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Old 06-22-2012, 12:20 PM   #4
R.A. Robertson
Dojo: Still Point Aikido Center
Location: Austin, TX, USA
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 290
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Re: Conformity and the Bicycle Lesson

Thanks, Janet!

Niall, the power of words is often context-dependent. We often think of collaboration as a good thing, necessary for teamwork, necessary for society. And yet in another context, standing accused of being a collaborator is horrible.

This was my point about conformity. People who just want to get along, who will go along with anything, who just want to fit in -- they bring disaster upon themselves and their relationships.

At the same time, in the right context and in the right balance, conformity is good and essential for proper aikido. Look at our everyday experience: if we seek clothing that fits, then it must conform to our bodies. At the same time, we must conform our bodies to the clothes just to put them on. Same with furniture... ergonomic design is about the right fit. It conforms, and we measure its quality accordingly.

We usually like it when our surroundings conform to us. To what extent then should we conform with others, with our environment? By nature I tend to be a bit iconoclast, and I like to think of myself as something of a reformist. But if I look honestly at any rebellious impulses that I harbor, I see that they are actually directed toward finding a better balance, a better fit -- a better con-formity.

As you point out, this requires that we first become in-formed. With greater insight and awareness, we can act more appropriately in the cycle of shaping and being shaped.

Speaking of cycles, I liked your stories. And, I would argue, illustrate the point very well. Under other circumstances, you might have wisely chosen to let the bicyclist pass, even though it would mean altering your own trajectory slightly. You would have conformed. Under the actual circumstance, you wisely chose to assert your form upon another, and the cyclist conformed. And all the while in crowded streets everywhere, people make allowances and small adjustments for each other, reciprocally, conforming and facilitating flow. Ideally, each is served, every individual as well as the overall group dynamic.
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