I do not wish to be master of anything. But I keep practicing and somebody keeps bugging me to teach stuff.
Doubtless, I teach far less well than almost anyone. If this is falsely modest, fine -- I teach better than the most accomplished person anywhere at any time. Both statements are a lie, or are true, or whatever. Choose what you prefer.
A sage -- now that is something to aspire to ...
Master = Magister = Teacher. The word really means nothing more. The question is whether there is anything being taught that is worth learning.
Being the best, though -- that does not necessarily mean anything, especially depending upon one's company. A truly accomplished swordsman was once asked if he had ever been beaten. He replied "Bested, yes; beaten, never."
I am often the most accomplished martial artist in classes I teach. This means exceedingly little, I assure you.
(Oops! False modesty indicator flashing again. Meant to say "god-king of the universe." Sorry. Won't happen again. Really -- terribly sorry.)
Luck is better than talent. Ask all the dead soldiers. Success doesn't teach very well. Ask all the one-shot wonders. Why? Because the irreducible component of success is luck, and it is a part of every success.
Only a survived failure teaches reliably; repetitive, ever more refined failure teaches best. For this reason alone there has always been, and always will be, a fundamental disconnect between material measures of success and real learning. That is another reason why overly commercializing what we do is a mistake.
Aikido is a rigorous exploration of those opportunities for failure in a a mode that ecourages survival. We should pay attention to those who fail most of all, because they are doing real learning although they find it too frustrating to realize it.
On the image of the leaves, branches and roots.
The mightiest oak was once a seedling, every seedling, an acorn.
The problem with the "be a root" metaphor as a model of aspiration, is that it tends to devalue the barely sprung seedlings. All too easily, new shoots get mowed down in today's eagerly leveling world. Acorns rarely sprout twice. Too much concern about their roots, and a whole forest may be lost just to get at the weeds.
Why make it worse? Wild growth is first and foremost growth -- prune later. We don't want "gelded trees" (My favorite phrase from the film "Rob Roy," and who thought I'd ever get to use it? Yippee!)
Good trees will overtop weeds in due course.
Being committed to the art for the art's sake misses the point. Aikido does not exist for the art's sake but for the sake of real, live, breathing people, most of whom do not initially know much about what they are getting into. It is meant as much for them as for the most talented and devoted among us.
Aikido would be a boon to the world if, before the age of sixty, everyone could be taught proper ukemi, and nothing else.
Back to gardening now ...