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Old 02-13-2009, 02:18 PM   #10
R.A. Robertson
Dojo: Still Point Aikido Center
Location: Austin, TX, USA
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 288
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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
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