Almost Spring greetings to you all! New England has experienced quite the winter this year with considerable snow and number of storms. We are looking forward to warmer weather! Our lives, like the weather, change frequently. This is all in accord with the process of Nature- what we call the duality of Nature. The duality of Nature encompasses all of life's changes from one side, which the Chinese call the "ying", and the other called "yang". So, we have winter and we have summer, spring and fall, white and black, front and back, and so on all through life.
Of course, we also have gray and the middle and all sorts of "in-betweens" that smooth the harsh and dogmatic either "this" or "that". Does this violate the principal of the duality of Nature? No. Everything in Nature can be decomposed into smaller and small pieces each with its corresponding "other side". For example, even the "middle" of something can broken down into its "beginning middle" and its "ending middle". Every start may have a finish, but there are a lot of "in between" starts and finishes.
So, in our martial arts training: one day we don't just "start" and the next day become black belts. There is an ongoing process of change from one state to the next that must begin with the first class and which leads to the final success of black belt. But in reality, black belt itself is just the start of a new journey. So where is the "real" start and finish?
Have you ever heard of a mobius strip? Take a piece of paper and cut it into a long narrow strip- like 10" x 1". Draw a line lengthwise down the center of the strip. Hold one end in your left hand and the other in your right. You can now say that the strip begins with the edge in your left hand and ends with the edge in your right hand, and that the top is facing you with the line on it and the bottom is facing the floor with no line on it. Great. Now, holding the edge in your left hand stationary, flip the edge in your right hand over. Now, tape the edge in your left hand to the edge in your right hand so that the strip is now in a circle. Now tell me where the start and end is. And which is the top and which is the bottom? Confused? Mathematicians call this sort of thing topology, and can create a variety of mathematical models- some of which, like the mobius strip, can be visualized. For some interesting other examples of confused Nature, look into the works of the artist M.C. Escher.
What this is all saying is that there are certain things that we live with but which we do not necessarily have to understand in concrete absolute terms. We should not spend so much time trying to figure out when we have "arrived at success" as we should just enjoy our lives and what we do to strive toward the goals that we currently have. Don't be in such a rush to get to black belt that you miss the enjoyment of being an orange or purple belt. And don't think that just because you have been a green belt for 8 years that you are a failure- you are just experiencing more fully the joys of being a green belt! Well, that's a little sarcastic I admit, but let's all not take ourselves so seriously that we lose sight of the fact that life is not to rush through trying to "get somewhere" but rather to "live".
We, as humans, are just a part of Nature; we are not Nature. We have our own individual beginnings and endings. As martial artists, it is our responsibility to recognize this, and to not only strive for goals but to also appreciate and learn from the process as a whole. Our lives will be significantly enriched because of this. Rather than just observing our lives we can take an active part in participating in all of life and thus grow within all of Nature.
Striving for promotion is a good thing, but actually accomplishing it is secondary. Not everyone will have the skill or time or determination to become a 3rd Degree Brown Belt for example, but everyone can at least have fun trying! What have you got to lose? Rather: look at all you have to gain!! As the famous comedian Robin Williams said, "Get down, get funky, keep smilin', and live-a the bitichin'-a life!". Please live your lives, don't let them slip by wanting something and not trying for it because you think you couldn't achieve it. Where would we be today if Henry Ford would have thought that way? Do you know his story of perseverance? If not, read about it. Look at what Calvin Coolidge had to say about perseverance:
"Nothing in the world can take the place of perseverance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."
We don't just "succeed" or "fail". We "strive". And we strive for the pure joy and adventure of it. We climb mountains because they are there, we fly airplanes because we dreamt that it could be done, and try to balance a basketball on the end of our finger longer than the current champion because we want to be recognized as the best. But each of these things- and the myriad other things that make up the fabric of our lives- is a process. So, let's enjoy the process of life by living our lives to the fullest through enjoyment of each part or phase. Good living!
In our art,
Grandmaster Peter M. Rose