The Way of the Runari is a philosophy which combines principles on how we live our lives and paths to self-improvement.

A love of art, culture, nature, and people, is one of the key ingredients. However, this is matched by creation, conservation, fellowship, and conversation.

My singular aim in developing the Way of the Runari is to create something which can be made individualised. It’s something personal you develop within the framework. And most of all, it’s not dogmatic at all. 

What does Runari mean?

In his book, Lost Japan, art collector and Japanese cultural expert, Alex Kerr compared the western Literati with Japanese Bunjin. Both are cultured people and both mean ‘person of the word.’

I’ll go into this more below, but I wanted a word derived from Old English – deep, really old English where merges into Nordic, Germanic, and Gothic. But, I wanted it to have the same meaning.

Runari is that word. Runa is the Gothic word for Rune or letter or word. Runes were not originally mystic, but just an alphabet. The suffix +ari is proto-Germanic and is the archaic equivalent to +er. 

So literally Runari means worder – or person who words. It might sound mystical because it’s related to runes, but really it’s just my translation of bunjin and literati.

What’s the difference between Literati and Runari?

As noted above, Kerr discusses the differences between literati and bunjin. One is a western idea and one an eastern. Both mix culture, art, and intellect, but they are very different.

Literati form part of a cultural elite, a class, and their style mixes into this. There’s snobbery over what is art and what is not. Furthermore, there’s no creativity beyond small piano pieces and the written word.

Bunjin on the other hand take inspiration from two Chinese philosophies – Confucianism and Taoism. They mix discipline and virtue with creativity and whimsy. Bunjin are normal people but they also do martial arts and they do calligraphy and another art too like flower arranging.

Is it important to find balance in our lives?

My ideas on Runari mix both western ideas – our deep pagan and Christian pasts, and eastern ideas built on taoism (daoxue) and confucianism (ruxue).

As a result, it understands that life is a series of balances. Too many ideologies are uncompromising and have fatal weaknesses they perceive as strengths.

Ruxue: Joy comes from studying things. It promotes discipline and a steadfast love of thee arts. To do this, live the arts, learn of literature, and learn to make right the heart.

Daoxue: Wander free – explore nature, ideas, embrace waterfalls, climb walls, be with the woods, have fun, be mirthful, experience things, and enjoy pure conversation.

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson in his book 12 Rules for Life also considers the balance between order and chaos. This is another balance.

A further balance is that of the self versus that of others. Individualism has been mischaracterized as selfishness. This is not the case. Love yourself and you can better love others would be a better way to phrase it.

We cannot give too much to others or we lose ourselves. It’s about balance.

My personal Runari journey

From 2004 to 2009, I lived in Japan. At the time I felt Japan was a fairly hollow culture of superficiality. However, I really appreciated two things.

The first thing was that all my colleagues and most of my Japanese friends practiced at least one type of art. Mr. Toyoda, a science teacher, wrote haiku. Another did kendo. Others practised calligraphy and flower arranging.

Then I met my good friend Taka. He was a gravelly voiced English teacher who collected art, did calligraphy, was passionate about Japanese arts, and together we’d translate Japanese songs into English.

However, it was not until I got home from Japan, had lived in Hungary, and pitched up in Bristol, that I began to develop these ideas. The catalyst was Alex Kerr’s book Lost Japan and the chapter on literati.

Over the last few years things have coalesced together into this idea. Maybe it’s just for me, but I hope others like it too and wish to live the ideas. Or even better – improve them.

What are the 12 principles of Runari?

There are twelve basic principles for the Runari way of life. It took me a long time to decide what dozen principles to include. I wanted to narrow them down to the absolute basics including morality and approaches to life. Here they are:

  1. Appreciate
  2. Create
  3. Freedom
  4. Responsibility
  5. Logic
  6. Love
  7. Virtue
  8. Truth
  9. Courage
  10. Non-Aggression
  11. Curiosity
  12. Pure Conversation

Appreciate: What do you appreciate in the world? It could be art like Botticelli’s Venus or it could be butterflies, fragile flowers etc…  Take the time to appreciate things in this world.

Create: Add value to this world. It doesn’t matter what you create be it art, music, poetry, stories, handicrafts, flowers, clothes or more. Enjoy creation.

Freedom: You are a free person with your own mind and body. You have agency over yourself and your actions – the only limit is you’re not free to impact others how you wish.

Responsibility: Accepting freedom means accepting responsibility for the consequences of your actions. Be mindful of yourself and others. Take on responsibilities to get meaning in your life.

Logic: Apply logic. Our gut instincts are important; they’re part of our subconscious, but we should use logic to deduce facts and make complex decisions.

Love: Love is the solution to hate. It bonds us together as families, as friends, as communities, and as lovers. Show love even if it’s tough love.

Virtue: Hold yourself to high moral standards though hold off from judging others too harshly. Live by your morals too and be a virtuous person.

Truth: Tell the truth and seek the truth. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable and nasty, but living in a fantasy world or putting ideology over facts is far more dangerous.

Courage: To be successful or to have a chance at happiness, you have to have the courage to risk things. Have courage in what you do, what you believe, and believe in others too.

Non-Aggression: Do no physical harm to others and respect their property rights. You can defend yourself and those you love though – don’t be weak.

Curiosity: Explore the world, explore ideas, art, nature, and more. Be curious about everything and follow your personal interests.

Pure Conversation: Have the freedom to discuss anything you want with anyone. Do not shut down ideas or conversation topics – there’s no limit to conversations.

What are the 12 paths of the Runari?

Principles are one thing. They help us decide how to live our lives and what to do in given situations. However, there are also 12 paths to self development, here they are:

  1. Way of the Mind
  2. Way of the Body
  3. Way of the Soul
  4. Way of Science
  5. Way of the Word
  6. Way of Nature
  7. Way of War
  8. Way of Tea
  9. Way of Fellowship
  10. Way of Tranquility
  11. Way of Craft
  12. Way of Art

Way of the Mind: If we want a rewarding and meaningful life, we need to develop our minds. We have our limits, but we can make the best of what we’ve got and how we approach life.

Way of the Body: A strong mind and soul, an active and good life, requires a healthy body. We all have our own unique physical needs, so let’s work on them and improve ourselves.

Way of the Soul: A soul is our sense of being, our innate morals and self-image. To retain our life sparks we need to develop our spiritual selves.

Way of Science: The way of science is a path toward understanding the world around us and how things fit together. Question everything and use methodical knowledge building to test ideas or interpret data.

Way of the Word: Words are the key to civilisation. Be they spoken, written, or read, they connect us together and allow us to make sense of the world. Become a learned person to the best of your ability – even try calligraphy.

Way of Nature: The wild world around us is chaotic and dangerous, but it’s also beautiful and amazing. We’re part of nature, we gain from it and we contribute to it. Nature should be a massive part of your life.

Way of War: Martial arts contribute so much to our lives beyond being able to fight. Do not initiate violence, but learn the skills you need to defend yourself and others too. Learn the discipline and other values of martial arts too – they’re key to mind, body, and soul.

Way of Tea: There is more to the way of tea than the medicinal benefits of good teas. Tea is a ritual related to hospitality and is related to peace, pure conversation, and fine art.

Way of Fellowship: We’re not solo individuals. Therefore alone with the way of tea, we need to learn fellowship and camaraderie. Cooperation is vital for us to survive and thrive.

Way of Tranquility: Conversely, we need alone time. Some of us need it more than others, but we should invest in the power of moments of tranquility, peace, and solitude.

Way of Craft: Learn to make things with your hands – learn to fix them, repair them, reuse things, and enhance things. From sewing to pottery via carpentry, learning to make useful items can really enhance our lives.

Way of Art: One of the major planks that Runar is built on is the appreciation and creation of art. Collect art – it doesn’t have to be expensive or popular with critics, but follow you own love and ideas. But try to make art too even if it’s doodles and guitar playing.

What are the first steps to become a Runari?

From what I’ve read, the originators of ideas or ways like this one, are flexible people trying to find a solution to a problem or a life philosophy. Marx is an obvious exception. However, those who follow tend to be ever more rigid.

Be like water. Being a Runari means living by the 12 principles and developing the 12 paths. There’s no hierarchy or belt system, no one is better than anyone else simply because they excel at any one particular element. 

This is the key. Runari are individuals – not selfish ones or isolated ones, we’re people who work on making ourselves the best, cultured people we can, and we decide how that’s done. So first accept the principles and then develop your paths.