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R.A. Robertson 01-22-2009 10:48 AM

The Magnifying Glass
 
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Many people, including myself, subscribe to the idea that aikido has tremendous transformative potential -- both for the individual and for society. Yet evidence for this is hard to come by.

High ranking sensei, even direct students of the Founder, are not necessarily exemplary human beings. I'm unaware of any studies which show that long term students of aikido, taken as a group, have higher earning potential, longer-lasting relationships, are healthier, or more resilient to psychological stress. Similarly, I know of no studies which conclude that the presence of an aikido dojo in a neighborhood is a factor in reducing crime, homelessness, poverty, litter, or mental illness.

It might be that such studies exist, and I'm unaware of them. It may be that studies have not been done, but were they to be done, it's possible they would provide a basis for my otherwise unfounded hopes. Or (and I think this is reasonable), it may be that aikido is still a new thing, an ongoing experiment, and many more decades are required for it to reach fruition in a way that is obvious and compelling to the general population.

To be sure, aikido has spread rapidly across the globe in its brief existence. By itself, this should be heartening, but the same can be said for any other fad. The fact that there are now many people signing up for aikido courses and going through aikido motions is evidence of something attractive about it, but it does not satisfy as proof of a vehicle toward a better human being or a better society.

If aikido brings people together in harmless joy, of course this is a good thing. It is as good a thing as any other healthy activity, whether rock climbing, or ballroom dancing, or music, or festivals. If aikido fosters companionship, a certain level of physical and mental fitness, and an appreciation for the complexities of relationships, why isn't that enough?

Obviously, for many it is sufficient. Perhaps more than enough. And where aikido compares to any other healthy pastime, it has every reason to be their equal. But is that enough?

For some of us, no, it's really not. Or at least, as mentioned above, the jury is still out. Aikido is a good thing, but some of us are looking for good things that are viral, infectious, a communion of sanity and joy that spreads like medicine into whatever area needs it. We need better answers to all individual and social and environmental problems. We need disciplines and movements (yes, decidedly plural) that engage people's imaginations, that go beyond masturbatory recreation, and actively fix things.

To put it another way, it's not enough until it is.

For example, in the microcosm of your dojo, you will be called upon to commit energy to it above and beyond paying dues and showing up to train. How much you are called upon, in relationship with what you feel you have to give, might produce some real tension. If your dojo situation is not moving toward a vibrant, healthy, and productive state with a fairly assured longevity, then your efforts are not enough. As the numbers and revenue and resources increase, and the situation stabilizes, less -- not more -- is required of you, but not until then.

Similarly, our work and play in aikido is not enough while suffering and inequality is so widespread, while violence is habitual, while greed is not only tolerated, but institutionally rewarded. However strong our aikido communities and organizations may be, they are not enough if these things fail to be addressed. Most essentially, we must not pretend that we are doing something important, something socially significant, something meaningful, if there is no proof of it outside the dojo. Whatever else, aikido must never be allowed to be the practice of delusion and hypocrisy.

I am not suggesting that aikido by itself can, or should, solve all the problems of the world. I am, however, reiterating the vision of the Founder that aikido must take its place in partnership with other movements and practices which aim to take practical steps toward improving the human condition. I am willing to go so far as to say that if your practice does not lead you to engage in an active, compassionate involvement with building a better world, then what you are doing is not aikido. I am prepared to defend the idea that aikido must be broadly defined, and that there are many, many right ways to do it, but on this one point, I think that an active campaign toward a better world is an essential ingredient before any habit of costume or ritual of activity can rightly be designated as aikido.

At this point, the reader may wish to suggest that the author should take a long look in the mirror. The injunction would be rightly placed, but wrongly timed. The present article comes from an acute period of self-examination where I find myself and my own dojo, for which I have final responsibility, to be lacking. I believe myself to be an essentially good person, and I believe I am privileged in the extreme to be surrounded by good people, both fellow students and fellow teachers. I have done what I can from where I am currently positioned to join with others who are demonstrably making a difference in the world. And yet I am not as good in my relationships as I want to be. And my dojo is still far from being the kind of lighthouse for the community that it could be, that it should be, that it MUST be.

In other words, I am satisfied that I am good, that my dojo is good, that our system is excellent. Yet I am equally certain that it is not good enough and that proof of value to the greater world must be obtained through rigor and examination and with incontrovertible result.

So, for the other aikido empiricists out there (and I know I'm not alone), what can be done? What sort of tests can we perform? How can our relative successes be measured? How do we quantify good and mercy and compassion and pragmatic virtue? How long do we wait while the standard model of the great aikido experiment runs its course?

When does an empiricist require faith that eventually truth will be revealed and a method be shown to be solid?

And what of our efforts and our lifelong dedication if no such proof is ever forthcoming?

One possibility remains: aikido has no such power of transformation as what we may desire. Or else, it is trivial, no better than many other useful, enjoyable, but ultimately effete activities. Effete, that is, with respect to revolutionizing freedom, joy, abundance, beauty, security, and wonder for all beings.

Rather, it may be that aikido is one activity that will act as a magnet for those who are particularly and peculiarly called to the compassionate service of mankind. Maybe even then only one in ten, or a hundred, or a thousand of those called to the art are among those with this kind of bodhisattva inclination. That is, one who understands deeply that no skill, no enlightenment, no attainment can be for the self -- not only -- but must inevitably and necessarily be for everyone.

It is not likely that such people will experience a great transformation from aikido, having arrived at the gate fully formed, as it were. Instead, aikido may serve as a kind of magnifying glass capable of revealing, enhancing, and augmenting the inherent nature of the Servant Leader.

As hypotheses go, this one would be no less in need of testing. Yet the essential questions of "is it working?" "is it good enough?" "how can we do it better?" are now shifted. Under this model, the vast majority of aikido practitioners may show up and do aikido purely for its own end and no other. For the few, however, we must look to see if aikido really can attract a handful of truly superior beings (for lack of a better way of expressing it) who then, through aikido, embody an exemplary way of life.

After all this introspection, I'm still not sure it makes any difference. I know I'm a doubter and a skeptic. I know I'm an agitator and provocateur, one who will never be content with mere contentment. I try with utter sincerity to be the change I desire. Where there is injustice, I try to avoid perpetuating the cycle of retribution. Where there is despair and desolation, I try to bring humor and beauty. When I see suffering, I try not to let my own tears spread the contagion. When I feel utterly helpless to do anything to help you, I try not to add my own measure of hopelessness to the burden of the world.

I know we can only fight poverty by sharing abundance, and for that we must be prosperous. I know that we cannot fight violence and warfare except by living peaceably, and for that we must be more at ease with our own conflicted natures. I know that we cannot fight inequity by dragging down the mighty, but by lifting up and exalting the low, and for that we must be either strong or good at finding levers. I know that we cannot bring sanity to the abused and the congenitally damaged unless we see how crazy and broken we all are, and for that, we need... oh! authentic humility.

Finally, I know that whatever the cost, however great the challenge, we cannot continue to heal a hurt world through the spoiled medicine of self-sacrifice. That path is putrid with the blood of martyrs and the rotting offal of sanctimonious saints who only increase the ledger of suffering. Instead, we desperately need a path, no -- a highway! -- that will speed us to wherever we are needed, but with scenery that contains beauty, and in a vehicle that is fun, sexy, and potent.

Seen is this light, my test for good aikido (mine or yours) is this:

Does it increase prosperity?
Is it effective in the face of conflict?
Does it lead toward praise and gratitude more often than criticism and satire?
Does it promote the confidence necessary to admit personal faults, failings, and limitations?
Is it a path of service that is exciting and enticing and downright hedonistic?

These are by no means lofty or unrealistic goals. I'm convinced they are only a beginning, a foundation for realistic progress to be made. Even so, I'm not there yet, and my aikido is a bit spotty in its record. I try, and I fail, and I try again.

For now, my conclusions are not entirely satisfactory. I feel very much as if I'm doing my best. I feel very strongly that it's not good enough.

Yet right now, it's all I've got.

1/4/09
Ross Robertson
Still Point Aikido Systems
Honmatsu Aikido
Austin TX, USA

www.stillpointaikido.com

Peter Goldsbury 01-24-2009 06:23 AM

Re: The Magnifying Glass
 
Hello Mr Robertson,

You have written a very interesting and provocative column. I would like to take you up on two points, best introduced with quotes from the column. The first:

----------
I am not suggesting that aikido by itself can, or should, solve all the problems of the world. I am, however, reiterating the vision of the Founder that aikido must take its place in partnership with other movements and practices which aim to take practical steps toward improving the human condition. I am willing to go so far as to say that if your practice does not lead you to engage in an active, compassionate involvement with building a better world, then what you are doing is not aikido. I am prepared to defend the idea that aikido must be broadly defined, and that there are many, many right ways to do it, but on this one point, I think that an active campaign toward a better world is an essential ingredient before any habit of costume or ritual of activity can rightly be designated as aikido.
----------

There are fairly uncompromising opinions and I wonder if you would you care to quote O Sensei on this? I ask this question in view of Ellis Amdur's opinion (I think it was expressed in Aikido Journal blogs) that Ueshiba saw himself as an avatar, committed to building a better world, indeed, but entirely on his own terms. The consequence is that Ueshiba earnestly desired that people should do aikido training, but in order that he himself could complete his mission of achieving peace between three worlds. I am preparing my next column and this involves some pretty close analysis of O Sensei's discourses--and I am surprised to find some discrepancies between what he actually stated and what the English translation says he stated.

The second (you will see that I have altered it slightly and numbered the questions):
----------
Seen in this light, my test for good aikido (mine or yours or Morihei Ueshiba's) is this:

1 Does it increase prosperity?
2 Is it effective in the face of conflict?
3 Does it lead toward praise and gratitude more often than criticism and satire?
4 Does it promote the confidence necessary to admit personal faults, failings, and limitations?
5 Is it a path of service that is exciting and enticing and downright hedonistic?
----------
I have had the temerity to put myself in Ueshiba's shoes and venture some answers:
1 I do not think this really matters. It has not really increased mine.
2 Yes. Very.
3 I do not think this really matters. Aikido is training: in kotodama = possession by the Divine, which will lead to effective waza.
4 If you can train kotodama effectively, I do not think the rest really matters.
5 It is certainly exciting, as it was for Onisaburo Deguchi, but I am not so sure about the enticing and hedonistic aspects.

Of course, you could argue that O Sensei's aikido was his aikido and our aikido is ours. So we do not need to look to O Sensei for inspiration.

I agree with the second point, but would change the first to: O Sensei's aikido was his aikido; your aikido is yours and my aikido is mine. So if I believe that my aikido training does not require me to 'engage in an active, compassionate involvement with building a better world', at least, any more than I am doing now, there is nothing much that you can do about it, short of persuasion.

Like yourself, I run a dojo. It is located in Hiroshima and everybody is acutely conscious here of the 'spirit' of Hiroshima: Hiroshima's mission to change the world. However, I think that I can safely state that I supported this mission quite some time before I took up aikido as a 'life activity'. Anyway, the dojo has about 50 members, all except two of whom are Japanese. All the members are beginners, in the sense that they have not been training for very long, and--and this is something that is pleasantly surprising in Japan--fully half the members are women. I run the dojo with two other foreign instructors, a German married couple, and the biggest challenge we have now is finding a larger dojo.

In my dojo I have never taught that aikido carries within it a mission to change the world and I think that if I did, we would actually lose students. There are very many aikido dojos in Hiroshima and I suspect that students come to our dojo for fairly specific reasons, one of which is that the dojo is run by foreign instructors. I certainly do not think that they come because the dojo is a sort of moral lighthouse.

I think this is perhaps where we differ. I do not believe that aikido carries within it its own morality, so to speak. This means that I do not believe that aikido training ipso facto requires one to do anything whatsoever outside the dojo, other than defending oneself to the best of one's innate or trained ability, if necessary.

As I stated earlier, your columns are always interesting and provocative, so I look forward to your response.

Best wishes,

Peter G

Jonathan 01-25-2009 01:22 AM

Re: The Magnifying Glass
 
Your article left me wondering the following:

Quote:

I know we can only fight poverty by sharing abundance, and for that we must be prosperous.
There is currently enough "prosperity" in the world to completely eradicate poverty everywhere. Is the solution to poverty, then, really more prosperity? It doesn't seem like it to me...

Quote:

I know that we cannot fight violence and warfare except by living peaceably, and for that we must be more at ease with our own conflicted natures.
How does "being at ease with our own conflicted natures" necessarily result in effectively fighting violence and warfare? Do you really think that if one is conflicted they cannot work toward peace in the world?

Quote:

I know that we cannot fight inequity by dragging down the mighty, but by lifting up and exalting the low, and for that we must be either strong or good at finding levers.
You speak of "inequity" and then refer to the "mighty" and the "low." Your terms are rather ambiguous, but the general impression your words leave is that there is a problem if some are "mighty" while others are not. Why is the fact that not all are "mighty" necessarily inequitable?

Quote:

I know that we cannot bring sanity to the abused and the congenitally damaged unless we see how crazy and broken we all are, and for that, we need... oh! authentic humility.
It sounds like you're saying it takes one crazy person to fix another. Your comment above also seems to assume that everyone is equally broken and crazy and that it is not humble to suggest otherwise. So, I ask: Must an oncologist suffer cancer before he is able to treat it? Is it arrogant of him to offer medical advice to a cancer sufferer if he hasn't suffered cancer himself? I don't think so... And on what basis do you assert that everyone is "crazy" and "broken"? What do these terms even mean, exactly?

Quote:

Finally, I know that whatever the cost, however great the challenge, we cannot continue to heal a hurt world through the spoiled medicine of self-sacrifice. That path is putrid with the blood of martyrs and the rotting offal of sanctimonious saints who only increase the ledger of suffering.
I find your suggestion that self-sacrifice is "spoiled medicine" and that martyrs of the past were "sanctimonious" and/or their shed blood "putrid" highly objectionable. It is the great lack of genuine self-sacrifice that has created the "hurt world" of which you write! Your words trample on some of the noblest moments of human history.

Quote:

Instead, we desperately need a path, no -- a highway! -- that will speed us to wherever we are needed, but with scenery that contains beauty, and in a vehicle that is fun, sexy, and potent.
Are you serious? I have nothing against fun, potency, or even sexiness (in the right context), except when it is suggested as an alternative to self-sacrifice. And this is exactly what you appear to have done! If I have read you right, the selfishness and superficiality of your above statement is rather horrifying!

Quote:

Seen is this light, my test for good aikido (mine or yours) is this:

Does it increase prosperity?
Is it effective in the face of conflict?
Does it lead toward praise and gratitude more often than criticism and satire?
Does it promote the confidence necessary to admit personal faults, failings, and limitations?
Is it a path of service that is exciting and enticing and downright hedonistic?
For the most part, I think these questions have no pertinency to Aikido whatsoever. I am particularly baffled by your last question. It seems rather selfish to me to think that one must be serving oneself while one serves others. Don't get me wrong: I don't think that service must be necessarily onerous, but I don't think that one should expect or insist on service to others being "enticing" and "downright hedonistic". Such service is merely selfishness in disguise.

R.A. Robertson 01-30-2009 01:46 PM

Re: The Magnifying Glass
 
Hello Mr Robertson,

Greetings Professor Goldsbury,
You have written a very interesting and provocative column. I would like to take you up on two points, best introduced with quotes from the column. The first:
----------
I am not suggesting that aikido by itself can, or should, solve all the problems of the world. I am, however, reiterating the vision of the Founder that aikido must take its place in partnership with other movements and practices which aim to take practical steps toward improving the human condition. I am willing to go so far as to say that if your practice does not lead you to engage in an active, compassionate involvement with building a better world, then what you are doing is not aikido. I am prepared to defend the idea that aikido must be broadly defined, and that there are many, many right ways to do it, but on this one point, I think that an active campaign toward a better world is an essential ingredient before any habit of costume or ritual of activity can rightly be designated as aikido.
----------
There are fairly uncompromising opinions and I wonder if you would you care to quote O Sensei on this?
Not so uncompromising, actually. I do state that there are many, many right ways of doing things. As for quoting O Sensei, I have not your depth of scholarship, nor knowledge of Japanese history and culture. So I freely admit I'm engaging you at considerable disadvantage.

However, I can quote an eminent scholar whose opinions I respect, and who quotes O Sensei:

""Sono shunkan, watashi wa
'Budou no kongen wa, kami no ai--banyu aigo no seishin--de aru'
to satori ete, houetsu no namida ga tomedonaku hoho ni nagareta."

(The Japanese is quite straightforward and the content of O Sensei's ecstatic realization apears in single quotation marks.)"

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/archiv...hp/t-8580.html

Now, all things are open to interpretation, but it seems to me that O Sensei is saying rather clearly that the root or foundation of budo is that of protection, not just of self or tribe or nation, but of all things. Surely the protection of all things involves an effort toward improving the human condition, and our relationship with the nonanthropogenic world also.

I also hasten to add that I quote or reference O Sensei, not because I believe he is an ultimate authority or because his will must be obeyed, but because he has expressed things with which I often agree, and find much of his thought to be insightful and revelatory.

[\]
The second (you will see that I have altered it slightly and numbered the questions):
----------
Seen in this light, my test for good aikido (mine or yours or Morihei Ueshiba's) is this:

1 Does it increase prosperity?
2 Is it effective in the face of conflict?
3 Does it lead toward praise and gratitude more often than criticism and satire?
4 Does it promote the confidence necessary to admit personal faults, failings, and limitations?
5 Is it a path of service that is exciting and enticing and downright hedonistic?
----------
I have had the temerity to put myself in Ueshiba's shoes and venture some answers:
1 I do not think this really matters. It has not really increased mine.
On the contrary. You state below that it has, though I suspect we may be centering on different usages of the word. By "prosperity" I do not mean greed or excess, but sufficient means to thrive in the relative world. Your dojo is prosperous in that it has attracted enough students that finding a larger venue has become an issue. That is indeed a prosperity to be commended, and I congratulate you and your students! Clearly, your practice, the life, longevity, and vitality, of your dojo community is sustainable, and that is what prosperity should be about.
2 Yes. Very.
3 I do not think this really matters. Aikido is training: in kotodama = possession by the Divine, which will lead to effective waza.
And what does effective waza lead to? O Sensei was not a Zen guy, so it's hard for me to imagine that he would limit his practice to waza for waza's sake (That's "sake" in English, not Japanese...). He talked about the forms all being "empty shells," so again it suggests to me that there was something deeper and more essential for him. In his universe, it evidently had to do with a relationship to the kami and perhaps certain mystical energies. In my universe, this simply translates into a truer and more direct relationship with physics (universal forces) and human evolutionary dynamics.
4 If you can train kotodama effectively, I do not think the rest really matters.
I would say that begs the same question my article is asking: what effect? And how to measure or evaluate it? Again, I'm not the scholar, but if O Sensei had a vision of uniting the world into one family, surely that must include elements of tolerance, inclusion of diversity, and the humility to forgive limitation?
5 It is certainly exciting, as it was for Onisaburo Deguchi, but I am not so sure about the enticing and hedonistic aspects.
Survival of the mechanical body is the first requirement of self defense. Beyond that, quality of life is a matter of recreation, the joy of discovery, the meeting of chosen challenges, and the pursuit of humor, beauty, and pleasure. Self defense of the spirit and the intellect is a hedonistic pursuit. It is virtuous when shared, and is only a moral defect when practised at the expense or neglect of others.
Of course, you could argue that O Sensei's aikido was his aikido and our aikido is ours. So we do not need to look to O Sensei for inspiration.
And this is true. But if it is a poor spirit who depends on an idol for inspiration, it is a poorer one still who never looks beyond itself.
I agree with the second point, but would change the first to: O Sensei's aikido was his aikido; your aikido is yours and my aikido is mine. So if I believe that my aikido training does not require me to 'engage in an active, compassionate involvement with building a better world', at least, any more than I am doing now, there is nothing much that you can do about it, short of persuasion.
The persuasion should not come from me. If you become convinced that what you hold dear is in peril, then I hope you will take action. Further, I believe aikido is, in your case, the best vehicle for action.

Personally, that the world is in peril seems self evident.
Like yourself, I run a dojo. It is located in Hiroshima and everybody is acutely conscious here of the 'spirit' of Hiroshima: Hiroshima's mission to change the world. However, I think that I can safely state that I supported this mission quite some time before I took up aikido as a 'life activity'.
Excellent! And as I mentioned in my article, aikido is only one of many, many good paths.
Anyway, the dojo has about 50 members, all except two of whom are Japanese. All the members are beginners, in the sense that they have not been training for very long, and--and this is something that is pleasantly surprising in Japan--fully half the members are women. I run the dojo with two other foreign instructors, a German married couple, and the biggest challenge we have now is finding a larger dojo.
Let me once again salute your success.
In my dojo I have never taught that aikido carries within it a mission to change the world and I think that if I did, we would actually lose students. There are very many aikido dojos in Hiroshima and I suspect that students come to our dojo for fairly specific reasons, one of which is that the dojo is run by foreign instructors. I certainly do not think that they come because the dojo is a sort of moral lighthouse.
Let me quote another whose opinions I respect:

"Many people train in aikido for a wide variety of reasons. This diversity is as it should be. However, regardless of the individual's reason for practicing aikido, it is important to realize that any activity done regularly and deliberately will have an effect on the way we think and how we view our world.

We are, in effect, re-creating ourselves whether or not we intend this. Training (shugyo ) offers a way of shaping ourselves in an image more consistent with our internal ideals. At the same time we are learning to recognize and accommodate the external forces as they exert their influence on us. It is necessary to unify these forces in the ongoing creation of ourselves in order to act in a manner that is more truly coherent.

Therefore, the path of aiki is one which allows us initially a perception, and eventually an experience that the inner and outer worlds are ultimately one, and that all other considerations derive their impetus from this fundamental truth."

While the phrase "moral lighthouse" might bias the outcome a bit, I would be curious to poll your students to see if none of them find a desirable ethical component to your dojo, regardless of what you overtly represent.
I think this is perhaps where we differ. I do not believe that aikido carries within it its own morality, so to speak. This means that I do not believe that aikido training ipso facto requires one to do anything whatsoever outside the dojo, other than defending oneself to the best of one's innate or trained ability, if necessary.
If by "morality" we mean a specific ideology, then we might agree more than you think. Yet I do think aikido has an orientation toward minimizing harm. This might be more a matter of pragmatics, but I have often said that I believe aikido unifies ethics and pragmatics.

Out of curiosity, do you teach reigi, and if so, how and why? If you do not teach it overtly, is it nonetheless, shall we say, an emergent property of your dojo culture?

Finally, you say " other than defending oneself to the best of one's innate or trained ability, if necessary." I would argue that at some level of development it becomes necessary to ask "what is this self?" and "how far does it extend?"
As I stated earlier, your columns are always interesting and provocative, so I look forward to your response.

Best wishes,
I'm honored by your time and attention, and I deeply appreciate the engagement.

Ross

R.A. Robertson 01-30-2009 03:08 PM

Re: The Magnifying Glass
 
Hi Jonathan,
Your article left me wondering the following:
Quote:I know we can only fight poverty by sharing abundance, and for that we must be prosperous.
There is currently enough "prosperity" in the world to completely eradicate poverty everywhere. Is the solution to poverty, then, really more prosperity? It doesn't seem like it to me...
Less poverty would mean more prosperity. If the term is troublesome, insert "sustainability" wherever you see "prosperity." I mean sufficient food, shelter, clothing, access to clean water and sanitation, access to medical care and education, in sufficient quantity as to allow individuals to thrive.
Quote:I know that we cannot fight violence and warfare except by living peaceably, and for that we must be more at ease with our own conflicted natures.
How does "being at ease with our own conflicted natures" necessarily result in effectively fighting violence and warfare? Do you really think that if one is conflicted they cannot work toward peace in the world?
I think we are all conflicted, and we all encounter conflict. I would say that this is exactly the place from which to work toward living more peaceably. Being at ease means being able to relax a bit, which most aikido schools agree is a good thing. Being able to learn to forgive (but not indulge) ourselves allows us to be a bit more forgiving (but not indulgent) of others.
Quote:I know that we cannot fight inequity by dragging down the mighty, but by lifting up and exalting the low, and for that we must be either strong or good at finding levers.
You speak of "inequity" and then refer to the "mighty" and the "low." Your terms are rather ambiguous, but the general impression your words leave is that there is a problem if some are "mighty" while others are not. Why is the fact that not all are "mighty" necessarily inequitable?
By definition, if some are disadvantaged by others, there is inequity.
Quote:I know that we cannot bring sanity to the abused and the congenitally damaged unless we see how crazy and broken we all are, and for that, we need... oh! authentic humility.
It sounds like you're saying it takes one crazy person to fix another. Your comment above also seems to assume that everyone is equally broken and crazy and that it is not humble to suggest otherwise. So, I ask: Must an oncologist suffer cancer before he is able to treat it? Is it arrogant of him to offer medical advice to a cancer sufferer if he hasn't suffered cancer himself? I don't think so... And on what basis do you assert that everyone is "crazy" and "broken"? What do these terms even mean, exactly?
Everyone is part crazy and part sane... just in different ways and degrees. There's nothing in my statement that implies or assumes we are equally so, but the admonition to remove the log from one's own eye before tending to the speck in another's applies.

An oncologist must indeed be thoroughly steeped in cancer and must immerse himself in the problem of it. I don't know if this qualifies as "suffering." It is not necessary that she have it in her own body for her to nonetheless be intimate with it.
Quote:Finally, I know that whatever the cost, however great the challenge, we cannot continue to heal a hurt world through the spoiled medicine of self-sacrifice. That path is putrid with the blood of martyrs and the rotting offal of sanctimonious saints who only increase the ledger of suffering.
I find your suggestion that self-sacrifice is "spoiled medicine" and that martyrs of the past were "sanctimonious" and/or their shed blood "putrid" highly objectionable. It is the great lack of genuine self-sacrifice that has created the "hurt world" of which you write! Your words trample on some of the noblest moments of human history.
Perhaps. But I also see in history and in current events the institutionalization of martyrdom as an excuse for the most horrific acts.

Make no mistake -- under certain conditions I would throw myself in front of a car in order to save the life of another. Most people would, given the right circumstances. The life spared should rightly be grateful to the life given, but should also grieve for the loss.

Sacrifice is an incidental necessity. Otherwise, I strenuously object to the promotion of it as a glorious way of life.
Quote:Instead, we desperately need a path, no -- a highway! -- that will speed us to wherever we are needed, but with scenery that contains beauty, and in a vehicle that is fun, sexy, and potent.
Are you serious? I have nothing against fun, potency, or even sexiness (in the right context), except when it is suggested as an alternative to self-sacrifice. And this is exactly what you appear to have done! If I have read you right, the selfishness and superficiality of your above statement is rather horrifying!
[laughs]

What future would you have for human beings? What is your vision of heaven, utopia, or just a more generally perfect world? Do you wish for more suffering or more pleasure? Will you call me superficial for working earnestly for the latter, rather than the former?
Quote:Seen is this light, my test for good aikido (mine or yours) is this:

Does it increase prosperity?
Is it effective in the face of conflict?
Does it lead toward praise and gratitude more often than criticism and satire?
Does it promote the confidence necessary to admit personal faults, failings, and limitations?
Is it a path of service that is exciting and enticing and downright hedonistic?
For the most part, I think these questions have no pertinency to Aikido whatsoever. I am particularly baffled by your last question. It seems rather selfish to me to think that one must be serving oneself while one serves others. Don't get me wrong: I don't think that service must be necessarily onerous, but I don't think that one should expect or insist on service to others being "enticing" and "downright hedonistic". Such service is merely selfishness in disguise.
Oh, not at all!

There is no disguise... my selfishness is plain and happily displayed.

If you truly wish to serve as a way of life, your service must be sustainable (there's that word again). It doesn't really matter if you find sustainability in the manner of Mother Theresa or Ghandi, or Bill Gates. Each of these people did (are doing) what they find rewarding, and they are only successful if their path allows them to keep doing what they love.

There is no successful or useful charitable enterprise that does not look to its own well being. There is such a thing as enlightened self-interest and the greatest good in the world is usually done by those who understand it.

Aikido is simply my chosen path toward a greater understanding of and capacity for enlightened self-interest.

I wish all beings everywhere pleasure, happiness, joy, fun, humor, sex, adventure, health and abundance. I wish for them a path that leads to the same, and I wish for them the tremendous delight in sharing in a way that multiplies rather than divides.

Jonathan, please take no offense at my impudence. It would be far better for both of us if you simply were able to laugh at me. Then we would both know we've done some good.

Very happy to meet you!

Ross

Peter Goldsbury 01-30-2009 11:23 PM

Re: The Magnifying Glass
 
Hello Ross,

Many thanks for the considered response--and please call me Peter.

I especially like the part where you quoted myself against myself, but did not tell me who I was until I discovered it by looking up the old thread.

Well, as Neo might have said, "You almost had me convinced." Almost.

So I agree about the vision in the garden and about the Founder's commitment "towards a better world", as you put it. I think, however, that there is a certain context to the Founder's commitment here that cannot be taken for granted here.

The Japanese term is yo-naoshi: world repairs, and was a constant theme running right through the late Tokugawa period, up till the verge of Japan's defeat in 1945. However, there was no general agreement on needed repairing and some hotheads believed that the repairs could be achieved only by assassinating a few people who stood in the way. The Founder took Onisaburo Deguchi's vision of world repairs and chose for himself a central role: bringing together the Divine World, the Spirit World and the Earthly World. This mission of bringing together three worlds permeates the Takemusu Aiki discourses.

So, how each person conceives of or defines his own particular view of world repair is going to be of crucial importance--and O Sensei does not really give detailed advice here, beyond the normal Japanese of carrying out your mission: of doing whatever you are supposed to be doing to the very best of your ability.

I think it was the judgmental aspect of your post that struck me: "if your practice dos not lead you to engage in an active, compassionate involvement with building a better world, then what you are doing is not aikido." I was once chastized by none other than Kissomaru Ueshiba for presuming to make a judgment on whether what x was doing was, or was not, aikido. Doshu told me gently that I had no right to make such a judgment.

I do not share your view on prosperity. This is a personal thing, but it strikes me as a rather unfortunate choice of term, smacking too much of the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. I believe that something like eudaimonia: the Greek view of happiness, which is the result of all-round integration of the personality and is not the same as pleasure, is more appropriate.

Of course, Aristotle believed that the highest form of eudaimonia was the contemplation of the truth and this is what I find troubling about your five questions. I was taught by no less a shihan than K Chiba, that aikido training was intended to engender a more ruthless honesty, a clearer and perhaps more searing perception of the truth about oneself, than one had hitherto. Chiba Sensei took up zen because his education made him unable to accept O Sensei's Shinto world view, but he needed an alternative, an essential 'mystical' dimension to his training.

As for polling my students to see if they saw a "desirable ethical component" to my dojo, I think the first problem would be defining ethical. I doubt whether they would know what you meant. There might well be a component that they might well agree was 'ethical', but I doubt very much that this was the reason why they took up aikido.

Best wishes,

PAG

R.A. Robertson 02-06-2009 03:42 PM

Re: The Magnifying Glass
 
Hello Ross,

Many thanks for the considered response--and please call me Peter.

Hi Again, Peter,

[\] So I agree about the vision in the garden and about the Founder's commitment "towards a better world", as you put it. I think, however, that there is a certain context to the Founder's commitment here that cannot be taken for granted here.

The Japanese term is yo-naoshi: world repairs, and was a constant theme running right through the late Tokugawa period, up till the verge of Japan's defeat in 1945. However, there was no general agreement on needed repairing and some hotheads believed that the repairs could be achieved only by assassinating a few people who stood in the way. The Founder took Onisaburo Deguchi's vision of world repairs and chose for himself a central role: bringing together the Divine World, the Spirit World and the Earthly World. This mission of bringing together three worlds permeates the Takemusu Aiki discourses.


Very interesting! Resonant, I think, with the Judaic notion of Tikkun Olam. Like Tikkun, it is a thing beautifully conceived, but vulnerable to appropriation by those with less than humanitarian agendas.

So, how each person conceives of or defines his own particular view of world repair is going to be of crucial importance--and O Sensei does not really give detailed advice here, beyond the normal Japanese of carrying out your mission: of doing whatever you are supposed to be doing to the very best of your ability.

And yet, his revelation in the garden seems clear enough. True, he does not say, "this is how it must be for all students of aikido, and any who believe otherwise must be excommunicated." But neither does he say "this is only my opinion, you know, a private thing, you should feel free to do whatever you like, and if you call it 'aikido.' I'm cool with that."

Again, we have to careful about basing our arguments on what O-Sensei thought, because a) we can't really know, and b) each of us has to frame our discourse in a way that stands on its own merits without recourse to some authority. Having said that, though, I hope no one will exclude consideration of the Founder's words and teachings.

I think it was the judgmental aspect of your post that struck me: "if your practice dos not lead you to engage in an active, compassionate involvement with building a better world, then what you are doing is not aikido." I was once chastized by none other than Kissomaru Ueshiba for presuming to make a judgment on whether what x was doing was, or was not, aikido. Doshu told me gently that I had no right to make such a judgment.

Well, sure. I never knew him, but I always imagined him to be very wise in this regard, to say nothing of generous. I very much respect that. At the same time, I suspect that any of us, including members of the Ueshiba family, would agree that not all claims to aikido are equal. Personally, I take great measures to do everything I can to keep from becoming an aikido snob. All forms of practice, so long as they are safe and respectful, are welcome in my school and in my system.

But there you have it... "safe and respectful." Already we have the necessity of something like an ethical component within the dojo.

I do not share your view on prosperity. This is a personal thing, but it strikes me as a rather unfortunate choice of term, smacking too much of the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. I believe that something like eudaimonia: the Greek view of happiness, which is the result of all-round integration of the personality and is not the same as pleasure, is more appropriate.

Ehh, believe me, I'm no Protestant!

Based on what little I know of you (and I will be pleased to learn more), I must object to your objection. I don't presume you to be rich (whatever that means, and in any case I would have no objection) but you have what many would consider a privileged position in your work (doubtless honorably earned, mind you). Your dojo, by your own account, has reached a considerable level of success. If you were jobless, and if your dojo were down to 5 students, you would have to make decisions about your survival and that of your dojo. These are matters of prosperity, or if you prefer, material necessity, and as such, they are matters of self-defense. It is not necessary to make a living teaching aikido (though that would be nice) in order for aikido to inform our approach to living.

Of course, Aristotle believed that the highest form of eudaimonia was the contemplation of the truth and this is what I find troubling about your five questions. I was taught by no less a shihan than K Chiba, that aikido training was intended to engender a more ruthless honesty, a clearer and perhaps more searing perception of the truth about oneself, than one had hitherto. Chiba Sensei took up zen because his education made him unable to accept O Sensei's Shinto world view, but he needed an alternative, an essential 'mystical' dimension to his training.

And yet, am I not asking questions about the veracity of our practise? Is not the intent to hold up a magnifying glass and ask the difficult but essential questions "what is our practice," and "how do we know," and how do we evaluate good from bad?"

And by "mystical," do you mean that there was also an ethical component?

As for polling my students to see if they saw a "desirable ethical component" to my dojo, I think the first problem would be defining ethical. I doubt whether they would know what you meant. There might well be a component that they might well agree was 'ethical', but I doubt very much that this was the reason why they took up aikido.

None of us can know what aikido is until we ourselves have been doing it for a little while. Original reasons for joining might be interesting. They may hold up for years. But to me, the more essential question is, "why do you continue?"

I would, frankly, be astonished to find that there were no ethical dimensions to your practise and how you present it in your school. I would be even more surprised if these teachings did not translate into your students' lives off the mat.

Now, if you want to make a case that how this happens is up to each individual, you will get little argument from me.

But if it does not happen at all, then I think it gives a validity to the distinction of what some call "sport aikido." Even then, I would say surely there is room for such a thing as sport aikido on our big planet, and let those who are drawn to it practice it joyfully.

Yet I stand by my original premise... such practice is a limited subset of what we generally call "aikido," and one which potentially is lacking certain necessary elements in order to fully qualify as aikido.

Finally I'd like to close this round with a quote:

"While preparing students for successful work lives, we also owe it to society to ensure that these same students—whatever careers they pursue—have a strong ethical compass and a commitment to civic and personal responsibility. Colleges can, and indeed must, do both of these things. The task of meeting these multiple educational goals is not all that different today than in years past, although the skills needed for citizenship and work are more complex. It isn’t an either-or choice, and it never has been."

http://www.aacu.org/liberaleducation..._Humphreys.cfm

College Outcomes for Work, Life, and Citizenship: Can We Really Do It All?

By Debra Humphreys

I think these same issues are essential for any aikido practice that is aimed toward a viable way of life, and not simply a hobby by which ones goes about the business of killing time.

High Regards,

Ross

Jonathan 02-06-2009 11:33 PM

Re: The Magnifying Glass
 
Quote:

Less poverty would mean more prosperity.
And my point was that the reverse isn't always true. More prosperity doesn't necessarily mean less poverty. We have in fact an excess of prosperity in many corners of the world today and yet poverty remains.

Quote:

I think we are all conflicted, and we all encounter conflict. I would say that this is exactly the place from which to work toward living more peaceably. Being at ease means being able to relax a bit, which most aikido schools agree is a good thing. Being able to learn to forgive (but not indulge) ourselves allows us to be a bit more forgiving (but not indulgent) of others.
Are you suggesting that being conflicted is necessary to being able to live peaceably?

Quote:

You speak of "inequity" and then refer to the "mighty" and the "low." Your terms are rather ambiguous, but the general impression your words leave is that there is a problem if some are "mighty" while others are not. Why is the fact that not all are "mighty" necessarily inequitable?

By definition, if some are disadvantaged by others, there is inequity.
Being "low" is not necessarily the same as being disadvantaged. Especially if your standard of comparison is the "mighty," being "low" may well be quite comfortable and pleasant and not disadvantageous at all. For example, if I compare myself to the "mighty" President of the United States, I could correctly say that I am "low" (or "lower" - but only in regards to circumstances and power, mind you, not as a person). I would not, however, argue that because I'm not as "mighty" as the President I am necessarily disadvantaged. This would be quite untrue. Even though I am "lower" than the President, I have all that I need to pursue whatever endeavour I choose and to live as I like. The obvious inequity between us does not need to be eliminated.

Quote:

An oncologist must indeed be thoroughly steeped in cancer and must immerse himself in the problem of it. I don't know if this qualifies as "suffering." It is not necessary that she have it in her own body for her to nonetheless be intimate with it
.

My point was that it was not, as you acknowledge above, necessary to have personal experience of a problem in order to offer an effective remedy to that problem. In other words, it is not necessary to be "crazy and broken" (whatever that means) in order to help those who are; it is enough simply to know about being "crazy and broken" and how to resolve being so in order to provide a remedy to one who is.

Quote:

What future would you have for human beings? What is your vision of heaven, utopia, or just a more generally perfect world? Do you wish for more suffering or more pleasure? Will you call me superficial for working earnestly for the latter, rather than the former?
There are far higher and nobler goals than those of the hedonist. If your main goal is to increase your physical pleasure, then I would suggest such a goal is very superficial. Mercy, justice, service, love, honor, holiness - all these are far superior goals. But they often interfere with experiencing pleasure. I hope that you would not urge the rejection of these things in order to magnify your experience of pleasure.

My vision of Heaven is the one offered by the Bible. Not harps and clouds and endless floating about, but being in the presence of the Almighty God of the Universe. What greater joy and peace could be found than in the company of the One who made me and the cosmos? Experiencing His pure light, His perfect holiness, justice, love, wisdom and power unobscured will be Heaven indeed.

A more perfect world would be one which more perfectly reflected the holiness, love, and wisdom of God.

Quote:

There is no successful or useful charitable enterprise that does not look to its own well being. There is such a thing as enlightened self-interest and the greatest good in the world is usually done by those who understand it.
Looking to one's own well-being and putting one's well-being before everything else are two different things. The former is practical and necessary, the latter is indulgent and destructive.You sound like you may have these two states somewhat confused.

Quote:

I wish all beings everywhere pleasure, happiness, joy, fun, humor, sex, adventure, health and abundance. I wish for them a path that leads to the same, and I wish for them the tremendous delight in sharing in a way that multiplies rather than divides.
All the things you wish for others divorced from higher ideals like perseverance, honor, loyalty, fidelity, and compassion ultimately become hollow and unfulfilling things.

Quote:

Jonathan, please take no offense at my impudence. It would be far better for both of us if you simply were able to laugh at me. Then we would both know we've done some good.
Who says I haven't been laughing?

Peace,

Jon.

Peter Goldsbury 02-07-2009 08:31 PM

Re: The Magnifying Glass
 
Hello, Ross.

A few more comments to your latest response.

Quote:

Ross Robertson wrote: (Post 224603)
Again, we have to careful about basing our arguments on what O-Sensei thought, because a) we can't really know, and b) each of us has to frame our discourse in a way that stands on its own merits without recourse to some authority. Having said that, though, I hope no one will exclude consideration of the Founder's words and teachings.

PAG. I agree with (b) above, much more than with (a). I think we can know that O Sensei thought, to the extent that we are capable of reading and understanding what he wrote. If we cannot 'really' know what he thought, then there is no point in including consideration of his words and teachings.

Quote:

Ross Robertson wrote: (Post 224603)
Based on what little I know of you (and I will be pleased to learn more), I must object to your objection. I don't presume you to be rich (whatever that means, and in any case I would have no objection) but you have what many would consider a privileged position in your work (doubtless honorably earned, mind you). Your dojo, by your own account, has reached a considerable level of success. If you were jobless, and if your dojo were down to 5 students, you would have to make decisions about your survival and that of your dojo. These are matters of prosperity, or if you prefer, material necessity, and as such, they are matters of self-defense. It is not necessary to make a living teaching aikido (though that would be nice) in order for aikido to inform our approach to living.

PAG. Actually, I retired last year. My title as Emeritus Professor does not imply that I actually do any teaching (though I still do).

Quote:

Ross Robertson wrote: (Post 224603)
And yet, am I not asking questions about the veracity of our practise? Is not the intent to hold up a magnifying glass and ask the difficult but essential questions "what is our practice," and "how do we know," and how do we evaluate good from bad?"

And by "mystical," do you mean that there was also an ethical component?

PAG. A distinctive feature of Japanese culture is that the foundation of ethics does not follow a 'western' pattern. Therefore, ethical decisions are much more firmly based on the particular situation. So, in deciding whether to be honest with a patient, for example, the doctor is much more likely to be influenced by the problems of a particular situation than follow any moral imperative. Nor do I think there is any connection between the moral and the mystical, such as Christianity gives to mysticism and sainthood. So, some Japanese who has become enlightened through a mystical experience is not--intrinsically, by this very fact--a being of superior moral virtue.

Quote:

Ross Robertson wrote: (Post 224603)
None of us can know what aikido is until we ourselves have been doing it for a little while. Original reasons for joining might be interesting. They may hold up for years. But to me, the more essential question is, "why do you continue?"

PAG. Why is this more essential? The original reasons might change, but one might still be no nearer to knowing that aikido "is" after many years of training, even if this question were actually of interest. In fact, it might become more difficult.

Quote:

Ross Robertson wrote: (Post 224603)
I would, frankly, be astonished to find that there were no ethical dimensions to your practise and how you present it in your school. I would be even more surprised if these teachings did not translate into your students' lives off the mat.

Now, if you want to make a case that how this happens is up to each individual, you will get little argument from me.

But if it does not happen at all, then I think it gives a validity to the distinction of what some call "sport aikido." Even then, I would say surely there is room for such a thing as sport aikido on our big planet, and let those who are drawn to it practice it joyfully.

Yet I stand by my original premise... such practice is a limited subset of what we generally call "aikido," and one which potentially is lacking certain necessary elements in order to fully qualify as aikido.

PAG. I disagree. The categories in which you present the issue are too narrow for me. My students certainly do not practise 'sport' aikido, if I understand what you mean by this. But nor do they necessarily connect they way I present aikido with their lives off the mat, particularly in an 'ethical' way. In any case, I think that any ethical dimensions to the way I train were there long before I started aikido. Of course, if you believe that every human action has (to have) an ethical dimension that results in further activity of some sort, then I can understand your surprise. But I do not believe this of aikido.

Best wishes,

PAG

R.A. Robertson 02-13-2009 03:18 PM

Re: The Magnifying Glass
 
Peter, Jonathan... Gentlemen,

I am tempted most mightily to see if I can set you two arguing against one another. For on the one hand, one of you seems to have an objection that I go too far in calling for an ethical dimension in aikido, and declaring that service to the well-being of humanity and the environment is intrinsic and necessary for a discipline to rightly be called aikido. The other of you appears to be criticizing me for advocating the "shallow," "indulgent and destructive," and "selfishness and superficiality."

One would get the impression that I am simultaneously too sanctimonious while completely lacking a moral compass. Well, we are all complex beings I suppose, and what you suggest may be true in any case.

In any case, you both seem to be unified in your objections to my usage of the two terms "prosperity" and "hedonism." Let's take them one at a time.

I wonder if Gene Roddneberry caught flack every time Spock said, "Live long and prosper." A review of the definition of the word includes a financial dimension, but is by no means limited to economic health. Prosperity also means to grow strong and healthy, and in general to succeed.

Therefore I am arguing in favor of fitness and health and success for all beings as an essential component of any sufficiently robust defensive system, including and especially, aikido. Argue against it all you like, it's a view I'm pretty comfortable with, and one I'd really like to see more widespread.

(And by the way... voluntary privation, voluntary simplicity, voluntary asceticism... these are all practices reserved for the privileged.)

Similarly, hedonism can be discussed as purely fleshly self-indulgent pleasures. But this is an unnecessarily limiting definition and clearly not the one I am using. As a philosophy of ethics, hedonism simply asserts that pleasure is self-evidently a good thing.

It follows then that unnecessary harm to any being is not a good thing. Also, self destructive behavior, however pleasurable in the short term, is not consistent with the philosophy of hedonism.

The pleasures of "Mercy, justice, service, love, honor, holiness" and also that of "eudaimonia" (though note well that the Greeks were by no means unified in their use of that term), are simply different aspects of hedonism.

So I will reiterate my position that I advocate an increase of pleasures of endless varieties for all beings, to the fullest extent possible, and a concomitant reduction in suffering everywhere. Further, aikido is one viable path toward that aim, and that it is virtually (hah, pun!) impossible for a discipline such as aikido to remain neutral about issues of well-being.

So if I have written in such a way as to cause confusion, then I am grateful to each of you for working with me toward clarity. I am happier still if we've found agreement in the idea that aikido has a vital place in promoting a greater good.

If, on the other hand, your position is that aikido must foster suffering or indifference, then I'm afraid we disagree, and the burden of proof lies with you.

Best,

Ross

Peter Goldsbury 02-14-2009 06:00 PM

Re: The Magnifying Glass
 
Good morning, Ross,

A few more comments on yoiur response.

Quote:

Ross Robertson wrote: (Post 225047)
Peter, Jonathan... Gentlemen,

I am tempted most mightily to see if I can set you two arguing against one another. For on the one hand, one of you seems to have an objection that I go too far in calling for an ethical dimension in aikido, and declaring that service to the well-being of humanity and the environment is intrinsic and necessary for a discipline to rightly be called aikido. The other of you appears to be criticizing me for advocating the "shallow," "indulgent and destructive," and "selfishness and superficiality."

PAG. I am not sure I fully understand the logic of this point. Why would Mr Hay and I need to argue, when we are both arguing against you (though from different standpoints)?

Quote:

Ross Robertson wrote: (Post 225047)
Therefore I am arguing in favor of fitness and health and success for all beings as an essential component of any sufficiently robust defensive system, including and especially, aikido. Argue against it all you like, it's a view I'm pretty comfortable with, and one I'd really like to see more widespread.

PAG. Sure, but the devil is in the details.

Quote:

Ross Robertson wrote: (Post 225047)
(And by the way... voluntary privation, voluntary simplicity, voluntary asceticism... these are all practices reserved for the privileged.)

PAG. Not necessarily. Like the 'success' of your preceding paragraph, 'privileged' is a slippery term. It would certainly include the Founder himself. In his early life, Onisaburo Deguchi did all three things, but he was certainly not privileged.

Quote:

Ross Robertson wrote: (Post 225047)
The pleasures of "Mercy, justice, service, love, honor, holiness" and also that of "eudaimonia" (though note well that the Greeks were by no means unified in their use of that term), are simply different aspects of hedonism.

PAG I used eudaimonia in my previous post specifically as used by Aristotle, who also clearly denied that it was pleasure (in the Nicomachean Ethics).

Quote:

Ross Robertson wrote: (Post 225047)
So I will reiterate my position that I advocate an increase of pleasures of endless varieties for all beings, to the fullest extent possible, and a concomitant reduction in suffering everywhere. Further, aikido is one viable path toward that aim, and that it is virtually (hah, pun!) impossible for a discipline such as aikido to remain neutral about issues of well-being.

PAG. So, how would your position be different from that of a utilitarian like Bentham? In the example I gave in my earlier post, of the doctor lying to the patient, two ethical principles conflict. Aikido is of no help in such a case because it is not an ethical system.

Quote:

Ross Robertson wrote: (Post 225047)
So if I have written in such a way as to cause confusion, then I am grateful to each of you for working with me toward clarity. I am happier still if we've found agreement in the idea that aikido has a vital place in promoting a greater good.

If, on the other hand, your position is that aikido must foster suffering or indifference, then I'm afraid we disagree, and the burden of proof lies with you.

PAG. Ah, Ross, you are giving with one hand and then taking away with the other. The way you have set up the disjunction is an example of "writing in such a way to cause confusion".
You have given us the choice of agreeing that aikido either (a) promotes a greater good (which you yourself have defined to be maximum pleasure), or (b) must foster suffering or indifference. I agree with (a), but not with your definition of (a), and disagree with (b), which I think is a 'straw man'.

Best wishes,

PAG

Erick Mead 02-15-2009 12:47 AM

Re: The Magnifying Glass
 
Quote:

Peter A Goldsbury wrote: (Post 225086)
PAG I used eudaimonia in my previous post specifically as used by Aristotle, who also clearly denied that it was pleasure (in the Nicomachean Ethics).

...and one can exercise vital powers along lines of excellence that increase the scope of the ability to endure suffering -- but it does not speak the ends of that suffering. In other words, as an objective evil, to be willingly be undertaken, suffering must be in preference to some greater evil to be defeated or avoided, NOT that suffering is a good in itself. Only evil destroys evil -- good destroys nothing. As Peter Kreeft has put it quite well, God has dangerous tastes -- and permissive ones ...

Quote:

Peter A Goldsbury wrote: (Post 225086)
PAG. So, how would your position be different from that of a utilitarian like Bentham? In the example I gave in my earlier post, of the doctor lying to the patient, two ethical principles conflict. Aikido is of no help in such a case because it is not an ethical system.

Let me take this up. Conflict is an objective evil. Aikido is a system for dealing in conflict. Therefore it is not ethical in the sense that it actually harnesses an objective evil.

So in that sense, I agree with you that aikido is not an ethical system per se, but it is founded upon an ethical issue about how to resolve conflicts - or to deal in a lesser of two evils.

On the one hand, when I am attacked, I am justified in destroying the evil of the attack. On the other hand, it is objectively an evil to do violence willingly to a person -- a person is not evil -- though he does an evil thing -- it is a justified evil to reply to violence with violence, but still an evil.

Aikido resolves this conflict in its characteristic manner -- the attacker is actually in control, his will to attack is the cause (both formal and efficient) of the violence that I do to him. I form (depending on the circumstances) a conduit or mirror, conveying his own evil back to confront him with it. If he ceases to attack, nothing happens. If he continues to attack, the evil of attack destroys itself, and I have not composed my own will, but guided the will of the attack around and returned it . A killing blow reflected may yet be a killing blow.

Quote:

Peter A Goldsbury wrote: (Post 225086)
You have given us the choice of agreeing that aikido either (a) promotes a greater good (which you yourself have defined to be maximum pleasure), or (b) must foster suffering or indifference. I agree with (a), but not with your definition of (a), and disagree with (b), which I think is a 'straw man'.

I agree with (a) and (b) with some qualification. I agree with both the "good" and "pleasure" parts of (a), for participating in violence is a pleasure -- that much is inbred. But Aikido's manner of dealing in violence is oriented toward good, though it is still violent.

And I simultaneously agree with (b). Devils revel in the suffering of others, and misery loves company, as they say; saints also ecstatically receive their own suffering -- so pleasure and suffering are not at all antithetical. Suffering is deemed redemptive in some important way by Christians, and in Shinto misogi, and even and in a certain way by Buddhists, because it tears away the more seductive aspects of maya. Therefore, in suffering the truth is made more clear -- on this point the three faiths can likely agree this as a method of discovery, if not the content of the treasure sought.

Aikido for me seems to seek a special kind of suffering in and with violence -- misogi -- violence in a penitential spirit, in our terms -- where I suffer from someone initiating violence, and likewise suffer for my own. The refiner's fire. "I come not to bring peace, but a sword." "Now the Kingdom of Heaven is preached and everyone enters it violently."

R.A. Robertson 02-17-2009 03:33 PM

Re: The Magnifying Glass
 
Hi Peter,

Quote:

Peter A Goldsbury wrote: (Post 225086)
PAG. I am not sure I fully understand the logic of this point. Why would Mr Hay and I need to argue, when we are both arguing against you (though from different standpoints)?

Precisely because you are arguing from standpoints sufficiently different, your views are at odds with one another's even if you are joined in arguing against me. That, and until Erick came in (welcome Erick!) there were only three speakers in the room, and two of them were not addressing each other.

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PAG. Not necessarily. Like the 'success' of your preceding paragraph, 'privileged' is a slippery term. It would certainly include the Founder himself. In his early life, Onisaburo Deguchi did all three things, but he was certainly not privileged.
Grease it up enough, and any term will become slippery. But I don't think I'm using terms in any particularly occult way, and I try to be clear about my meaning and use in any case. I still hold that any voluntary privation (Gandhi, Mother Theresa, et al) are for the privileged. But this is a digression from our main discussion.

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PAG I used eudaimonia in my previous post specifically as used by Aristotle, who also clearly denied that it was pleasure (in the Nicomachean Ethics).
Yes. And what Aristotle calls "good" (virtý) is what I would say will ultimately result in pleasure. If the Wikipedia article is to be trusted (I claim no expertise), it is particularly telling that the notion of sacrifice is not seen as desirable. That, at least, is consistent with my thesis.

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PAG. So, how would your position be different from that of a utilitarian like Bentham? In the example I gave in my earlier post, of the doctor lying to the patient, two ethical principles conflict. Aikido is of no help in such a case because it is not an ethical system.
I don't know Bentham, but I would say my views on a hedonic philosophy are meant to be very utilitarian. But some utilities are certainly better than others. In your case of the doctor, choices must be made for the greater good of the patient, and the doctor/patient relationship.

More on your last sentence above, um... below.

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PAG. Ah, Ross, you are giving with one hand and then taking away with the other.
[Laughs] Now THAT would put me in some rather exalted company, don't you think?

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The way you have set up the disjunction is an example of "writing in such a way to cause confusion".
You have given us the choice of agreeing that aikido either (a) promotes a greater good (which you yourself have defined to be maximum pleasure), or (b) must foster suffering or indifference. I agree with (a), but not with your definition of (a), and disagree with (b), which I think is a 'straw man'.
Apologies if that seems so. But I genuinely am interested in your defense of aikido as "not ethical." Particularly, if you agree that aikido "promotes a greater good" (even if we disagree for now on how to define "good"), how can ethics NOT be intrinsic to the art?

Respectfully Yours,

Ross


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