Craig Hocker wrote:
I find these notions of independence just as romantic and fictional as the Jeffersonian idea of individualism. There is little virtue in asceticism except if you live in a culture wealthy enough to allow you the luxury of it. Self-reliance is a virtue itself that need not be utilized for anything else. A two year old may need to go through forms of denial to claim it's notion of independence, but a mature human being while expressing in action virtues such as self-reliance should be self-aware to really know and see through the illusion of independence in whatever form a culture has defined the notion in its stories.
Your working definition of asceticism is too narrow for me. Indeed, if you are understanding it as the practice related to the mythic character in robes or half-naked - you are right. But the general idea - the idea of spiritual cultivation through self-discipline and various types of denial, etc., is indeed more valid today than ever - in my opinion. Asceticism is more needed today than ever. If it's not for you - that is one thing - but only one thing and only for you. Perhaps we are talking about different things then.
For me, no virtue is a virtue in and of itself. Virtues, like self-reliance, are virtues solely by how we use them and particularly how we use them toward communal or social ends. In my opinion, to be "self-reliant" and to have no way of utilizing it toward a social or communal end is to be spiritually (even emotionally) impotent and thus self-alienated. We'll have to disagree on this.
One would think that denial (or delusion, or attachment, etc.) is a thing reducible to two year olds, but for any adult that has taken the cultivation of his/her spirit seriously, he/she knows that this is unfortunately not true. Additionally, such adults learn not to consider themselves above childlike habitual responses. For these people, it is not a lesser mature state that reflects and notes that one is driven by fear, by pride, and/or by ignorance. If anything, for many, such things would be understood in the reverse - where boasts to be above such things are seen as the more immature state of existence. To each his own then - if you are above it and then wish to identify others who make no such claims about their own person as two year olds, etc. - more power to you. I personally can make no such claims about myself. Additionally, I opt not to understand others of a similar nature as two year olds and/or as spiritually immature.
Spirituality without romanticism is dead. Aikido without romanticism is dead as well. First, one begins with ideals and with an attraction to such ideals, and then one works to make them real. Romanticism is the seed of realization - be that spiritual or martial. You called a place with month-long trial periods a utopia - a "no place." It once was a "no place" for me as well - an ideal I had romanticized - but now it is real. It's hardly a utopia for me. With work, it became real. In other words, I did the work, a month-long trial period is real; you didn't do the work, a month-long trial period is not real. The problem then is not with ideals, or even with romanticism, the problem is with not doing the work to make things real. If romanticism is one's excuse for not doing the work, or for denying that there is work to do, or if it is used to excuse one's lack of work by saying the work cannot be done, then, yes, I would agree with your critique against romanticism. However, then I think we are talking about two different things again. Fictions, romantic or otherwise, are not the problem - the lack of work is the issue. For those that do the work, utility is very much found in fictions (in this case, the utility of being able to gain some distance from one's own fictions).
But this is now a different thread topic - we've strayed too far for me to comment more on this here (in my opinion). Perhaps, should you start another thread on the positive or negative nature of romanticism in our training, you can let me know and we can post more there on this topic. Otherwise, I get your point that these issues are not issues for you - fair enough.