The Poet is perched on the rocky shore, pen in hand, puzzling over a notebook. His long frazzled hair and open shirt blow in the salty breeze. He muses, “What is the way to measure a man?”
The Candidate smoothes his dark suit, strikes the speechmaker’s pose. “It is difficult. All men are equal, yet not all make equal use of their talents.”
The Samurai is practicing kata on the sand above. “Self-discipline is the beginning of all merit,” he says. His controlled slashes are nearing the Poet’s head.
“Self-discipline?” asks the Poet, trying to shoo him away. “Self-denial you mean. A man’s capacity for life must be gauged by his capacity for awe, his ability to behold beauty.”
“We must take caution, though, in trying to measure men,” says the Candidate with quick, decisive gestures that make the Samurai spin and roll away. “There is no way of accounting for a beholder’s level of appreciation. Measuring men may be impossible.”
The Poet cries, “Then we must measure the impossible! And we will judge those whom deny life!” He thrusts his feathery quill at the Samurai. The Samurai parries nimbly and they fence upon the rocks while the Candidate orates at an imaginary podium.
“Each does what they are able,” says the Candidate. “That is the basis of our society.” The samurai scoffs and cuts open a sleeve of the Poet’s shirt. The Candidate continues, “A skilled man who will not work. A smart man who will not think. An eloquent man who will not speak…”
The Samurai yells at the Poet, “A strong man who will not fight!”
The Poet, running away, answers, “A living man who will not love!”
“These are the tragedies of our time,” finishes the Candidate. “The fear of discovering our limitations paralyzes all of humanity.”
The Samurai kneels, tired of toying with the Poet. He murmurs from a meditative trance, “In the end, only honor will distinguish men from beasts.”
The Poet leaps over him playfully, singing, “What notion of honor? All duty is born of the heart!”
The Candidate lifts a baby, kisses it. “Honor is addressing our debt to our forefathers.” He sets the child down among a dozen others.
The Poet storms toward him, fists clenched, eyes ablaze. “They left us with a debt to pay? Damn them!” The Candidate shrugs sympathetically.
The Samurai answers in a low and even tone. “It is not a debt that can be repaid. It can only be passed on.” The babies crawl all around him.
The Poet turns toward the ocean and takes a deep breath. “So what is the way to measure a man?”
The Candidate shrugs again. “Perhaps a man can only measure himself,” he says.
The Samurai stares at his sword. “The measure of a man is how much of himself he is willing to give.” He sinks the blade deep into his belly. He gives it a quick twist and slumps to the ground. The infants crawl away, up the shoreline. The Poet drops to his hands and knees and follows. The Candidate stands over the Samurai, gazing out across the ocean.