How can life have meaning without death? How can joy have meaning without sadness?
Japanese samurai used to contemplate death. This was not some morbid fixation. Admitting their own mortality forced the warriors to accept that life is a precious and fleeting gift. They regarded the cherry blossom as a symbol of this insight. Cherry blossoms bloom for a brief period and then fall at the very height of their beauty. To the samurai this was a melancholy reminder of death amidst life. It was an example of great beauty and sadness.
This poignant insight into life and death allowed the samurai to live their lives more fully; they realised that death could come at any moment. It is not for nothing that the samurai have chosen for their truest symbol the fragile cherry blossom. Like a petal dropping in the morning sunlight and floating serenely to earth,so must the fearless detach himself from life, silent and inwardly unmoved. (Eugen Herrigel)
Cherry blossoms were seen to possess natural beauty and grace. The word 'beauty' does not refer simply to the appearance of the flower; it captures the sense of dignity and strength contained within something so fragile and fleeting. 'Grace' is a word seldom considered in our times. It can mean a variety of things: compassion, kindness, goodwill, elegance and beauty of movement. For the samurai, grace meant rectitude. Rectitude can be defined as appropriate conduct; considering how your behaviour affects other people and seeking to do what is right. The cherry blossom is a reminder that our life will not last. In the face of death, is there any need for pettiness, argument, callousness and cruelty? If you accept death, does that change how you live? Nothing that we consider important will last - especially ourselves.