Every Day Is A Good Day, Kind Of

Soon after I wrote this post, I was reminded of a certain Zen aphorism in Japanese: 日日是好日  which is read as nichi nichi kore kō nichi.

This usually translates as “every day is a good day”, or “each day is a good day” or other such things. It is originally attributed to a Chinese Zen monk named Yunmen Wenyan from the 9th and 10th centuries.

At first glance, this seems like a positive affirmation of life. This is the sort of thing you might see from life-coaches, self-help gurus, posters, daily affirmations, songs, and so on. Live, laugh, love and all that.

But that kind of attitude and outlook is only useful for financially stable, healthy, affluent people living in stable countries. It’s pretty useless for people who live in difficult circumstances, working thankless, dead-end jobs, dying from pneumonia, or suffering from abuse. If you’re a child in Syria who has lost their parents during the recent earthquakes, the “live, laugh, love” phrase rings pretty hollow.

A while back, I wrote about similar issues with Seneca’s philosophical teachings. The Stoic teachings which Seneca espoused basically amounted to “suck it up” and “don’t be sad”, which is fine when you’re a Roman senator, but not too useful for the Roman slave working the fields.

In fact, for most people in the world, most days are varying degrees of shitty.

Life is a slog; First Noble Truth of Buddhism right there.

So, is there any value or meaning to Yunmen Wenyan’s famous phrase? I think so.

This is strictly my own interpretation, so please take with it a grain of salt. This morning, I had to step outside in the early morning and I beheld the sunrise. It is cold, it is early March, it is still dark outside, yet I saw the sun rising, and birds flying past it. I was glad to see it, to be breathing and savoring that moment.

Life is bittersweet. It is full of pain, loss, frustrations, and unfulfilled needs. It doesn’t necessarily get better, but it does carry on. Each moment of breath is still worth it. If you can share it with others, so much the better. But even if not, each moment is still worth something.

This is, I believe, what Yunmen Wenyan might have been saying to us, even when it gets lost in translation.

P.S. RIP Leonard Nimoy. LLAP. 🖖

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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