture & The Book of Five Rings

Miyamoto Musashi's The Book of Five Rings is a classic text of the martial arts, written in 17th century Japan. I'm reading Thomas Cleary's excellent translation.

Cleary argues that Musashi intended his work to apply not just to fighting, but to every endeavor of life. I'm certainly seeing the applicability to IT architecture:
The carpenter is used as a metaphor in reference to the notion of a house. We speak of aristocratic houses, military houses, houses of the arts; we speak of a house collapsing or a house continuing; and we speak of such and such a tradition, style, or "house." Since we use the expression "house," therefore, I have employed the way of the master carpenter as a metaphor.
The world of carpenter is written with characters meaning "great skill" or "master plan." Since the science of martial arts involves great skill and master planning, I am writing about it in terms of comparison with carpentry. 
If you want to learn the science of martial arts, meditate on this book; let the teacher be the needle, let the student be the thread, and practice unremittingly.  
Likening the Science of Martial Arts to Carpentry
As the master carpenter is the overall organizer and director of the carpenters, it is the duty of the master carpenter to understand the regulations of the country, find out the iregulations of the locality, and attend ot the regulations of the master carpenter's own establishment.  
The master capenter, knowing the measurements and designs of all sorts of structures, employs people to build houses. In this respect, the master carpenter is the same as the master warrior.
When sorting out timber for building a house, that which is straight, free from knots, and of good appearance can be used for front pillars. That which has some knots but is straight and strong ca be used for rear pillars. That which is somewhat weak yet has no knots and looks good is variously used for door sills, lintels, doors, and screens. That which is knotted and crookend but nevertheless strong is used thoughtfully  in consiration of the strneght of the various members of the house. Then the house will last a long time. 
Even knotted, crooked, and weak timber can be made into scaffolding, and later used for firewood.  
As the master carpenter directs the journeymen, he knows their various levels of skill and gives them appropriate tasks. Some are assigned to the flooring, some to the doors and screens, some to the sills, lintels and ceilings, and so on. He has the unskilled set out floor joists, and gets those even less skilled to carve wedges. When the master carpenter exercises discernment in the assignment of jobs, the work progresses smoothly. 
Efficiency and smooth progress, prudence in all matters, recognizing true courage, recognizing different levels of morale, instilling confidence, and realizing what can and cannot be reasonably expected — such are the matters on the mind of the master carpenter. The principle of martial arts is like this.
You can include IT under that metaphor just as easily as martial arts.
The Science of Martial Arts 
Speaking in terms of carpentry, soldiers sharpen their own tools, make various useful implements, and keep them in their utility boxes. Receiving instructions from a master carpenter, they hew pillars and beams with adzes, shave flors and shelving with planes, even carve openwork and bas relief. Making sure themeasurements are correct, they see to all the necessary tasks in an efficient manner; this is the rule for carpentry. When one has develop practical knowledge of all the skills of the craft, eventually one can become a master carpenter oneself. 
An essential habit for carpenters is to have sharp tools and keep them whetted. Is is up to the carpenter to use these tools masterfully, even making such things as miniature shrines, bookshelves, tables, lamp stands, cutting boards, and pot covers. Being a soldier is like this. This should be given careful reflection. 
Necessary accomplishments of a carpenter are avoiding crookedness, getting joints to fit together, skillful planing, avoiding abrasion, and seeing that there is no subsequent warping. 
If you want to learn this science, then take everything I write to heart and think it over carefully.

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