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Home > Columns > Paul Schweer > October, 2006 - The Content of the Communication

The Content of the Communication by Paul Schweer


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I was, once upon a time in a life now long gone, a United States Marine. Through some still unexplained clerical error, I was promoted to Sergeant after thirty-five months active duty. I learned the language required by the job. Melodic, colorfully profane and passionate, regardless of volume or context. I learned it best I could, but never quite got it right. The more I tried to learn it, the more I appreciated those who could do it well. Even now, when channel surfing, I'll sometimes come across Mail Call and just listen for a while; GySgt Ermey makes me smile, even when edited for television.

When I got out I quickly learned (disproving the myth that 'educable Marine' is an oxymoron) that the language I'd learned was not welcome in the civilized world. As I've come to understand the rules, one may perform pretty much any sort of forceful aggression or underhanded perversity, as long as one is civil about it. So for a couple years I kept a cup in the kitchen, which my wife soon took to calling the 'potty mouth cup', and put a dollar in it each time I cursed. I lost a lot of good money to that bleeping cup.

I learned, eventually, to rein it in. But I haven't yet learned (maybe I is an oxymoron after all) any better way to communicate certain things. So on occasions that are now thankfully infrequent, the Sergeant returns from wherever he now resides, stands erect, and speaks for me. Forceful and gleefully profane, if not musically eloquent -- it is a mode of communication that I still understand. Certainly one I recognize when I see it.

Last night I saw it, full blown, on the mat. In the middle of class. I've never seen anything like it on the mat. It could not have been pleasant for anyone there. It was ugly. And vile. Brazenly spiteful.

And necessary. I'm glad it's done. I just wish it could have got done differently.

Our dojo-cho was teaching the class, and on the receiving end. He somehow managed to ignore the mode of delivery and deal only with the content of the communication. He seemed to agree, in fact, with the content. But what impresses me, in retrospect, is how he ignored the ranting maniac and dealt only with the man. I don't think, had I been him, I could have done that.

But I am not him.

I am the guy who let him have it. In the middle of class. In front of everybody.

I am the guy who saw a stark illustration of how very far I have to go.


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