Shimeikan: A Sense of Purpose

In his book, Nick Kemp provides a profound understanding of some Japanese terms by looking at their kanji characters and deconstructing them to reveal a deeper meaning. One example he gave was shimeikan (a sense of purpose).

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A deeper understanding of what's being expressed for the kanji.

Caitlin: Another thing I really liked as well, was the etymological information. And I know that you really thought long and hard about the things that you included and how much information to include because you didn't want to overwhelm people that didn't necessarily need that.

But I love it. I love how you can look into the kanji the different terms, the different words, to then kind of deconstruct and reveal what's the deeper meaning where does this come from? What can we get out of this now?

And I'm hoping that you'd be willing to share one or two of your favourites. And I know you have many favourites. So are there any particular words or phrases that you would like to teach us now you're on the podcast?

Nick: Absolutely. There could be quite a long list. But I'll start with two. And you're right. When you look at the kanji and you break down the kanji, it's almost like an epiphany, when you understand what's being expressed for the kanji. 

And when I looked at the word shimeikan, it blew my mind. So shimei means purpose. And we know kan means feeling or awareness or perception. And so it's probably a little bit hard to explain on the podcast, but we'll have a try. 

So shimei is constructed of two kanjis. And so the shi is used for the verb to use, so it's called tsukau in Japanese, but it means to use. So you have this one kanji character meaning essentially use. 

And then the second is also read as mei, but it's also read as in inochi, meaning life. So you have essentially use life. And then you add kan to that. It could be understood, and this is how I understood it, once I got this, I was like, ah, that's what purpose is. 

So it's the feeling or sense of how you use or wish to use the life that has been given to you. So that's what I drew from the kanji: it's the feeling of how you use your life is a sense of purpose.

And it kind of blew me away three characters, means all this, and it defines purpose from a perspective I never really thought about. So that that kind of blew my mind, our purpose is the way we use our life.

And a sense of purpose is this feeling of how we use or how we want to use the life that's been given to us. So that's pretty mind blowing.