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Home > Columns > "The Mirror" > November, 2006 - The Do in Do

The Do in Do by "The Mirror"


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This article was written by AJ Garcia.


I'm writing this after church...after a conversation in the parking lot with some other singles and a couple of married, but childless, folks. Church is a community, much as the dojo is a community, and, just like at the dojo, politics often gets in the way of practice.

A young professional woman was complaining that the pastor doesn't make enough of an effort to make her feel welcome, doesn't greet her every time he sees her, and spends far more time being friendly to families with kids. "And while I don't like to say this, I make a major monetary contribution to this church and volunteer a lot!"

As do many others. Thanks to all of you for your generosity.

"He's supposed to uplift people!"

He is? All by himself?

I feel sorry for the man. First off, in addition to fostering his own and supporting others' spiritual lives, he has administrative burdens: coordinating worship for a large congregation, plus dealing with baptisms, marriages, funerals, and finances. He juggles everything well, given the number of hours in a week. He's also very aware of how families--especially young ones--struggle to live their faith and develop their children's. I don't begrudge him the few moments he spends talking with a family with toddlers (or teenagers) after worship; those children are the future of the church. And, given how leaders are always scrutinized for signs of moral weakness, if he did give this young woman the degree of attention she feels is her right as a "major monetary contributor," wouldn't his motives be misinterpreted by someone in the congregation?

In church, as in the dojo, we come together to learn more about the subject of our study (our faith, our practice of budo), to experience it in an optimal environment, and to deepen our knowledge of, and flex our muscles in, its pursuit. Our teachers (the pastor, sensei) can only transmit knowledge that we are prepared to accept. You can't own your faith, or your budo practice, if you expect someone else to spoon-feed it to you in exactly in the form you want, or insist on making another person totally responsible if you don't feel comfortable, don't progress, or don't develop any depth. It's not fast food, paying your $5 for a bag of greasy McBox burgers and fries that someone else prepared. It requires an outlay on your part that is beyond monetary: you have to "do" the -do.

That "doing" often moves us outside our comfort zones and forces us to evaluate our focus. Are we putting our attention where it needs to be? Are we so focused on the politics that we forget, or are distracted from, the practice?

A church is made up of its members, not a pastor and a building. It is the interaction and the cooperation of the membership that makes and helps grow a "faith family." In the same way, a dojo is not sensei and the mats; it's the membership working and training together to build up the group and preserve/advance the budo. In both instances, there is an ideal, and also the reality of people who are less-than-perfect struggling to live up to the ideal they profess to embrace. Teachers aren't perfect and most dojo are rife with divergent (and at times contentious) personalities. Deal with it, and don't forget why you came in the first place.

As we move outside our comfort zones--changing focus from seeking the spotlight, the attention, the "power," accolades, and rank, to one of actively serving the community--we mature both in faith and in budo practice. We recognize times when we have been more intent on judgment than fellowship, and vow not to repeat the behavior; we remember when we screwed up that technique on our 4th kyu test just like our kohai is doing today, and find a way to express support, not criticism, to the struggling 'doka. We see opportunities to assist, not questioning first what it will bring us in return. We prune away the nonessentials which get in the way of the clarity of our practice and focus on perfecting that practice. We let those who must have all the marbles have them, because we understand that that big bag of marbles would just slow us down on the way.

And we realize it's OUR responsibility to keep the practice/learning going, not the pastor's, not sensei's. We are called, individually and collectively, to be the "do" in -do.


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