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Old 12-28-2009, 04:36 PM   #52
Location: Massachusetts
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 3,183
Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

Charles Hill wrote: View Post
To do something different, I started this thread with a simple idea. Let's take things we have heard and discuss HOW we accept them or reject them.
What if we do neither? That's what I've been trying to get at. What if we don't feel the need to resolve these "things" as true or not true?

I'm not trying to derail the discussion that you're trying to have, Charles...but I am trying to point out that we're not compelled to have an opinion either way. All the questions about O-Sensei's life, what he did, what he said, what he meant by what he said -- there's nothing that says that we, as aikido students, have to thrash out all these questions and come to our own personal set of conclusions about them. Or do you feel that students of aikido do have to answer these questions for themselves?

I have a reason why I prefer not to go there. It's found in the old children's game of Telephone: put a bunch of kids in a circle, one whispers a message to the next who whispers it to the next and so on, until the last one says aloud what they heard...which is invariably radically different from what the first kid said (or thought she said). No matter how carefully you try to repeat information, distortion creeps in -- particularly when there can be a gap between what the first person says, what she thinks she says, what the first listener hears, and what he thinks he hears. And then there's the matter of whether the first listener understands what he thinks he hears. Another example is found in one of my favorite novels, Raising the Stones by Sheri Tepper, about a religion founded by a prophet (who was actually not trying to found a religion at all, but that's another story) who said some very common-sense things like, "No matter how well-intentioned people may be, do not let them mess with your heads." Several generations later, this has developed into a complete ban on any form of counseling, acknowledging the existence of a mental illness, calling the act of teaching "teaching", or even the cutting of one's hair -- because all of these things involve messing with the head, and didn't the prophet say not to allow that?

This is how distortion creeps in, and it happens all the time -- particularly when the original sources are anecdotal. I think it's fine to learn some things about O-Sensei's life, but I'd apply a big grain of salt and not place too much importance on any of it. That latter, I know, will place me at odds with many aikido students, to whom doing things in the spirit O-Sensei intended is of paramount importance. I don't take exception to their goal...but I question whether it is achievable, and personally I don't find it even slightly desirable when taken to such extremes. That's how you end up turning "do not let them mess with your heads" into a prohibition on ever cutting your hair.
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