Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Getting It

If you aren't careful, experience can become your worst enemy.

You may have had a hundred fights, but this particular fight you will only have once. If you play off the old scripts and the situation changes, you will fail.

I'm halfway through a fascinating book called "Deep Survival" by Laurence Gonzalez. At this point, I can't accurately summarize it except to say it's about why some people die. He's covered the neurochemical response to stress and how it can lock you into previous behaviors. How when the stress goes on you can lock your eyes on the goal and kill yourself smashing into it. How a well-worn mental map can become "more true" than the reality it was meant to describe. How people who are used to a safe environment and working to make it safer mentally choke on the idea that there are some things that you can never make safe- that walking in the woods a hundred times is fine until Nature decides "today's the day" and you are faced with how truly miniscule a human brain, body and spirit are in the face of a cold ocean, thirst or an avalanche.

It hit a lot of my buttons about violence, because we can't make this job safe. It can't be done. You can develop incredible tactical skill and superhuman awareness and have every gadget known to man and still go in to break up a fight and be burned to death with some thrown rubbing alcohol and a lighter.

One of the things that keeps coming up echoes one of my admonitions: Gonzalez says that survivors are the ones who never hold their 'reality maps' to be sacred, who keep an eye on what is actually happening and don't have a problem with ditching a plan or just getting the hell out of Dodge when the situation ceases to resemble the plan. I say the people who get fucked up are the ones who think that they have the answer.

It's not about answers- it's about the questions.

Tony sent a note into Cyberspace, someone had told him it was a pleasure talking to him because he 'got it'. It bugged Tony, because he has enough experience with bad people and bad situations to know that there are no answers in real life, and he's a very humble martial artist who sees all that he has yet to learn,

But he does get it, in a way that very few martial artists ever do: There aren't any answers. There's no silver bullet, there's no Holy Grail. There is no training or system or instructor who will make you safe. Everybody dies. Well trained and conditioned martial athletes get their asses kicked or their throats cut or gunned down in the street. Well-trained tactical officers get shot in the back of the head and Delta Operators get overwhelmed and ambushed.

And no one wants to hear that. They don't want a teacher who says, "I don't have any answers for you." People pay for answers. They want solutions to problems.

The best you can give them are percentage points, and remind them to keep their eyes open to what is going on. Tony gets that. Not many people do. Not many want to.


Kai Jones said...

From childhood we want certainty, predictability, order. The world is none of those things. Far better to have as many different coping skills as you can manage, along with a large tolerance for ambiguity.

Anonymous said...

Ahh, but total order, the rock-stable centeredness, total surety, safety, success, are all there to be had. Doesn't mean that the one boulder that falls all year from the cliff over your favorite scenic drive won't pick just that moment to smash your car - it's all in what you identify with - transient chaos or unchanging order.

Kai Jones said...

Order is not my goal. Justice is my goal. Not quite the same thing, and the one will get in the way of the other.

It's through exercising choice that we improve the world, through choosing good over evil.

The Moody Minstrel said...

The problem is that good and evil are relative. Don't forget that Al Qaeda seriously believes itself "good" and us "evil".

Kai Jones said...

Minstrel, I am not a cultural relativist.

The Moody Minstrel said...

So...what do you consider the basis of what you consider "good"? Do you use your own personal definition, secular society's definition, or a religious definition? Or do you just follow the expression, "Do it if it feels good"?

I've found that, even within our own (American) culture, people can have widely differing views on what constitutes "good". Some people consider "mind expansion" (i.e. drugs) good, while others consider it poison and therefore evil. Some people consider homosexual love good since it is a form of love, while others consider it in violation of God's law and therefore evil. Some people would think it good to bludgeon a child-molestor into a puddle of bloody slush, while others would consider it murder and therefore evil.

It's hard to be an absolutists when the absolutes seem to be so many and so flexible.

How can anybody be enlightened?
Truth is, after all, so poorly lit.

- Rush, "Turn the Page"

Anonymous said...

It's the loss of our connection with the Absolute (I am not a believer in a personal Being) that makes all this so complicated, when it's really so simple. (Perhaps my being simple-minded helps). And it's definately not a rational matter but is one of feeling (as separate from faith). Looked for, it cannot be found, but felt, it can be seen. (Yes, I just made half of that up).

The Moody Minstrel said...

I like it!