View Full Version : Nearness

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R.A. Robertson
05-19-2011, 11:25 AM
There is a place, not too far from here, where there is no existential threat from fascism, communism, or terrorism.

Neither are corporatism, globalism, capitalism, racism, tribalism, or fundamentalism, causes for concern. They exist, certainly, but they are not instruments of violence, repression, or injustice, and they do not trigger the very human sense of outrage and reciprocal impetus for retribution and revolt. There are no cartels, criminal organizations, mafia, yakuza, or big pharmaceuticals.

There are lobbyists, but they serve to give voice to people who cannot speak for themselves, and they work tirelessly for the good of all people, and not merely special interests with big budgets. There are bankers, but they hold the people's money as a sacred trust, and they return the money upon asking, with a level of interest that they themselves would be glad to receive. There are lawyers, but their pursuit is of truth and justice rather than loopholes, partnerships, and client pocketbooks.

There are religions and philosophies and sciences. But they work together for no other purpose but to relieve the suffering of all things that live, and to celebrate the wonder and mystery of life and existence. Many viewpoints contradict, but they inform and stimulate dialogue so that all may learn. There are artists who are honored for their vision, but whose works are not constrained by the market, by fashion, by state sponsorship, or other patronage. There are athletes, and they compete and contend, but their victories are for all people, and we all become better when we see what can be accomplished by one of our own. For we are all our own.

The economy of this place is not so different from our own. It is based on a mutuality of need, but a difference of resources. However, class-distinction is more a matter of simple taxonomy than status. A rational hierarchy of needs governs the system of valuation such that clean air, water, food, clothing, shelter, health care, and education are prized above gold, jewelry, 401k, CDs, and bonds. Moreover, possession of the latter when some lack the former is unthinkable. Notwithstanding, some are significantly wealthier than others, but not because they have made others do without. Wealth does not, and cannot impoverish.

Governments exist, and in a plurality of forms. Governments exist because human beings have wills, and to exert will is to govern. No action is sensible without management, discipline, and regulation. The people of this world are not ideological pacifists: they understand that self-correcting systems often cause great harm before the adjustment cycle is done. Intervention can be done lightly, but it must be done often. Governments exist, but in the same spirit that mechanics and carpenters and doctors and teachers and farmers exist -- because a division of labor is the basis for an advanced civilized society.

We do not live in this place. I could take you there, but then, so could almost any third-grader. Really, we are not that far, but sometimes small distances can seem impossibly and unreasonably far. To someone in Texas, Canada can seem closer than Mexico. To someone in Tel Aviv, New York can seem closer than Ramallah. Anyone in a synagogue or a church or a mosque down the street from one another may think they are universes apart. No matter how many folds there are on your map or how many creases there are in your brain, don't be fooled -- these places are all very close to one another. We are not that far from where we want to be.

Mostly, it's a matter of simple inefficiency. Aikido helps you understand yourself better. Aikido helps you understand the world better. Aikido helps you understand your relationships better. Not because you've mastered it, but because you haven't. (Have pity on anyone who has perfect technique but no social life, no lovers, no marketable skills...) You know that ikkyo is never far from what you are doing, but you keep putting things in the way that make it more difficult. That's ok, but don't wait 20 years for it. It's not that far.

Similarly, our world is very close to this other one I'm describing. There is a path from here to there, and it's not a long one. Certainly we can meander this way and that. We can resist what our partner is telling us. We can apply force and waste energy. We can see what needs to be done but refuse to believe it can be that easy. But it doesn't change the truth of how close together we are.

Despite our population numbers, there's still enough to go around. It won't always be so, and we need to have a serious conversation about how many of us can live long, healthy, quality lives without straining our lovely little terrarium. But right now the problem is that we have so many great minds who have no voices, who have no access to fantastical technologies of communication and illumination, and who find it hard to think with empty bellies anyway. Yes, we need either greater resources or fewer people, and it looks like fewer people is the likeliest solution. But wouldn't it be great if we could all benefit from all the people there are now? Right now, somewhere in a small African village is a child with an idea that would make your life better. Seriously. How do I know this? I don't, honestly, but the odds favor it. Too bad you and I have no way of finding out.

I'm not sure I know what a perfect world is, but even if I could articulate it, mine may not be the same as yours. But I'm pretty confident that a more perfect world is nearby, and it's one that wouldn't upset either of us. As long as we're doing ok, and can reasonably expect to keep doing ok, we don't really mind at all of others are doing ok too. But if I live in the land of the privileged while others are deprived, I have every reason to fear their righteous anger. If I live in a region of privation I have every reason to fear the indifference of the mighty. Are we so far apart, when both live in fear? If bombs can be delivered anywhere in the world within hours, so can air, water, clothing, shelter, health care and education. Let's not make ikkyo more difficult than it really is.

There will be times that it doesn't work out, and I'm sorry for that. I wish I could help. But that's what kaeshi waza and henka waza are for. We have to be adaptable and flexible. I know that at times it can seem hopeless and insurmountable, but that's just our brains and our chemicals giving us bad information. You don't really believe that your perceptions and your feelings are reality, do you? It's wonderful to think and feel, but please try to remember that reality is more important than what you think or feel. Imagination is for making new realities, not for interpreting existing ones. But usually, what is real and what you imagine is not so very far apart.

Everyone can be healthy. We get there by making everyone healthier than they are now, as a start. Everyone can be wealthy, but we don't all have to be like the wealthiest people now. Everyone can be informed, and everyone can inform.

I'll bet you could put your finger on a map of the world and easily find some of the poorest, most disadvantaged people on the planet. If you're reading this, you're probably not one of them. Can you do anything at all, even a small thing, to bring them nearer to your world?

Furthermore, you don't need a world map to find suffering. No matter what city, county, or province you're in, there's probably someone not but a few blocks away who is a world apart. Maybe they're standing a few feet outside your car window at a stoplight. In their world, they see people with eyes straight ahead, radios turned up, soda or coffee in insulated cups, and they feel the futile texture of cardboard in their hands. Maybe in your world you feel the air-conditioning.

You're not that far apart. You're so close, you could even touch.

Why even bother with aikido when you know you'll never be attacked by ninjas, but every day your sensibilities are assaulted by the homeless? Is your best ikkyo really worth more than an apple or an orange?

The perfection of self and world are that far away. It may be as close as your refrigerator. Maybe as close as your pocket or purse. It may be as close as your smile, or your voice, which means so much.

Ross Robertson
Still Point Aikido Systems
Honmatsu Aikido
Austin TX, USA

www.stillpointaikido.com (http://www.stillpointaikido.com)
www.rariora.org/writing/articles (http://www.rariora.org/writing/articles)

05-19-2011, 04:28 PM
Perhaps to find the nearness and connectedness we first must address and minimize the distance we create in our minds and hearts.

Another great column. Compliments and appreciation.

graham christian
05-20-2011, 06:03 PM
Aahhhh. What a truly heavenly piece. I mean it. I dare not add any thoughts to it for fear of spoiling a work of art.

Well said.G.

Janet Rosen
05-20-2011, 07:01 PM
Thanks for this.

05-22-2011, 06:20 AM
Thanks Ross. By chance I found this interesting article by Victor Mansfield (http://www.buddhanet.net/timeimpe.htm) quoting the scientist David Bohm (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Bohm).

It is proposed that the widespread and pervasive distinctions between people (race, nation, family, profession, etc., etc.), which are now preventing mankind from working together for the common good, and indeed, even for survival, have one of the key factors of their origin in a kind of thought that treats things as inherently divided, disconnected, and "broken up" into yet smaller constituent parts. Each part is considered to be essentially independent and self-existent.

05-22-2011, 02:16 PM
Hi Ross, thank you for your excellent column, I agree with Graham and Janet.

05-23-2011, 07:22 AM
Hello Ross,

Thanks for a great column.
I think this article > http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/ci_18115363 < is an example of what your ideals look like when put into action.



Anita Dacanay
05-30-2011, 04:25 AM
What a great column! Thanks, Ross.

Diana Frese
06-02-2011, 07:15 AM
Hi Ross, I often post late because I'm thinking, and your columns always have much food for thought. But here's one instance that comes to mind of how close these 'worlds" are.

I was a construction gofer for my husband, his brother, their friends, etc. and had a lot of quarters, etc. on the dashboard, from change from gofering .... Sometimes business was profitable, sometimes "not so much".... but one time I was in a four lane that ran parallel to the train tracks and there was a person with a cardboard sign and maybe a coffee cup asking for donations. Business was okay that summer, the change was, as is common in trades, scattered on the dashboard so I just grabbed a handful and handed it to him. It was so easy, the median divider was right next to the window.

I'm no saint, those who know me know I'm far from it. But even for me, and even in the economic downturn, there are so many small things that could help. So I try. Because the worlds are that close.

Thanks for the assurance and encouragement to do better as we find ways to help however we can. Your columns are an inspiration and are beautifully written in themselves, too.

06-03-2011, 10:14 AM
Yes! Thank you!

Tom Verhoeven
12-21-2012, 02:46 PM
Just came across this column. Great column, much food for thought. Thank you very much!