The year was 1970.
On a crisp November afternoon in Tokyo, Japan, a man named Yukio Mishima forced his way into the country's Self-Defense Forces headquarters.
Emerging on a balcony overlooking hundreds of Japanese soldiers responding to the chaos, Yukio delivered an impassioned speech calling for the overthrow of Japan's post-WWII constitution and the restoration of the country's former militaristic glory.
Unfortunately for Yukio, the speech failed to sway the bewildered armed forces. Realizing that his revolution was doomed, the quixotic Yukio did the one thing capable of eradicating the inconceivable shame of such spectacular failure: he took out his sword, pierced his right abdomen, and dragged the blade across his torso, effectively disemboweling himself.
Yukio had just committed the ritual Japanese suicide called seppuku (also known as harakiri). And he had done so in a modern office building in front of servicemen and civilians with ordinary administrative jobs, like secretaries and accountants.
Adding intrigue to this implausible incident is the fact that Yukio Mishima wasn't your run-of-the-mill lunatic launching a futile coup d'etat; he happened to be one of Japan's most renowned authors. Hours before his fall from grace, Yukio had submitted his long anticipated final novel to his publisher.
To some, Yukio was a madman practitioner of an antiquated and barbaric ritual. But to those of us who know what the fuck we're talking about, Yukio was a visionary, who chose to die with dignity rather than live the rest of his life mocked as a stupid asshole.
It is time to follow in Yukio's footsteps and commit seppuku when necessary.
Historically, three primary reasons could compel a Japanese samurai to commit seppuku.
When faced with inevitable capture, a samurai would choose seppuku rather than be taken alive by his enemies to demonstrate that he was not afraid of a painful death.
Seppuku was also a form of capital punishment for the most serious crimes.
Finally, a samurai welcomed sweet seppuku as a way to expunge great shame he had brought to himself or his family.
Clearly, only a lunatic would advocate that we reinstate seppuku as a capital punishment option or to avoid capture, as that would not be compatible with the advanced cultural mores of the 21st century.
On the other hand, we should condone seppuku as a means to salvage oneself from infinite shame just as Yukio Mishima had correctly done.
If you've ever taken the time to take your head out of your ass and study people beyond superficially observing them (through your ass), you probably realized that shame is the one common denominator uniting humanity. Most people, regardless of culture, background or social status, are drowning in a sea of shame every waking minute of their lives.
Tragically, modern society addresses this universal affliction via a host of culturally permissible but impotent cures.
Meditation cannot erase the shame of finding out you're all out of detergent after putting a load of laundry in the washer.
Praying for strength won't eliminate the shame of taking the departure exit at the airport when you were supposed to be picking up your sister at the arrival gate.
Self-deprecating humor won't make you hate yourself less for mistakenly turning on the rear burner, while your pot of water remains unheated on the front burner.
Everyone who isn't a self-deluded fool will admit that these and all other prescriptions have failed. Consequently, the untreated shame has metastasized and infected our collective soul. Trying to remove it with mea culpas or metaphorical self-flagellation is as effective as taking a shower after unprotected sex to prevent STDs.
Understand: if your life is a series of shameful missteps or if you've reached peak shame, seppuku is the only practical solution for freeing yourself from shame's tyranny.
Before anyone accuses me of advocating suicide, let me be clear: suicide is the coward's way out; it's a selfish and callous act causing pain to people who love you or depend on you financially. If you're reading this and you're suicidal, please get help. (Check out Viktor Frankl's Men's Search for Meaning for a brilliant perspective on life.)
In short, don't fucking off yourself because your wife left you or because the Bears didn't cover the spread and now one-eye Vinnie wants his money. That's not seppuku's purpose. In fact, committing seppuku for the wrong reason is itself a shameful act for which there is no recourse, since sadly you cannot commit seppuku more than once.
You don't commit seppuku because you're depressed, anxious, or have lost the will to live. You commit seppuku when you have dishonored yourself to the point where your only shot at redemption is to die a horribly agonizing death.
In the ten years that I've counseled patients on seppuku best practices, one of the most frequent questions I get is, how do I know when I have reached peak shame?
This is a perfectly reasonable concern, as not every shameful misstep mandates seppuku. To help you discern between seppuku-deserving shame and shame that can be overcome without disemboweling yourself, I've compiled the following list.
The Right Reasons to Commit Seppuku:
✔ You inadvertently overtip or undertip by 5% or more
✔ You call someone you've known for at least a year by the wrong name
✔ You don't wash your hands after using the bathroom
✔ You wear sweatpants to work
✔ You wear sweatpants
✔ You think you're good at battle rap, but when you enter a contest, you find out your lyrical prowess is mediocre at best
The Wrong Reasons to Commit Seppuku:
X Your haircut makes you look like a 16th century English vagabond
X You are terrible at aiming you car on the car wash conveyor belt, bungling comically as the car wash employee fumes
X You have bruises all over your legs from walking into furniture
X You don't notice when the person you are walking with falls behind, and you start talking to a random person about to pass you, mistaking him for your friend
X When a TSA agent says, 'have a good flight,' you reply, 'thanks, you too!'
X Your face displeases people
I keep this list in my wallet. You too would be wise to carry it wherever you go and consult it regularly to determine when seppuku is warranted. You don't want to find yourself in a situation where you're unsure if you should commit seppuku, and end up flipping a coin. No one wants to see your guts spilling out on aisle six because you incorrectly concluded that forgetting to bring a shopping list was a seppuku-worthy transgression.
Granted, this is not an exhaustive list. It would have been absurd for me to attempt to compile a list that includes every seppuku-worthy and unworthy scenario. Think of this list as a frame of reference for guiding your decisions. For example, let's say your haircut makes you look like an ethnically ambiguous captain of an unprofitable fishing trawler, instead of a 16th century English vagabond. After consulting the list, you should quickly determine that you do not have to commit seppuku.
Remember, ritual Japanese suicide should be a fun experience, not a tedious chore. When you know you have brought insurmountable shame to yourself and your family, it should bring you great joy to know that as you insert the blade into your abdomen and carve through your internal organs, you will win back your lost honor.
The lesson we glean from the story of Yukio Mishima is unquestionably the most important lesson in the history of the world; after having disgraced yourself, you're left with two and only two choices: live the rest of your life consumed with shame or free yourself by committing the lost and noble art of seppuku.
Choose wisely, and happy seppukuing!