Tuesday, August 01, 2017

What It Is

For any of you who are really familiar with my stuff, this isn't a concept (In the Building Blocks/Principles/Concepts mode) but rather a meta-concept. The looking glass. So far, I think I've only really written about concepts in the Training Journal and in some class handouts. "Concepts" is my catch-all phrase for the way understanding changes. At one point in my martial career, I wouldn't have understood that a 'fight' and an 'assault' were different and largely unrelated things. Now the concept seems so obvious that I have to work at remembering that some of my students may not understand a difference exists.

The meta-concept is the "Looking Glass." A reference to Lewis Carroll's book. You cross a threshold of experience and things that made sense in a certain way now make sense in a different way. When you were eight years old, girls were icky and there were girl germs and love was stupid. And love songs were stupid and poetry about love was stupid... right up until you fell in love for the first time. You stepped through the looking glass and even though an eight-year-old could tell you were being stupid it didn't matter. Because the logic and reality of one side of the looking glass no longer applies.

Falling in love. Having a child. The death of a parent. The death of a close friend. Your first fight. Your fiftieth fight. All are thresholds, and once you cross the threshold the way you think and the way you see the world changes on a fundamental level.

"Let it go." "Forgive." "Just get over it." From one side of the looking glass, this is worthless, meaningless advice. But everyone who has crossed that particular threshold has, at some point, decided to let go. From the other side of the looking glass, it is simply obvious.

"Put him down." "He never gets a move." "I own every beat in the rhythm." These are simple tautologies on one side of the looking glass, near-impossibilities on the other.

One of my friends has a metaphor for power generation. "Spill the tea." I'm close enough to the threshold to see it, but nowhere near close enough to use it.

When someone gives you advice from the other side of the looking glass, just because you don't get it doesn't mean it's not true. Conversely, when you cross a threshold, it doesn't make your new truth truer than the earlier truth. Just different.


  1. I kind of think of this like "Perspective" or "Point of View," or maybe even my "Opinion." Before puberty I thought girls had cooties, sort of a negative interest in girls. But after puberty I had a new perspective that was much more positive towards girls.

    I wonder if "Truth" should be treated like something is true despite my personal Opinion. My opinion is irrelevant towards the effect that this truth applies upon me, whether I like it or not. Whether I think it seems fair and equal or not.

    For example, the Law of Gravity is true and applied the same to everybody, despite whether we like it or not. Kids playing on a trampoline can enjoy playing with gravity. Mae West (or Marilyn Monroe) shrugged that unfortunately gravity catches up with all of us as we get older.

    So some topics can definitely be considered differently, depending on whether you have gone through the looking glass or not, the viewpoint seems true while being viewed differently.

    Meanwhile the truth of other topics are irrelevant concerning my viewpoint. My viewpoint does not matter, I must accept the single truth of gravity or I might pay a high price for defying the truth of gravity, despite what I think about gravity, whether I like it or not.

    1. Just picking up on truth..
      Recently listed tons pod cast between sam Harris and Jordan Peterson... hey got bogged down on truth.. itvwemtbonnfor a while but it was an intersting difference. Aspect I liked and on many ways do is pertersons pragmatic use... it's true (or goodnenough) enough.. to get by.. get the job done rather than some empirical concept of 'truth'

  2. Amd nce you step through you can never go back.. as you'll not be the same person who stepped through.
    The is..in my experience the difference of looking or stepping through and get or understanding where you are

  3. This applies to so much in life - politics, relationships, mental illness... (But then, I've repeated myself...) :)

  4. I've had a lot of recent dealings with drug addicts and their enablers where this looking glass metaphor is used to silence critics. The junkie doesn't have to listen to the sober person, because in the junkie's mind the sober person is hopelessly naive. He's never stepped through that mirror. "Nobody ever knows what the hell they're talking about because they've never been in my exact shoes."

    Experience as a filter to cut off opinions that don't "rate" being heard.

    Does this metaphor gain us anything in the end except maybe some empathy, and possibly some humility?

  5. I'd love to know what "spill the tea" means...

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  7. I'm most familiar with "spill the tea" as used in fandom to mean "tell the gory details of the truth to someone who is in denial." But language is malleable and jargon happens.

    I'm pretty sure not all thresholds are the same for all people. I'd go so far as to say that in fact they are wildly different, because people are different. I doubt many people I know had the experience I had when my mother died (although a lot did, I've talked to them). I don't think it's useful to say "you have to go through it" when imagination and learning from other people's experiences are two of the best things about human civilization, and I think it's limiting to suppose there's some experience people have to have to understand. It's even more limiting to suppose that if only somebody could have *this* *one* *experience* they might finally see the world as you do, or at least their worldview would change (presumably into one more satisfactory to you). [Not you, Rory; the general you.]

    But then I also think empathy is far less important than compassion (for empathy=understanding how someone feels and compassion=wanting to take care of someone when they're having a tough time), and they are too often conflated.

  8. barbara9:38 AM

    I believe that to cross thresholds opens the possibility for a "truer" view of a situation, because it is possible to still remember the old world, and in the same time, live in the new world. It is a broader perspective.

    That's why adults can understand children (if they make the effort), but children can much less understand adults.

    @Louis Earle: most social workers I know who work with junkies, have been junkies themselves. And gotten out of it. They told me several times that their own experience is very helpful - first, they can recognize bullshit, and second, they can say "I have done it, it is possible. If you set your mind to it, you have also the chance to succeed."

    but on the other hand - why do so many ex-tobacco smokers get so intolerant once they quit? As if they, after having passed this threshold, felt a need to keep this old world at a distance...weird.

  9. There is also the 'seeing the light'and evangelical aspect.. smokers as mentioned.... vegetarians. . Vegans crossfitters ;) people who have had an 'encounter'
    Not only do they gain an insight but then feel the need to preach and proselytize from that new insight.. as if it were a complete truth rather than just abother step on a path or piece of a puzzle. That piece maybe recognisable but may not be of much use without the other pieces or without knowing where it fits in the whole picture...

  10. I've always tend to look at things as being relative based on perspective. Yes, there are truths out there but arriving at them can be a bitch of a journey for people. This is due to people having to change how they look at something (perspective). If you can get someone to think of something from a different perspective then you have the chance to change how they view things (the truth).

    Of course you can change a person's perspective so they don't see the truth too. Politicians and marketers (pretty much the same in my book) are great at doing. Hell, anyone with an agenda can do this to people. That is what can make this tough: Determining who is attempting to really show you the truth and those that are looking to simply manipulate you.

  11. I realized that a Looking Glass is a mirror, not a window. Also, my web dictionary said to remember that the image in your mirror is always reversed. That's a little accidental philosophy.

    There's a good 2016 book, "Striking Distance: Bruce Lee & the Dawn of Martial Arts in America." They sell it on amazon and the Bruce Lee website sells it signed by Shannon Lee, (a mild endorsement or agreement that it is a reasonable biography). The book tells about the famous fight to see if Bruce has a better fighting system than the traditional schools. Before the fight, Bruce has a viewpoint of arrogant superiority towards traditional fighting styles. After the seven minute fight, Bruce seeks a new perspective, a humbled determination and obsession to seek better performance and technique. Despite winning the fight, he thought it took too long and he got winded. His perspective changed. I think he sought a new perspective, more than his perspective changed. Maybe the difference is a gray area, new or changed perspective. Bruce Lee was a university Philosophy major drop-out, but he still loved trying out philosophies, trying to find the best way for every situation.

  12. I like these kind of posts the most. They get me thinking on a deeper level.

    These days I've been looking through one of those looking glasses. I see what's on the other side, I know I need to go through that glass and acquire the mentality waiting on the other side. I can no longer remain on this side, because I have seen through. I guess you know what I mean.

    I'm struggling to get to the other side. But someday I will realize I've been standing there for a while without knowing it.

    I like this concept. I can finally put in words some things I've been trying to explain. And now I see that my wife has stepped through the looking glass, one that I can't even see. I have no way to understand what she sees on the other side, and this is really stressful. She's fighting to get me to understand, to get me to the other side as well but I can't even see the steps to take.

    Rory. Thank you.

  13. This post made a very clear explanation (in a way I hadn't been able to do) of what I say to my teen; "it doesn't matter until suddenly it does." A gross oversimplification, but...

  14. This post made a very clear explanation (in a way I hadn't been able to do) of what I say to my teen; "it doesn't matter until suddenly it does." A gross oversimplification, but...

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