Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard
I think this has been said already, said many ways and many times. However, I think it was said in a way that we can again act as if the content of the article is relevant only to some abstract Other -- not us, not everyone that trains in this great art of ours. Here is another way of looking at the same thing (in my opinion)…
I think we have to realize that there is a great difference between being the best, doing our best, and doing all that one needs to do in order to achieve one's desired-for ends. What is most problematic is that we often see what we are doing as the best we can do and thus also as the best (period). We want so badly to not have the best we can do seen as merely the choice we have made for ourselves. We also want the best we can do to suffice in all ways and/or at least in the way we claim to be pointing (which we subsume under the rubric of "the best way to be pointing"). We so easily forget, for some reason, that our best, whatever that may be, simply may not be good enough. We do not want to see, via any kind of personal insight or via any kind of contrast, that we are by all perspectives indeed only a hobbyist, a part-time budoka, or a practitioner that is just going through the motions. We want some way to see what we are doing, what we have chosen to do, as both all we can do and all that is necessary to NOT be a hobbyist, a part-timer, a person just going through the motions, etc.
When we are reminded of how much more we can do, of how much more there is to do, through things like the article or by coming into contact with great teachers and with great practitioners, the thing to do is not to redefine "best" (such that we become "good enough" and thus by default part of the "best"). Nor should we seek to paint ourselves as being a practitioner with the best of intentions but who is forced into a life where we cannot manifest our best intentions -- where can become the "best we can be," and thus, through the modern fetishization of effort, somehow become "good enough" or some other ego-satisfying spin on "best." Most of all, we should not dismiss all these chances for self-honesty under the obvious slogan of, "Well, I don't want to be the best" -- or its many offshoots ("I don't want to be better than my teacher." "I don't want to be as good as my teacher." "I just do Aikido for me." "I don't think it's relevant to compare myself to others or to anything outside of me in Aikido." Etc.) If all of these slogans were genuinely felt, we would be satisfied with being a dabbler, a hobbyist, a person who can never explore the totality or the depths of the art -- but we are not -- and this tells us something about these slogans and why and how we are using them. Let's be honest.
The first time I came across this analogy (i.e.. roots, branches, leaves, etc.), I heard it through Chiba Sensei. It made a lot of sense at first. However, over the years, it has come to make little sense outside of making us dabblers feel a part of something that we can never be a part of. Does that make sense? It is like it is a polite way of allowing us folks that won't reprioritize our lives to feel akin or in union with those that have. We say, "Well, I'm not the roots, but hey, I'm still a tree -- just like you are." I think very few of us say this to ourselves in order to come out in a favorable way when comparing ourselves to others, but we often say this to ourselves when we are trying to justify all that we have yet to do by that which we are willing to do. I think we should all be roots -- we should all seek to be roots. I mean, perhaps we can understand what the leaves of a fighting art might be, but what the heck are the leaves of a spiritual cultivation? We should all do the best we can to be roots. However, to do this, we have to learn to do the best we can while we continually strive to do more of what is required. Do what you can do, accept where you are, while nevertheless tirelessly working to do more, to become more. Sometimes, or maybe it is ALWAYS, in order to do this, we do have to recognize that we have not all been that committed in our training -- that we are indeed just going through the motions, just dabbling.
In another thread, George mentioned something about the average aikidoka not training as much as the average high school athlete. I've often thought of this myself, only I tended to use the average community co-ed softball league player in the comparison. I noticed that the average softball league player probably practices as many hours and/or more than the average aikidoka. Yet, the average softball player seems to be able to perceive their level of commitment differently. I noticed that they have no problem accurately recognizing their level of commitment and where it fits in with all the other levels of commitment concerning the sport of baseball. I wonder why this is -- it has always struck me as odd (just as odd that someone can easily commit as much time to a recreational/pastime sport as another person finds it difficult to commit more toward something that is suppose to transform them for forever and/or reconcile the world). What do you all think? Why can a softball player who has a couple practices a week and a game on the weekend have no problem saying, "Oh yeah, it's just fun for me, I'm no expert, not even close, etc., I don't pretend to be good at it, etc.," (or something akin to that), while the average aikidoka, whose activity seems so much more profoundly deep than the sport of baseball, can do as much or even less and not be able to say something similar?