“What are you? A man of:
- martial arts
- It may help if you pick one as your primary perspective before proceeding.”That was the question posed to me by my mentor. My reply was as follows:
- If a martial type sees a rock, he might think, “Hey, a weapon of opportunity.”
- An entrepreneur might say, “I can paint a smiley on it and make a million dollars.”
- A fisherman might think, “Ah, a weight or anchor.”
- A master builder might say, “Aha! the perfect keystone!”
- A sculptor, “It will be a bust of a famous hero.”
- But I think the wisest of all will say, “It is a rock. It is all those things and none.”
- Are you or your loved ones being threatened?
- Are you in debt and need money?
- Are you hungry?
- Are you building a Cathedral?
- Do you need a present for a King?
There is a story of six blind men and an elephant. They hear one’s in town so they decide to go check it out. (I’ve shortened it a bit)
The first falls against its side and says “the elephant is like a big wall”
The second, feeling the tusk and says, “No, its like a spear.”
The third feels the trunk, “No, its like a snake!”
The fourth feels above the knee, “No, it’s like a tree!”
The fifth feels the ear, “It feels much like a fan!”
The sixth feels the tail, “It is very much like a rope!”
The final verse:
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!
Do I choose to be a man of religion, philosophy, martial arts, or humor? Is that even a choice? As much as the elephant can choose what he is like, I think.
A diamond refracts white light into many different colors. Blue, red, yellow, purple, etc. Does white light choose what is primary or label itself a particular color? No. Its very nature is the culmination of each endless aspect and variation.
The day someone tries to pigeonhole “what they are” is the day they cease to truly exist.
I aim for the above, regardless of the destination.
So then I think, you say you are a martial artist, not a philosopher. I think those are semantical differences. (I say that with confidence now that I’ve read your book).
Is Soke (Masaaki Hatsumi) any less of a philosopher because he sees himself as a Martial Artist? No? Does admitting that make him less of a Martial Artist? Definitely not.
Yet he has said, “The best style is to have no style.” Does the fact that it came from a Martial Artist make it any less the statement of a philosopher? I think that statement sums it up even better. A man of religion, philosophy, martial arts, or humor… each is a style. My aim is to have none. I want to be all of them. That is who I am. Some are stronger at differing times. But by not choosing, I don’t stop myself from seeing the elephant because I can’t get past what I’m touching at the moment.
I realize you said to pick one as a “primary” perspective, though, and not pick one that I am. There is a difference in those two thoughts. Coming from the outside and looking at the apparent jumbled mess isn’t for the, as you so eloquently put it, uninitiated. But sometimes you can’t see the water OR the Alka Seltzer because of the fizz. Life is fizzy. (I’ll post more on this later.)
Besides, where do you see things separated? True understanding of the Life Values System says that it has to be a Moral/Physical connection. You can’t “pick one” over the other. Mind/Body/Spirit – is any more or less important.
I’ll digress on one more item/analogy (admittedly very religious in nature). A typical conversation with seminarians is often heard as such: “Where do you go to school?” “I’m attending XYZ Seminary” “Oh, you’re gonna be a preacher/missionary?”
Why the assumption? Why can’t someone go to seminary to simply be a better Christian. “I’m going to seminary so I can be a better Christian trucker!” We are called, as Christians, to serve, in whatever capacity, as to the Lord. We don’t choose to be a Christian OR a Marine, a Christian OR a teacher, a Christian OR a fill-in-the-blank. We are to be Christians to a very core in a manner that reflects on everything we do. It’s not a choice of either/or, its both/and.
I’ve struggled with some of this for a while now. I remember the first time I heard you say you were a martial artist, not a philosopher. I thought, “Wow, he must be one heck of a martial artist cause all I hear is philosophy.” But now I see that they are one in the same for you. You also use humor. You pick MA to describe yourself, but that is a label of style you choose to use. It doesn’t make you any less of a philosopher (for the record, I had to read the book Ninpo slower than VFNM because it had more philosophy packed per page).
An add-on a bit later
But I was also thinking about what Hatsumi said to Stephen Hayes. I copy and pasted to saved from typing it in:
One of the wisest things I ever read was out of a book by Stephen Hayes on the philosophy of ninjutsu. “Suspicious eyes will see only evil. If you think of a man as your enemy, then everything he says or does will be examined and found to contain threat or insult. However the exact same actions on the part of a beloved friend would carry a different meaning entirely.” The chapter was actually talking about spiritual power. The old master says “The first step to spiritual power is to rid yourself of desire.” Hayes said he felt let down at hearing a cliche’ phrase uttered by the man who was suppose to be the 34th grandmaster of the Togakura-ryu school of ninjutsu. But in order to fit in, he nodded his head and said “Yes, it’s a common thing in the states, desire. Everyone wants a big house, or an expensive car.”
At this, the old master said “Well, yes, those are desires, but rather superficial and easily overcome. What we are talking about is desires of the spirit, wishing things be a way they are not.” Again Hayes missed the point and said “Oh, you mean like wishing you were rich or powerful.” And again the old master struggled to explain to his student. “Well, those are desires too, but…. this is difficult to explain. We are talking about desiring the world be the way we want it to be, and not seeing it how it is.” And then he went on to talk about the first quote about suspicious eyes. Hayes finally got it, he’d totally missed the meaning of his teacher’s words because he’d wanted to read them a certain way.
It struck me that this applies as well. We have to live life without desires in order to reach the fullest. If you always try to see life from a certain perspective, you lose the ability to see it for what it really is.
The danger might be that if you never choose a perspective, the rock never becomes anything more than just a rock. However, you can see it as all those things and pick the one that best fits the situation:
Each has its own aim and credibility. But if you say “I am a man of fishing” you may easily miss out on saving yourself, paying your debts, building something great or you may miss out on the joy of honoring someone else.