Sunday, September 24, 2006

Re-Framing the Question

The world, and our perception of the world, is incredibly plastic. It can be shaped and molded. Things are as they are, a rock is a rock, but whether the rock is an ugly lump or baroque beauty, whether it is an obstacle or a tool lies entirely in our perceptions and our choices.

Many people recognize the malleability of the world but it seems that few embrace it and actively practice using this amazing power.

One of the hardest things when dealing with new martial artists is that they want to learn to "fight" and they want to "win" and they hate "losing". None of those words have any meaning beyond the student's perception. They think sparring is fighting, for one thing, and it isn't. It is one of many training methods that increase some skills and attributes but can erode others. They think that ippon or a submission or a knockout is a win, but it isn't. It's a data point. If you were sparring with a friend and he suffered permanent brain damage, do you still feel it's a win? If you are having the best time of your life in a wild engagement with swords.. it's over when you score. How can ending something so fun be a win? And losing.. struggling against the best grapplers makes you stronger and smarter and more skilled. Few "wins" provide those benefits.

You try to tell them: "In the dojo, there are no winners and losers. There are teachers and learners and we are all both." But those are just words. Not as powerful, for most people, as the image in their head of winning and losing.

Everywhere. Some people lose jobs and they are crushed, others use it as the incentive they need to finally do what they always dreamed. Some are born into families of horrible poverty and abuse and use it to excuse every bad act and failure of their lives and a sibling born into the same situation says, "Not for me. My kids will have it better." For one an insurmountable obstacle, for the other a burning incentive.

This may be the most powerful expression of the human will: to choose what things mean and how to respond. Do you want to live forever? How many different ways can you define immortality? Some of those definitions are in your reach. Do you want to succeed? Would that be the "at peace with the world" success of a mendicant monk or the "material posessions" success of the business man? Or the "make the world a better place" kind of success? Or the "good father" kind of success? On and on.

Personally, I wanted to own the world. So I pissed on it. Marked my territory. It works for dogs. That world your standing on? It's mine.


Molly said...

Thanks for watering my trees!

Anonymous said...

"...and a sibling born into the same situation says, 'Not for me. My kids will have it better.' For one an insurmountable obstacle, for the other a burning incentive."

That right there--that's why I admire my lovely and talented wife and I'm very pleased and proud that she picked me.


The Moody Minstrel said...

Is not! At least half of it belongs to Bill Gates!