The Little Book of Ikigai by Ken Mogi

The Little Book of Ikigai by Ken Mogi
It isn’t icky!

Japanese self-help books are popular these days, often using a title with an Eastern philosophical term jammed in hinting of well-being.

And we don’t see anything wrong with that! We covered A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind (2018) not too long ago.

Why!? As more people in the West are turning to ancient Eastern philosophy to find peace of mind in the craziness of modern life. Let’s explore this one!

Ikigai and the Reason For Being

Kenichirō “Ken” Mogi is a Japanese neuroscientist and writer, this work has been published in over 30 countries.

The Little Book of Ikigai (2017) is essentially a book to help you find your mojo in life.

Think of it as an accompaniment to The Beauty of Everyday Things or In Praise of Shadows, both works steeped in Eastern philosophy.

And both designed to add some peace of mind to your routine, alongside avoiding excess in the name of a more natural way of things.

As ikigai is the concept of your reason for being and how to get yourself up out of bed each morning. Think of Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus and what drives you on in a world of seeming absurdity.

Mogi offers concise chapters to get to the point, which go along the lines of:

  • Your reason to get up in the morning
  • Kodawari and the benefits of thinking small
  • Flow and creativity
  • Finding your purpose in life
  • Finding your ikigai

It also lays bear the Five Pillars of the ikigai concept:

  1. Starting small
  2. Releasing yourself
  3. Harmony and sustainability
  4. The joy of little things
  5. Being in the here and now

Once you have these concepts in mind, you can consider the worth of this book and the concept it champions.

Whoever you are and at what stage you’re at in life, you’ll get something from every chapter. For us, chapter five appealed the most; Flow and creativity.

If you read this blog a lot, you’ll note we kind of like writing. And this isn’t driven by a desire to get rich and famous—we simply really enjoy writing a great deal. It’s the most important part of our lives!

THUSLY! It pleased us a great deal to see we were getting this part of ikigai rather well. As Mogi notes:

“If you can achieve the psychological state of ‘flow’, as described by the Hungarian-born American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, you will get the most out of ikigai, and things such as daily chores will even become enjoyable. You won’t feel the need to have your work or efforts recognized, you won’t be looking for a reward of any sort. The idea of living in a continuous state of bliss, without searching for immediate gratification through external recognition, is suddenly within your reach.”

And in essence, that’s the importance of The Little Book of Ikigai and other books like this.

At a time when we’ve come out of the terrible pandemic, there’s a war on, and the cost of living is skyrocketing, people need something to keep their focus.

So, it’s no surprise more and more people in the West turn to the East for lessons on how to live mindfully. A little book like this does have the potential to change your state of mind.

If you’re unhappy with your lot and frustrated with the capricious nature of all around you, in this philosophy you can at least find some joy in the little things around you.

And we do think that’s the answer. The little things.

There’s no need to focus on excess. As pointed out in Okakura Kakuzō’s 1906 essay The Book of Tea, focus on the appreciation of ikigai and the imperfections of the wabi-sabi (侘寂) philosophy:

“Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, and romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life.”

With ikigai, tea, and books you can find purpose in life. So, do it! Now! Otherwise you truly are a loser!

Perfecting the Art of Being a Loser

And now some philosophising about being a loser! It’s a greatly underrated life skill that’s much-maligned, but one that can be embraced.

See the above video by the excellent Einzelgänger.

Much of the idea of “loserdom” (it’s a term, okay?) comes from the hard right capitalist society idealist here in the West.

One of our biggest beefs with capitalism is the concept of, “Work hard and you shall succeed.” The idea the best rise to the top and poor people are a bit, you know… lazy.

These bizarre maxims are often reeled off by two sets of people:

  1. Those with the desperate belief things will eventually pick up for them as capitalism promises success through hard work.
  2. Wealthy people justifying their position so they don’t have to give a toss about the less fortunate.

In reality, 64% of Americans live from paycheck to paycheck. That alarming, much-ignored stat is from March 2022. Meanwhile in England, one-in-five people live in poverty. Wages are low, the cost of living is sky high.

As a system, capitalism is simply broken. It leaves the vast majority of people in a position of constant financial insecurity, is destroying our natural environment, and breeding very unpleasant human characteristics.

The more you exploit people, the better you’ll do. You can see this in politics and business, where wanton greed is getting out of control.

Of course, raise these issues online with pro-capitalists and you’re immediately accused of being “jealous”. We mean… what’s wrong with being a loser? Not everyone wants wealth, darlings, keep that in mind.

Yet capitalism defines “success” as wealth and anything short of that is loserdom. We really shouldn’t be lauding people as they have a big bank balance.

Hell, we must embrace the loser within.

By which we mean being totally at ease with yourself, not striving for wealth, and not screwing everyone over in the name of achieving that. Frankly, under the conditions of modern capitalism, it’s something we’re rather proud of.

Journalist and environmentalist George Monbiot noted in a 2014 piece Sick of this market-driven world? You should be:

“If you don’t fit in, if you feel at odds with the world, if your identity is troubled and frayed, if you feel lost and ashamed – it could be because you have retained the human values you were supposed to have discarded. You are a deviant. Be proud.”

Through The Little Book of Ikigai and mindful philosophies we think you can relieve the burnout of modern life.

And you can embrace that loser within! You can take a step back, sip a cup of tea, and just give less of a toss. Loserdom awaits!

11 comments

  1. Kon’nichiwa! Lovely little book. Americans wouldn’t be living paycheck to paycheck if they didn’t have to drive Corvettes and own Harley’s. Of course there’s the social programs that attract people from around the world.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I found my own ikigai recently. OK, so it involves downing 48 pints of lager at a sitting and then belching ‘She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain’. This might actually be less my ikigai than a reaction to the fact that, indeed, neo-liberal capitalism is very broken at the moment. I can’t tell which, though, owing to the 48 pints of lager.

    Liked by 1 person

Dispense with some gibberish!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.