Daruma

Just as is true anyplace else, most of the stuff on TV here is garbage—silly chat shows, talking heads, an astonishing number of ramen shop reviews—a lot of bells and whistles and very little content with any real meaning.

But there is one program I really like. Very low budget and broadcast on a free cable channel, it’s called “The Making”. Each week, the camera goes to a factory somewhere and shows the process of making something in detail. I’ve seen canned corned beef and train cars, among other things. Today was daruma dolls.

Daruma are derived from the founder of Zen Buddhism, who is said to have meditated for nine years, during which time his arms and legs atrophied and fell off, which is why the dolls look like this:

daruma no eyes

They have come to be seen as lucky charms and symbols of encouragement. When you buy a daruma, it has no eyes. You’re meant to make a wish or set a goal and paint in one eye:

Daruma one eye

If his purpose is a goal, he’s meant to be a pesky reminder to keep at it. If it is a wish, he sits on the shelf getting dusty.

When and if the wish comes true, or you achieve your goal, you paint in the other eye:

Daruma two eyes

Then, at the end of the year, you take him to the local temple where the monks burn him for you. Then you buy a new one. (Well, there’s more to it than that, but in a nutshell…)

So “The Making” went to a factory where daruma are made by hand and we saw the entire process, from pressing the paper pulp that makes up his body to the final step of painting in his whiskers.

One of the things I like about the show is that there’s no narration, just soft music and sub-titles for explanation. Sometimes less really is more.

I wish there was more of that kind of stuff on TV and less of the garbage.

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