Instead, Chris called me out on sophistries. Told him we should save it for a long talk over a beer, but he just couldn't let it go. It's sad, really. ;)
To recap: It started with my assertion that to mindfully learn to crush throats is incompatible with compassion; that learning violence to increase your peaceful nature is an oxymoron.
Chris pointed out that compassion extends not just to the threat but to the people you are protecting.
I said that sounded like a sophistry, and a good subject for a long conversation- with beer,
Ta-dum... Chris said a sophistry would be pointing out that compassion means "suffering with"... and here we are.
This really should be a long, rambling talk with lots of time to make sure that we all agree on the common ground and take care to see when meanings diverge blah, blah, blah. Nope. This is a blog, so it's going to be a monologue.
First using words they way they are defined is not sophistry, it is simple communication. So there! Glad that's out of the way. On to the meat:
People do what they are going to do. When they do it, they usually have a very definite reason. Simultaneously, they also have a lot of excuses and beliefs and 'shoulds' and accepted perspectives and bullshit running around in their heads. None of these are the actual reason for the action, but we/they often believe they are.
If you are going to take the bad guy out to protect yourself or your family, that's a perfectly good reason. You don't need any more than that. But if you have trained under some myth of a "compassionate warrior" one of those bullshit stories running around in your head will be that what you just did (broke a bone, snapped a joint, concussed a brain) must, in some way, have been an act of compassion. You can just look at the guy laying on the ground screaming, puking and bleeding and have a pretty good idea the compassion wasn't for him... so you convince yourself that compassion for the people you saved is just as valid and you can hold on to your compassionate warrior badge.
Chris is right to point out that compassion means "suffering with" (I would have held it at just 'feeling with' but he's right). You can't suffer with everybody. The best example is the way some teachers, counselors, medics or just friends can really be there with you in the dark times. I have never seen anyone exhibit that level of compassion to more than one person at a time. Part of the power lies in the focused personal attention that it requires. When someone tries to feel for everybody and everything, it is indistinguishable from angst (which I privately call 'emo whining bullshit paralysis').
This deep attention is also critical in combat. I don't always have to be completely in the (head, heart, spirit, motion, whatever it is, all about him) of the threat, I can also (and prefer to be) completely within myself, totally in my action.
So, in the moment of delivering damage, you aren't thinking about the people you are saving. If you aren't thinking about them, you certainly aren't 'suffering with' them. This is why it smelled like a sophistry to me- it sounded like the words someone would tell themselves to keep a label.
Protecting people is reason enough. You don't need to pretend that you were doing it with a certain type of emotional involvement or for a separate reason that you have been told is "the warrior ideal." (Not you, Chris- see the next paragraph to know what you stepped in).
A level deeper- someone wrote recently that training for fighting was exactly the same as training for enlightenment. That turned my stomach (and it was probably why I threw in the original line.) I have my own definition and understanding of enlightenment. It is not warm or fuzzy or particularly comfortable. Taking my understanding off the table and going with the enlightenment-lite (ala Yoda or Kwai Chang Cain) of mindful awareness and compassion...
If you are studying combatives, martial arts, what have you, you are learning to break a person. Let's up the graphics a little: You are practicing techniques to make a human being scream in pain. To stop them from breathing until their brain cells start to die. To make organs bleed and limbs snap so that they never work again. You are studying the art of manufacturing cripples and corpses. This is not compassionate. Pretending that caring for others counts as compassion against this is just whistling in the dark. This is why they are incompatible with enlightenment-lite: in order to pretend you are studying violence compassionately or for compassionate reasons, you must choose to not think about this truth- you give up mindful awareness.
(For my definition of enlightenment it doesn't work either because you can't artificially learn truth. IME.)
But, it can give you the confidence to walk into the places where the deep truths are a heartbeat away. It can become a step, it can't be the entire journey.
Enough on that. I owe Chris a beer if I'm ever in his neck of the woods.
I also owe Bobbe a Chimay (is that the really nasty, sweet trappist beer?) for the best review of the book ever. Sorry about page 90.
Also Scott (or coffee, if you don't do beer) next time I'm in San Francisco just for the line "He talks to us as if we were a bunch of girls sitting around in our nighties at a pajama party."
Lastly, a beer (or coffee, or scotch, whatever. Something.) for the first person who figures out the title of this post. (Payable when I am in the winner's city or he/she is in mine).