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Old 01-05-2007, 03:07 AM   #26
Kevin Wilbanks
Location: Seattle/Southern Wisconsin
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Re: "Brown Belt, Black" term origination...

Quote:
Michael Riehle wrote:
Oh, but see, any truth in a myth is the truth we read into it. By definition that would be the "moral of the story".

Or maybe to be more accurate, the myth represents some truth to us regardless of the truth of the myth.
I think this is pure crap. The 'truth' in a myth is not just whatever didactic purposes whoever happens to be around now wants to put it to. If that were the case, myths would be nothing more than transient propaganda. What makes myths vital and "true" is that they reflect or represent something about people and the way they experience things over a long period of time. The interesting part of a myth is precisely what is in there that is NOT subject to the vagaries of contemporary interpretation fashions.

Quote:
Michael Riehle wrote:
These are actually the same thing in this context.

My question may not have been 100% clear. It's not so much "what truth is there in the myth" as "what truth are people seeing in the myth that makes them want to hang on to it in the face of all evidence to the contrary". We've already established that the myth isn't true.
OK, well, then your question was lame. If the only point you were making was that a myth might hold any old type of significance to people aside from whether or not it is factually verifiable, then the question isn't very interesting. There are all sorts of ways a story could have meaning to people aside from whether or not it refers to some kind of consensus historical truth. So what? These interpretations could range from meaning used by the government to protect their ass, to some Jim Jones type trying to use it to get people to drink the Kool Aid, to some hirsuit freak in a shack interpreting it to justify building bombs. The meaning of a myth is not some sort of willy-nilly affair reflexively defined by the fact that someone decided to come up with an interpretation, it has to do with what is in it that resonates with people over a long period of time, despite the coming and going of fashions.


Quote:
Michael Riehle wrote:
It does make you wonder, though, if the modern world actually gets it right when it comes to ancient myths. We know what we believe they're about...

...in fact, I believe we mostly do, but I'd bet there are one or two that those ancient people would be laughing pretty hard about our interpretation.
Once again, this response tells me that you are completely misconceiving the whole idea of truth in myth. People at any particular historical time where a myth is most vital to them are probably in the worst possible position to understand the significance of their own myths in a broader context.

Here's a for-instance that comes to mind: if you asked a bunch of Japanese people in the sixties about Godzilla and other monster movies, do you think they would say "Yeah, well we were all so deeply terrified by being nuked that we decided to sublimate our fears into movies about being attacked by giant dinosaur-like creatures so that we could simultaneously explore and indulge our fears and also get a laugh out of it."?

Using this to make an analogy of your interpretation of the belt myth, then the meaning of the movie genre myth would be something like "people should work together when faced by big challenges". It's completely nonsensical. It's a prescription, using the myth as an exemplar, not an interpretation of the myth itself.

This final quote of yours would be along the lines of saying "Yeah, well the people back then just though Godzilla was really cool and liked the special effects. The joke's on us for thinking it had to do with nuclear fear and so-forth. Shows how much we know."
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Old 01-05-2007, 12:23 PM   #27
mriehle
 
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Re: "Brown Belt, Black" term origination...

Quote:
Kevin Wilbanks wrote:
What makes myths vital and "true" is that they reflect or represent something about people and the way they experience things over a long period of time.
This might actually be a better statement of what I was getting at. The interpretive nature of perceived truth in a myth that I see is not arbitrary. It isn't something people decide to believe. It's something that resonates and so is perceived as truth.

It often, IMO, doesn't even have to make sense.

Quote:
Kevin Wilbanks wrote:
The interesting part of a myth is precisely what is in there that is NOT subject to the vagaries of contemporary interpretation fashions.
While I don't 100% agree with this statement, I see your point. Sort of. Even the idea that the dirty belt represents hard work seems more temporaly stable than the patently silly idea that dirty belts are somehow cool.

Quote:
Kevin Wilbanks wrote:
OK, well, then your question was lame. If the only point you were making was that a myth might hold any old type of significance to people aside from whether or not it is factually verifiable, then the question isn't very interesting.
I see now, where we haven't been communicating. Your interpretation of my question assumes that somehow people arbitrarily decide what the meaning of a myth is. Or seems to, in any case.

I think if that were true, there would never be any myths. I think that the myth itself, not the meaning, is arbitrary, but not necessarily consciously so. So the dirty belt myth comes from someone seeing belts getting discolored as people train and becoming more experienced and deciding that's where black belts came from and sees this as "proof" that experience counts for more than rank (okay, maybe that isn't how it happened, but maybe it is and it illustrates my meaning, I think).

Quote:
Kevin Wilbanks wrote:
There are all sorts of ways a story could have meaning to people aside from whether or not it refers to some kind of consensus historical truth. So what?
I don't know. Maybe nothing. I find it interesting sometimes. Occasionaly I've found by looking into an old myth an insight into human thinking that hadn't occured to me before. Sometimes I just found a silly story.

Quote:
Kevin Wilbanks wrote:
The meaning of a myth is not some sort of willy-nilly affair reflexively defined by the fact that someone decided to come up with an interpretation, it has to do with what is in it that resonates with people over a long period of time, despite the coming and going of fashions.
The interpretation, I think, drives the invention of the myth, not the other way round. I think you think I meant otherwise.

As for the "coming and going of fashion", I suspect that the percieved meaning of myth does, in fact, evolve. Not because people willy-nilly decide that it should, but because the way people think about things changes. But I don't think a myth would survive if this "evolution" involved a wholesale re-interpretation of its meaning.

I'd submit that that evolution itself points to the core meaning that really drives a myth. Maybe that's what you're getting at? In which case I think I understand your distinction between "myth" and "urban legend". And that makes this whole discussion past the point Mr. Fooks made all about hair-splitting and frankly a little silly.

Quote:
Kevin Wilbanks wrote:
Once again, this response tells me that you are completely misconceiving the whole idea of truth in myth. People at any particular historical time where a myth is most vital to them are probably in the worst possible position to understand the significance of their own myths in a broader context.
Yes, in general I'd agree with that statement. Especially in the context of the Godzilla expample you cite (which I've deleted here 'cause it's already pretty long).

My point about our possible misinterpretation is that I regard it as entirely possible - in at least some cases - that we don't actually know what drove people to invent a myth. So it's *our* interpretation of the myth that is arbitrary, not theirs. Although, maybe that's okay. Maybe the way we see it says as much about humanity as whatever drove the invention of the myth in the first place.

In any case, I think the essential answer to my actual question has been provided. And I think we've both made a much bigger deal of the quesion than it deserved. I thought the question was pretty simple and I think Michael Fooks answer pretty much nailed it. If someone else had seen something deeper and more meaningful (no one seems to have) more discussion would be worthwile. If you'd like to have a further in-depth discussion on the nature of myth we should probably either start another thread (I'm not gonna, but feel free) or do it in private messages.

And the reason I cared at all is that I've learned - as a teacher - that sometimes it's useful to understand why people hang on to silly stories like this when it comes to Aikido. Simply dismissing it as a myth or urban legend often just makes them defensive. I can think of examples of this here on Aikiweb. Understanding why they care can be useful in deciding how to handle their misconception. In this case, probably not, and I suspected as much. But I could have been wrong and knew it.

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Old 01-05-2007, 12:45 PM   #28
Ron Tisdale
Dojo: Doshinkan dojo in Roxborough, Pa
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Re: "Brown Belt, Black" term origination...

Quote:
Understanding why they care can be useful in deciding how to handle their misconception.
Ok...if we provide facts to them, why do we have to "handle" their misconception??? Why can't they just read the facts for themselves, and come to an intelligent conclusion?

I think recent events show that they seem to tie their belief in the myth in with their belief in their teacher. "Teacher said so" becomes the fail safe against all facts. And somehow their self esteem is tied in with their view of their teacher. That's why all the falderaw about "insulting my teacher, insulting me" comes up.

Pity...

Best,
Ron

PS Please don't think I consider myself immune to this syndrome...I've been guilty of it in the past, I'm probably guilty of it now, and will certainly be guilty of it in the future at some point. I think it's part of the human condition.

Last edited by Ron Tisdale : 01-05-2007 at 12:47 PM.

Ron Tisdale
-----------------------
"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 01-05-2007, 01:36 PM   #29
Budd
 
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Re: "Brown Belt, Black" term origination...

[Bruce Lee] TEACHER!!!! [/Bruce Lee]

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Old 01-05-2007, 01:42 PM   #30
Ron Tisdale
Dojo: Doshinkan dojo in Roxborough, Pa
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Re: "Brown Belt, Black" term origination...

LOL,

Budd, man, you crack me up. I was thinking of comparing the myth to believing in the Great Pumpkin, or Kwanza...

But then I remembered that someone might get offended...

even if I am black...

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 01-05-2007, 02:13 PM   #31
mriehle
 
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Re: "Brown Belt, Black" term origination...

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote:
Ok...if we provide facts to them, why do we have to "handle" their misconception??? Why can't they just read the facts for themselves, and come to an intelligent conclusion?
Sometimes that is exactly the right thing to do. Maybe even most times. There is the little niggle about how we present the facts. It's good to remember that these attachments are generally more emotional than reasonable. IME trying to deal with emotion by being reasonable can often be like throwing a lit match into shack full of black powder.

I, personally, enjoy a good explosion. But I have to admit it isn't terribly productive.

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote:
I think recent events show that they seem to tie their belief in the myth in with their belief in their teacher. "Teacher said so" becomes the fail safe against all facts. And somehow their self esteem is tied in with their view of their teacher. That's why all the falderaw about "insulting my teacher, insulting me" comes up.
And this is one example of a time where - if I know this and the myth is doing them no harm - I'll just forego correcting them. In my school everyone gets a new belt every three months, so it's not much of an issue. (It's not really a non-issue, but the belts stay surprisingly clean in even in the summer when we all sweat buckets, at least for the kids. I suspect the adults all wash their belts in any case.) Of course those of us with the black belts that have to last a bit wind up washing ours fairly regularly.

It's good to remember that I'm teaching them Aikido, not The One True Truth In The One True Reality Of All Realities In The One True Universe Of All Universes In The History Of All Creations. If their mind is made up and it doesn't prevent them from learning Aikido, don't confuse them with facts. Yes, of course they will eventually have to learn the facts, but maybe by that time they'll have gotten over their emotional attachment to the myth.

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote:
Pity...
Yep.

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote:
PS Please don't think I consider myself immune to this syndrome...I've been guilty of it in the past, I'm probably guilty of it now, and will certainly be guilty of it in the future at some point. I think it's part of the human condition.
That may be the smartest thing said in this thread so far.

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Old 01-05-2007, 02:18 PM   #32
Mike Sigman
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Re: "Brown Belt, Black" term origination...

Quote:
Kevin Wilbanks wrote:
Ok. Seriously, I agree with what you say about myths in general, but this particular myth doesn't seem pregnant with a lot of meaning. Guys training until their belts get dirty is not exactly the myth of Sisyphus or Icarus. Deconstruct it and you get the idea that people are willing to believe people trained really hard and didn't wash their clothes much. I think this is a little more like an urban legend than a real, meaningful myth.
I also have trouble understanding why this is such a reviled "myth" as it is.... *in the West*. I've heard a number of Chinese mention it as the standard comment about a very experienced shuai jiao practitioner (they use the same "gi" that judo did in earlier days and they use the same belt arrangement). And shuai jiao has been around thousands of years, not just a few hundred. It seems like a reasonable "maybe", not something that a bunch of westerners who "know better" should be hooting about.

There's a similar one about being wary of someone carrying a white-waxwood spear or pole that is black.... from lots of practice with the hand rubbing the shaft. Makes reasonable enough sense to me to say "maybe" again without going into peals of laughter about how nonsensical it is.... or in actuality trying to show how knowledgeable I may or may not be.

Best.

Mike
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Old 01-05-2007, 02:35 PM   #33
Ron Tisdale
Dojo: Doshinkan dojo in Roxborough, Pa
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Re: "Brown Belt, Black" term origination...

Quote:
or in actuality trying to show how knowledgeable I may or may not be.
That is always a possibility, but here it started as just trying to let someone in on the clue. No need to cast aspersions on the ones trying to be helpful...

B,
R

Ron Tisdale
-----------------------
"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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