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Stay down to earth and modest

Stay down to earth and modest

When art meets science

Who: Henry Otgaar, Psychologist

Book: The Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi

Target group: students of Psychology

Psychologist Henry Otgaar has been interested in martial arts his whole life. “My father is of Indonesian origin, so as a young boy of five I started my martial art training in Pencak Silat.” It is often about more than just the sport. “There’s a philosophy behind it. ‘Hardship is very therapeutic’ is a statement that you can hear a lot.”

The Book of Five Rings describes the philosophy behind samurai – Japanese warriors. “This is one of the very few books that has actually been written by a samurai.” This Miyamoto Musashi lived from 1584-1645 in a region southwest of Tokyo. He fought in various wars and won duels against other famous samurai. He wrote The Book of Five Rings towards the end of his life. “In the book, he explains how a samurai should live, using stories and situational sketches.” According to Otgaar, scientists can learn a lot from that. “You learn that you should be down to earth and modest. We serve society. Samurai literally means to serve. It is great to be successful, but it is not about you yourself.”

Otgaar thinks that it is good that students should be aware of that from early on. “We have recently seen many examples of scientists beating the big drum. Who commit plagiarism and invent data, because they really want to have themselves heard. While really you should be reserved, calm, not feeling the need to say too much.”

There is, by the way, another link that can be made with Psychology, says Otgaar. “Research shows that humbleness is good for your mental health. There is still a lot that is unclear about how it is exactly, but we know that people who live according to a philosophy that preaches humbleness are often calm, have an open mind and a healthy dose of self-confidence.”

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