I don’t much doubt my ability to communicate with the written word. It is an amazing tool and with practice it gets better. But this is the nature of the beast, the nature of what I teach and talk about: it is scary as all hell. It is death and annihilation. Not just facing your own demise, that’s easy, but the fact that you may face your final years blind or crippled or with the memory of having crawled or begged.
Teachers don’t talk about it, usually. But we all know that this is what it is. This is where it all might go. Because of that, because of its nature, people are almost infinitely creative in ways to NOT think about it. If you read “With the Old Breed on Peleliu and Okinawa” E. B. Sledge describes it perfectly: “…men had squared away their gear and had done their last-minute duties: adjusting cartridge belts, pack straps, leggings, and leather rifle slings—all those forlorn little gestures of no value that released tension in the face of impending terror.”
Fiction, movies, martial arts, late night fantasies- putting this impending terror and pain into boxes, pretty boxes small enough to hold in your brain.
This is the busy work of the monkey mind. The obsession with perfect form, the martial arts politics, the bickering over lineage, treating instructors like gods and your training as The Truth are all just different ways to hide your brain from what this is.
I don’t doubt that I can describe the technique in the written word. But this isn’t about technique. This is why I teach individuals and in person- because I have to be there to see when the mind wanders, when developing a skill becomes an obsession to hide behind or when they are doing something to avoid seeing something else. I have to hold what it is and what they are doing before them at all times. In the written word, no matter how strong the truth or how limited the bullshit, there is always enough weasel room that it can become a place to hide behind surface knowledge, a way to ignore while pretending to see- or just fodder for a fantasy.
Because this is my amulet- to hold up what I know about this by its slimy neck and look at it without flinching. Knowing it will kill me some day and refusing to look away. I choose to believe that if I poke at the dark places and wade in the shit I will understand it, at least a little. And that will let me control it, at least a little.