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I was benched by a cold tonight. Darnit. And Tuesdays are my favorite nights, too. Waah! Not too a big deal, I know. It will pass, and I'll be back on the mat soon enough. Just the same, there was the gnawing undercurrent to the evening, knowing I was missing something important and irreplaceable.
In so much of my learning life there are second chances. I can read a book again, watch a movie as many times as I like, review meeting or class notes, catch a webinar or conference presentation later online, search email for a keyword and bring up everything I've ever communicated about that subject. It's easy to scan an article or report, knowing I can look it up later if we really need it.
Not so with Aikido. When I miss something, it's gone. As ephemeral as a sunrise. Wild, undomesticatable knowledge, transmitted person-to-person, body-to-body. I've only been training for a year and a half, but in that time I have heard virtually none of the same things repeated. Yes, a lot of the same techniques, but never shown or explained in quite the same way. There has not been a single moment when I've thought "Oh, this again. We already went over this." There is always something precious conveyed. Every class is inspired - and inspriing. Hence the frustration at missing an evening.
"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man."
Billy Collins, former U.S. Poet Laureate described the situation perfectly in his poem "Did I Miss Anything?" I highly recommend reading it. Here's an excerpt:
"Did I Miss Anything?
Everything. Contained in this classroom
is a microcosm of human experience
assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
This is not the only place such an opportunity has been gathered
but it was one place
And you weren't here."
So tonight, after an evening wasted puttering around feeling puny and restless and sorry for myself, I made my evening visit to feed the donkeys before bed. It's about 70 degrees outside, with a crystal clear sky, moonless and starry. Orion is a little higher in the east than last night, and the night before that.
Eeyore and Clementine were happy to have their dinner - especially their carrots. While they were crunching away I stared up at the stars on this perfectly beautiful night. Good old reliable stars right where they should be, like they always have been, and always will be.
And another thought came to mind. Like the stars, Aikido will always be there. It will always be available to me in some form, and I will always be able to practice it in some way. I will never be able to see and understand it all, but the opportunity to keep looking and wondering will never go away.