By Max Borders
Yasuhiko Genku Kimura
Growing up in rural Japan, whenever I saw Bonsai trees as a small child I always felt pain. I empathized with those poor, small, and artificially deformed potted trees proudly displayed by the Bonsai cultivators — all old Japanese men.
As I grew older, the reason I felt this aversion to the whole culture of Bonsai cultivation became clearer to me: Bonsai cultivation symbolized the Japanese education system and society in general. In the name of artistic appreciation, these trees were relentlessly trimmed, reshaped to the point of deformity, to suit the ‘refined aesthetic tastes’ of cultivators and appraisers.
What Bonsai cultivation is to these trees is what social programming or conditioning is to humans. We are each born uniquely informed of a singular potential, a Self, yet instead of being cultivated to grow as and into this authentic Self and unfold our singular potential, we become ‘Bonsainized’ in the name of education and socialization. We are homogenized in our unique deformation into an inauthentic, culturally-conditioned self.
Being an inauthentic self and living an inauthentic life is the state of existential suffocation and of suffering. Most people remain a Bonsai all their lives. Some people become ‘seekers after truth’ to emancipate and transform themselves from their Bonsai-hood to authentic selfhood. Only a few succeed, however, because ‘Bonsainization’ has been superimposed upon and programmed into the human existential program.
Among the few who succeed in self-authentication, self-emancipation, and self-transformation, fewer still are able to continue the process of self-evolution—authentic creative evolution—to create, author, and fulfill their own evolutionary possibilities.
Many people find — even after having regained and bestowed their authentic Self — that once suffering disappears, the necessary motivation for self-transformation and self-evolution is significantly diminished. Bonsainization has semi-permanently damaged their intelligence and creativity.
To heal yourself from Bonsainization requires that you allow yourself to wander in eternal wonderment, and let the magnificence present in the mundane touch your heart.
Don’t be a Bonsai. Be your Self.