This is a daruma doll. It is part of a goal-setting/wish-fulfillment tradition from Japan. This particular doll happens to be mine.
The daruma doll represents Bodhidarma, an Indian monk. Tradition has it that he is the one who brought Zen Buddhism to China. Depending on who you talk to, he’s also credited with starting Shaolin kung fu as a way to keep monks fit and healthy enough to perform rigorous meditations. There are a few legends about him. One of which is that he fell asleep in year 7 of a 9 year meditation and was so angry with himself that he cut off his eyelids so it wouldn’t happen again. Where they hit the soil, two tea plants sprung up and so tea became a stimulant to keep practitioners awake during meditation. Another is that in this 9 year meditation, his focus was so intense that the rest of his body wasted away, arms and legs dropping off from disuse. This is why the daruma doll has no limbs and lidless eyes.
The dolls are weighted on the bottom so that, much like a weeble-wobble, it cannot be knocked over. Supposedly. This one can rest on the groove the face creates, but any slight bump will set it wobbling until it is upright again. It is made this way to be representative of determination: get knocked down 8 times, get up 9. And to get that Chumbawumba song stuck in your head for the next several days. The most important feature are the eyes. When purchased, the doll has none. The idea is that you draw in one eye and set a goal. You then put it in a prominent spot to remind you of that goal. And then you keep striving towards it. You may get knocked down many a time, but like the doll, you always get back up and keep pursuing the goal.
Around 6 years ago, I got this doll from the Japanese-American cultural center here in Los Angeles. Up to that point, I had spent nearly 6 years working in distribution for the Bel-Air circuit at Disney (this article describes the gist of it with about 80% accuracy: Best Seat in the House – WSJ). It paid the bills, all of them, very well. I am debt free because of it and for that I am very thankful. However, providing rich people with movies to watch was not what I moved 3000 miles to do. There was a certain amount of focus I lacked when I came out here. I knew the movie business was where I wanted to be, but I flitted around many edges of it from writing to props to voice acting to special effects to set building and designing to acting. Everything was interesting, but without concentrating on one thing I found myself tossed about by chance. I had ended up in the Business, but not in an area for which I had trained or had any particular passion. It was somewhere around 2004 that I picked up the doll. I thought the tradition sounded neat and I figured I’d find a use for it at some point. A few years later, around the middle of summer if memory serves (although here the weather can’t be used as a marker for the seasons so my sense of time becomes a bit muddled) I filled in one of the eyes and set it on a special shelf, vowing to change careers. My criteria were simple – I had to be hired to perform a job in the chosen field. Not an internship, not a low-budget “for the love of it” project, not a spec project that sometime in the future will pay off. A simple cash-for-hire job. Preferably with a W-9 that needs filling.
Today, along with the W-9, I filled in the second eye.
I’m doing some freelance work for Anzovin Studio! I’m very excited about the project, but I can’t say a whole lot more because of the NDA. I will say that given my life-long interests, it’s pretty much the perfect starting job. I am totally thrilled! It’s been a long ride to get here and many things happened along the way I never thought were possible. I’ve got to rest up for work tomorrow, but I want to give a quick shout-out to Cristin McKee from whom I got the lead. Thank you so very much!