I’ve wanted to write about Zenkai for a long time but my expositions have needed time to crystallize. A few days ago I thought, “I need to sustain some good damage.” What was once fatal gradually becomes vital. Change is…
…”em…”, I typed, “imm… immanent?” I meant ‘imminent’, as in ‘anticipated’ or ‘presaging’. As I checked my spelling, I gained more insight. One of ‘imminent”s archaic meanings is “over-hanging” — I like how this gives ‘expectation’ a spatial property. My misspelling meant “existing or operating within; inherent.” — immanent. Mashing them together, W.B. Yeats’ image of history from “The Second Coming” surfaces. These near-homophones are the tight spiral of a new era emerging from the loosened coils of the old, Gyre theory: ‘immanently imminent’.
I mined google for traditional definitions of Zenkai; as an adverb, it means “previous session”. I found more apropos uses like “full recovery of health” and “full throttle”. Yet I will not pretend to speak Japanese nor can I deny that, really, I absorbed Zenkai’s essentials from “Dragonball Z” dubs I watched when I was fifteen on Cartoon Network’s Toonami. Zenkai is among the themes that continue to make the Dragon Ball franchise appealing and its imagery saturates how the word is understood. I hesitate to recommend the whole series (I think the writing deteriorated over time) but I relish the “Namek Saga/Freeza Saga” for its story-lines, characters, and demonstrations of Zenkai.
Dragon Ball’s “Saiyans” find strength in a growth process; they are not born ‘super’. They differ from humans in their capacity for Zenkai but the principle is maintained: they train hard, take risks, get pounded, persevere, and get stronger after recovering. For Saiyans, resilience-in-the-extreme develops both character and power. Their strength and abilities are not passively obtained from the sun nor the result of just one extraordinary event. They sustain ‘good damage’, recover, and repeat. I found this excellent encapsulation of it on Urban Dictionary:
Zenkai is the power boost that a Saiyan receives once he/she has experienced near death. In the Dragon Ball franchise, this can best be seen when Vegeta receives a large enough boost to over-power Zarbon [a henchman of Freeza], an enemy who had beaten him only a few episodes before [on Namek]. // In a much less literal definition, anyone can experience Zenkai. It’s just when someone comes back stronger and better than ever from a bad L taken in life. We all have Zenkai.-yeezymambagoku1997; June 09, 2018
A “bad L” is a ‘loss.’ I am drawn to Zenkai as I continue my endeavor to go beyond recovery to empowerment. Those who feel imprisoned in the dark for too long might stumble when the lights come-on. Our vision for ourselves doesn’t adjust immediately. We might hang doors and install locks between ourselves and the gateway, reverse engineering conditions that must be met perfectly before advancing. Some work needs done but I convinced myself I needed to completely understand how I came to my …grave? A recent Kati Mortan video explains that endlessly dissecting for detailed explanations may be an unhealthy defense mechanism called “intellectualization“. Now, I understand that I can cut the knot instead of perpetually untangling: I have the tools and I’m stronger.
Now, about Kaizen: the idea of gradual improvement. I read about it years ago in a pop self-help article. Kaizen represents a commitment to incremental development in business management– likewise, for individuals. It’s an evolutionary mindset that celebrates the discipline necessary to stay engaged. This video explanation of Kaizen’s kanji added more clarity; the presenter decomposes the characters into their constituent imagery. Kaizen is a ‘change-sacrifice’ — to whip the self is to sacrifice it upon the good altar. I suppose that Zenkai is a ‘sacrifice-change’ — to self-sacrifice on the good altar for the sake of changing. Zenkai connotes something more radical than Kaizen but not incompatible with it; either way, the lashes on our backs fuel transformation. Kai implies revolution but “good damage” is immanent.
If Kaizen is the training then Zenkai is the trial: discipline and resilience. Yet these are difficult to conjure in a trough filling with doubts. I must find the cusp and cultivate an attitude that encourages engagement with both preparation and risk. A week ago, I started to write “what goes up must come down,” but stopped when I remembered space-age truths: things can go up into orbit or ride gravitational slingshots onto rapid outward trajectories. A Voyager Space Probe has left the solar-system– with the momentum to overcome drag, things go ‘up’ and continue going and going and going…
I thought seriously about ‘the clock’, how I sense the work that remains, the time that I’ve lost, and my limited time on Earth — better to let that go. I almost droned about regrets, mostly my failure to anticipate factors I was under-equipped to sense, anyway. Perhaps I was “forever reproducing the shock of leaving [my village]” or could not “digest the consequences of my mistakes” or might even be “afraid of failure and success because they are entangled” — but these are just “intellectualizations”. Unbraiding the epochs of my life into smaller threads feels familiar so I keep playing with explanations– with words. To grow, I will practice the art of seeing the emergent, systemic properties of my self: what defines me happens to my whole being in the context of life.
The best inflection-point came as a surprise when I misspelled ‘imminent’ as ‘immanent’. Re-reading Yeats’ “The Second Coming” I found a fresh insight at the end: “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,/Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” Me– I did that. I felt unworthy in 2011 so I took on a mission… TBC: Zenkai and the Steadfast Cactus
Citations: (by hyperlink text)
gyre theory; “Can the Center Hold?” by Henry Bradford in The Celtic Fringe; Feb. 2014
“full recovery of health”; “Definition of 全快,ぜんかい” on Nihongo Master
“full throttle”; as posted by ‘Kendamu’ in thread “Zenaki Power has a meaning?!” on Kanzenshuu Forum