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Ronin chemistry September 16, 2008

Posted by fetzthechemist in Musings.

As someone who loves the flow of history and its interconnections to current happenings and attitudes, I have read a huge amount of history of all sorts. One of these many locale and era combinations was feudal Japan, which actually lasted until Matthew Perry in the 1850s opened up the isolation Japan had forced on itself. So it really is rather modern in our terms, contemporary with John Brown and Bloody Kansas and after the California gold rush.

Everyone has heard of the samurai of this period. Professional warriors, most of whom were retained by a nobleman. Throughout the feudal period in Japan, there was no real uniform rule. There were lords and counts and barons all over the place. Swifting alliances were common and the ebb and flow of these sometimes resulted in a defeat. If the loser’s samurai had no reputation or had questionable loyalty to the new lord, he could be let go, given independence. These samurai were known as ronin. They were wandering freelancers, for hire to a lord who needed a good swordsman. Toshiro Mifune’s characters in the Kurosawa movies were often romin.


So what does that have to do with anything contemporary? Well, for me, as a consultant and sometimes contractors, I think of myself as a ronin chemist, wandering through the various fields of work doing what needs to be done by someone willing to pay me for those skills. It seems more romantic than just being a freelancer.



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