Started this post on the way back from Tim's funeral. Time to end it now.
It will be three days on the road in a few hours. Everyone is sleep-deprived, not because of travel but because every time we settle down, we start talking and we don't stop.
Edwin put something into words. He studies systems, among other things, and is very good about making sure we define terms. So what is self-defense?
I like T. Rose's definition: "Self defense is not having your life changed for you." It implies a lot of things, like that there can be emotional and identity damage as well as physical harm. That on many levels we are not defending ourselves from physical damage and thus few people call a seat belt self-defense but everyone recognizes boundary setting as a basic self-defense skill.
But that is totally wrong. Our self changes all the time and has all of our lives.
We are, I hope, constantly learning. But all new knowledge changes you slightly. I type shittier when I'm tired and really don't care much about humans when I'm dehydrated. Puberty changed you far more than a near-death experience will. This thing we call 'self' doesn't have a solid existence. It is, at best, a fluidity.
One of the frustrating things with naive martial artists is that when you boil it down, they want to be able to survive something completely outside of their experience, an incident where all of their preconceptions about human behavior and what they will do if and when will be shattered. They don't only want to survive the ohnomoment, but they expect that they will survive it with all of their illusions intact. All of their beliefs confirmed. That at the end of it, they will be who they always imagined they would be.
Sure. That happens. (Do I need a sarcasm icon?) And the even weirder part is that no matter how many times people say it won't be like that or that the things they fantasize at the best are more like driving a garbage truck than riding a white horse (at the worse they toy with blindness and paralysis and death and colostomy bags and the sure and certain knowledge of failure)... it doesn't matter. Their eyes still get shiny. They still cling to comforting lies.
But it's not just comforting lies about their skills. Who we are is rarely more than a comforting lie. There's a meditation exercise where you think of who you are and then take things away and ask if you are still you. Blind? Crippled? Loss of family or status? How much intelligence loss? Memory? (that's the one for me, I don't think I would be me under extreme dementia, but then I look at all the events of my life that I have already forgotten and wonder...) Your dignity? Happiness? If the gods decided on a bet to torment you so that you never had a happy moment again, it would still be you being miserable. If your pain was taken away?
So where is the 'self' in self-defense?
The ego is just as much of the self as the body, maybe more. Yet like everyone else, I caution against fighting for ego. Probably because it is just an illusion anyway. Maybe. Maybe because all of the changes of life can be managed, can be recovered, if you are alive to do it. You die with your self-image intact, then that self-image fades to nothing as the oxygen leaves your brain. You survive with your self-image shattered and you have the opportunity to build a new one.