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The Second Coming
The Second Coming
by Ross Robertson
03-15-2010
The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

I wonder if, in our practice of conflict resolution via circular motion, we risk simply going in circles. I wonder if, having let loose aikido upon the world, the falconer's hand still awaits the return of bird and quarry. I wonder... if things fell apart and there were no center, would anyone notice?

Four decades since the Founder passed, have we produced another of his kind? Four decades since, has he ever been surpassed? I don't know, but my instincts tell me no, and probably, respectively.

The tide has risen, and we've all floated with it. The state of the art has certainly progressed in the time I've been doing it. The founder and several of his direct students, the first generation, were all big fish in a very small pond. That pond is an ocean now, and this can only be a good thing. But the relative scale has changed, such that (conceivably) the medium fish of today are bigger than the big fish of yesterday. Hard to say.

It's possible that if there were any with greater skill and insight than the Founder's, they might not stand out as much as he did, since the current aikido public has a much deeper familiarity with the art and principles than did... well, hardly anyone, when the art was brand new. Kano and Mifune, perhaps.

We are right to venerate the venerable, but we err if we idealize the past. It's a mistake to think the best aikido must lie at its root, and we branches and leaves and fruit and flower can only be partial expressions of the original impulse. Progress means forward movement, and the state of the art now should mean that there should be at least a few who are better now than O Sensei ever was.

As for the future, we might do well to look for one who can bring us together. The way has become a superhighway, with too many lanes, yet too much congestion, and going who-knows-where. We could welcome someone who could say clearly, convincingly, reasonably, "This is aikido. This is how it's done. This is what it's for. This is why it matters."

We could, but I doubt that we would. The idea of uniting the world into a one great family is simply too threatening. We imagine (wrongly) that it would require homogenization and monolithic standardization. Too, we think of the idea of family, and we think (correctly) that families can be dysfunctional, and one big global family wouldn't look any different from today's headlines.

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

So we roll around, sweat, spend energy, and try not to think about things too much. Our skills progress, the art grows, and our lack of conviction passes for zen-like detachment. The others, the passionately intense among us, come off as aiki-jihadis. Calmer minds prefer distance from that kind of zealotry.

If there were to be a new O Sensei, how would we notice? Invincible martial prowess? Not enough. Patience and compassion and gentle humor? See "Dalai Lama." Originality of thought, a revelation of method? It would not then be called "aikido."

We like to kill our icons, even when we let them live out their lives. We kill them so that we can hang their pictures on our walls, take our inspiration from their example, take our comfort in knowing we can never be as good as them (and therefore don't have to try). And more importantly, to set them as guardians against the birthing of new saviors, prophets, and great teachers.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

Actually, it's probably better if such a one does not come forth. In my dojo of origin, my teacher set on the kamiza a mirror, and I've never been able to escape the image therein. I know what I saw when I bowed before it, and I remember how humbling it was, and I still feel the magnitude of responsibility that it bestowed. I knew (indirectly) that when other students bowed, they saw a different face, but the same thing. So when I bowed to them in practice, I knew I was in the presence of the origin of the art.

It's only there when we're there for each other, and not just for some great teacher.

The slow moving thighs of the sphinx signal an inexorable progress, as if the temple dogs guarding the door are actually pulling the building forward. They stand still as do all silent sentinels, yet the very ground underneath the structure grinds toward the future.

Is it a trick? Will the human race mature, even a little bit, because we practice aikido? While we do our trained poodle act, is something deep and significant really happening? Or do we only tell ourselves that?

The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

There is a spirit of the world that comes now to be born. It comes to Bethlehem in Palestine/Israel, and also to every village in every nation. It is the spirit of a heaven that, as another once said, is at hand.

It's in our hands.

If you look, perhaps you can find it in your job, your family and friends, your hobbies, and yes, even in the mirror. But if you refuse to see what others see when they look in their own mirror, then the shadows of the indignant birds will plague you forever.

If you can really see yourself in the mirror, that's a good thing. Many can't even do that. But if you think the mirror only reflects on you, then you suffer from a dangerous delusion.

Aikido is such a mirror. As the saying goes, "if a monkey looks in, no wise man looks out."

If the center has not held, if things fall apart, it's because wisdom is valued less than commerce and society. Commerce and society may gather large crowds, but they rarely bring people together.

It's time we stopped simply going in circles, and called the falcon home.

Poem "The Second Coming," by W. B. Yeats, 1919.

3/2/10 (liftoff)
Ross Robertson
Still Point Aikido Systems
Honmatsu Aikido
Austin TX, USA

www.stillpointaikido.com
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Old 03-15-2010, 01:18 PM   #2
SeiserL
 
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Re: The Second Coming

Osu,

Perhaps the second coming is an internal realization and call to action instead of a external role model we simply watch and follow.

Well said. Compliments.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 03-15-2010, 02:03 PM   #3
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Re: The Second Coming

Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality. -Nikos Kazantzakis.

I don't know if there will ever be a second coming of O'Sensei. I don't even know if that is important. I don't know if this generation of teachers is better than the old or if they are changing Aikido into something else.

I do know that I love a thought from Mary Heiny Sensei. She talks about not following a teacher, but working to explore the origin of O'Sensei's Aikido.

Thanks for the great article.
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Old 03-26-2010, 03:22 PM   #4
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Re: The Second Coming

Awesome awesome posting. Much to ponder here and application to much more than only aikido to be explored.

Thank you.
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Old 03-26-2010, 04:44 PM   #5
aikishihan
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Re: The Second Coming

Geometric models do not necessarily define reality, or effective real time response. We all can benefit from structure, but true purpose is defined by the independent ability of the mind and spirit to rise above and beyond the confines of any structures we choose to build.

Perhaps the Founder was an “aberration” of the norm, melding ordinary life circumstances of his time, with his uniquely extraordinary gifts of vision, insight, uncommon energy and his herculean persistence of effort. His was an example that the majority of mankind simply cannot hope to copy or to emulate. Also, his was definitely not the only genius mankind has produced in his time. Rather, his is an example we can simply choose to appreciate, enjoy and to individually attempt to apply those aspects of his discoveries and inspiration that fit our goals.

I do not believe that the Founder’s gifts were ever meant to be “venerated”, exalted or otherwise placed on pedestals too high for the majority to reasonably use to create their own version of Aikido.

From the words of his direct students and his writings, his intent was to invite anyone to do their utmost, with the gifts they have, to realize the dreams that motivate and define them personally.

There is no hierarchy in Aiki, and there should be none in the Aikido world.

I have the highest respect and regard for the role that religion and religious persons play in the lives of mankind. To attempt to use an apparently religious analogy in describing the Founder’s opus and his identity, strikes me as rather inappropriate, and perhaps misintended. The Founder’s religious beliefs and practices remained private for his entire life, and were never conditions that his direct or indirect students were required to adopt or to emulate. Any effort to presume such is, at the very least, a disservice to his memory and legacy to do so now.

Beautiful and meaning filled rhetoric, Ross, and I compliment your writing skills and sincere intentions. Therefore it pains me to disagree with what I perceive as an inaccurate and inappropriate attempt to color the Founder’s purpose, his legacy and his lifelong opus, with references to a “second coming” of his Aikido. His was a “one of”, and should be respected as such. There is plenty of room for current and future geniuses to make their own mark.

With all respect,

Francis Takahashi

Last edited by aikishihan : 03-26-2010 at 04:49 PM.
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Old 03-26-2010, 05:59 PM   #6
sakumeikan
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Re: The Second Coming

Although the Aikido ocean may well be bigger than in the time of the generation of Aikidoka [such as Saito, Shirata, Chiba, Kanai ,Yamada, Tamura Shihan/s to name but a few], who were Uchi Deshi of O Sensei, the statement that they were 'big fish in a small pond' is in my opinion is nonsense. The pond may well have been small but the fish were exceptionally well trained fish. The statement that the medium sized fish [the new generation]in the big ocean are 'conceivably' more skilled than the aforementioned again i.m.o are not in the same class as the aforementioned.I do note that you use the word conceiveably-hedging your bets no doubt???

Where are the exponents of the calibre of Tada Sensei and Tamura Sensei?Even at their advanced age very few modern aikdoka can hold a candle to these masters.
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Old 03-26-2010, 06:27 PM   #7
sakumeikan
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Re: The Second Coming

Quote:
Francis Takahashi wrote: View Post
Geometric models do not necessarily define reality, or effective real time response. We all can benefit from structure, but true purpose is defined by the independent ability of the mind and spirit to rise above and beyond the confines of any structures we choose to build.

Perhaps the Founder was an "aberration" of the norm, melding ordinary life circumstances of his time, with his uniquely extraordinary gifts of vision, insight, uncommon energy and his herculean persistence of effort. His was an example that the majority of mankind simply cannot hope to copy or to emulate. Also, his was definitely not the only genius mankind has produced in his time. Rather, his is an example we can simply choose to appreciate, enjoy and to individually attempt to apply those aspects of his discoveries and inspiration that fit our goals.

I do not believe that the Founder's gifts were ever meant to be "venerated", exalted or otherwise placed on pedestals too high for the majority to reasonably use to create their own version of Aikido.

From the words of his direct students and his writings, his intent was to invite anyone to do their utmost, with the gifts they have, to realize the dreams that motivate and define them personally.

There is no hierarchy in Aiki, and there should be none in the Aikido world.

I have the highest respect and regard for the role that religion and religious persons play in the lives of mankind. To attempt to use an apparently religious analogy in describing the Founder's opus and his identity, strikes me as rather inappropriate, and perhaps misintended. The Founder's religious beliefs and practices remained private for his entire life, and were never conditions that his direct or indirect students were required to adopt or to emulate. Any effort to presume such is, at the very least, a disservice to his memory and legacy to do so now.

Beautiful and meaning filled rhetoric, Ross, and I compliment your writing skills and sincere intentions. Therefore it pains me to disagree with what I perceive as an inaccurate and inappropriate attempt to color the Founder's purpose, his legacy and his lifelong opus, with references to a "second coming" of his Aikido. His was a "one of", and should be respected as such. There is plenty of room for current and future geniuses to make their own mark.

With all respect,

Francis Takahashi
Dear Mr Takahashi,
Your statement that there should be no hierarchy within Aikido is very idealistic.I commend you for your sincere views on this subject.
Nevertheless like George Orwell stated in Animal Farm, all the animals are equal but some are more equal than others, I think this is the case within the Aikido community.Do we not have Teacher/students, Dan /Kyu grades, Shihan /Non Shihan etc?
Each of these categories determine where each person is within the Aikido dojo/organisation etc.Aikido is not a democracy.Leaders lead , followers follow.Is this not the same set of conditions we find in normal life?Do politicians really serve the electorate for example?Does the general in Afghanistan consult the Private in the regiment before deciding a course of action?No matter what area of life we are in [socially/working etc] a pecking order is always there.I see no difference between Aikido and the 'outside' world.

The best we can hope for is that in the practise of Aikido we can learn to value each person and consider his/ her welfare and the welfare of the whole rather than self interest.
As leaders of a dojo we must try and remember that we are servants not masters of our students.
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Old 03-26-2010, 08:48 PM   #8
aikishihan
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Re: The Second Coming

Dear Mr. Curran,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my input on this thread.

I would like to commend you as well for the manner in which you state your arguments and points of view. I find them to be interesting, if not original.

The fact that Aikido is not a democracy is a given. Neither is it a fresher version of an anachronistic return to feudal thinking, where there needs to be superior people over inferior people for the system to function.

The Aikikai model of shihan, shidoin, fukushidoin, etc. including the stale and irrational notion of sempai - kohai relationships as being necessary trappings for Aikido organizations , is a major reason for the ever widening disconnect with Aikikai and its Shihan driven identities, versus the remainder of legitimate Aikido organizations, dojos and genuine Aikido leaders throughout the world.

How often have I had to endure listening to a Japanese person tell me that I would never understand the Founder’s Aikido, simply because I “was not Japanese”. The Founder never told me that. Nidai Doshu never told me that. Kisaburo Osawa Sensei never told me that, Senseis Kobayashi, Masuda, Kanai, Chiba etc. never told me that. In fact, they treated me the very opposite, in that they led me to believe that I could and would eventually understand.

Even within the greater identity of world wide Aikikai affiliated dojos and organizations, that continually maintain direct or indirect ties to Aikikai Foundation, there is no formal or de facto recognition of any pre-eminent position that Aikikai Foundatiom has over the conduct of training, qualification for instruction, or even for ranking. Their position is that certain individuals have been granted authority to recommend dan ranks, and that they must trust these individuals to perform the job correctly without oversight or review.

The vast majority of dan certificates are given out without any system of verification that such recipients are indeed following any established guidelines, or that meaningful sanctions exist if they do not. The vast body of those having Nidan and higher, have never, and will never go to Japan or see the Doshu. This number will unfortunately only increase exponentially over time.

The art of the Founder’s Aiki, and of his Aikido, was never intended as a political theory or as an organizational base,nor was its existence dependent on any bureaucratic or politically run system of checks and balances. The late Doshu, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, is credited with many of the formal trappings of both the Aikikai Foundation, and of the International Aikido Federation. The Founder refused to be connected in any way with such matters, nor did he interfere with the Doshu’s work. He simply trained daily in his mind and within his own agenda, insisting that his students do the same.

You mention that we should be concerned with the “welfare of the whole rather than self interest”. Now who is being idealistic?

Martial integrity is mainly about self interest, which is based on finding a system of thought and action compatible with one’s very own and deepest held beliefs and values. Aikido is not “socialist” in any way, shape or form, as it is also not to be identified with any other form of social identity or group definition.

Lastly, for now, we are servants of no one. We are our own masters, our own teachers, our very own best friends. When we teach others, we also remain students ourselves. Shidoo Geiko means “training by teaching”. It does not, nor should ever connote any sense of superiority over another person. It is our privilege to be both teacher and student, exchanging our roles freely as the situation permits. In this way, we remain “green and growing”, ever alert to new insights into the Aiki Universe, as clearly introduced to us by the Founder.

From my admittedly unique perspective, I truly believe this to be a key legacy from O Sensei to all of us, and one we dare not squander or relinquish.

Last edited by aikishihan : 03-26-2010 at 09:00 PM.
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Old 03-27-2010, 02:42 AM   #9
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Re: The Second Coming

Much like the Sanhedrin and Pharisees would we recognize the 'divinity' in our midst or would it come from outside the recognisable pedigree/lineage?

Given more people are alive on the planet today that have ever walked the earth previously (forget how the quote goes). And today the average living age is up, as is nutrition and education.

Thus its a fair bet there are probably at least 10 O'Sensei's getting around today.
From beyond the circles of aiki I'd be tempted to start with a Systema boy or two, add a Gracie or two, a couple of MMA guys, slip in a footballer basketballer and maybe Tiger for good measure too

dan

Daniel James, Brisbane Aikido Republic: AikiPhysics, Aikido Brisbane news,
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Old 03-29-2010, 06:20 AM   #10
Chicko Xerri
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Re: The Second Coming

My Heart is like no other. Though it may look similar and seem similar, my Heart and my Aikido is like no other. I cant explain it, never the less its true. If it were something possible to see, the world would agree.
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Old 03-29-2010, 07:35 AM   #11
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Re: The Second Coming

Quote:
From Joe - Where are the exponents of the calibre of Tada Sensei and Tamura Sensei?Even at their advanced age very few modern aikdoka can hold a candle to these masters.
Quote:
From Dan - Thus its a fair bet there are probably at least 10 O'Sensei's getting around today.
From beyond the circles of aiki I'd be tempted to start with a Systema boy or two, add a Gracie or two, a couple of MMA guys, slip in a footballer basketballer and maybe Tiger for good measure too
I couldn't agree more with Dan. I think there are several teachers around who I'd put above the abilities of those Mr. Curran refers to, absolutely no disrespect intended to those he mentions. There aren't that many of the 'Super Shihan' left sadly but some of them at least have produced some excellent students in their own rights who have, IMHO, surpassed their own teachers. I thought that was the point of a good teacher, eventually your students should surpass your skill level.

Apologies if this is too off topic!

Best Regards,
John

www.chishindojo.co.uk
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Old 04-16-2010, 02:34 PM   #12
R.A. Robertson
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Re: The Second Coming

Hi Everyone,

Really wonderful feedback for this column. It's much appreciated.

Jeff: loved the Kazantzakis quote (yes, I'm a fan). But I think since we are as much a part of reality as anything else, when we change ourselves we do change the world. But yes, it begins with how we seen things. Also would really agree with what you report about Mary's path. If we can all find that source and make that our teacher, then we all become conduits for something wonderful.

Francis: First, let me say again how good it is to have you among us. You and I are connected through my own teachers (Rod Kobayashi and Bill Sosa, both connected to Isao Takahashi). Now let me see if I can ease your pain... We don't disagree that O Sensei was sui generis, or that that is a bad thing. He was, and will always remain, unique. Each of us walks a path which is personal, individual, yet which covers ground that is universal. As for the Second Coming, I think my article stated clearly where I think we should be looking for that. You'll have to let me know what color you believe I've put on on the Founder's opus. The only coloration I intended was that which we see when we look in the mirror.

Joe: I like the points you raise. My view is that we live in a multidimensional world, with the vertical as well as the horizontal. People who are attracted to hierarchies will often fail to look after the well being of others, or to remember that the best leaders are servants, as you so aptly concluded. People who are devoted to heterarchies seem to want to live in a completely flat world, and refuse to acknowledge or respect authentic authority. In balanced practice, I think it only makes sense to observe the natural order of sensei/deshi, sempai/kohai, leader/follower. But of course we are all equals as human beings, regardless of age, aptitude, or experience. I all cases, if we can simply look after one another, then all will be well. Ironically, I have often seen that it is those "at the top" whose needs are most often overlooked.

Dan: Yes. Again, yes. Systema, Contact Improv, many other domains. The world of aikido would do well to look beyond itself for inspiration. There are those who are doing better aikido than many (most?) who do aikido.

John: You are very much on topic.

Again, thank you all, including those I have not addressed directly.

Ross
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Old 04-16-2010, 03:42 PM   #13
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Re: The Second Coming

hi Ross,
I had thought of it in terms of the '2nd Opening of the Great Stone Door'. The strangest and foggiest notion that O Sensei himself had a vision of it happening...
fwiw
and as per the actual Second coming?

Maranantha!

Last edited by thisisnotreal : 04-16-2010 at 03:44 PM. Reason: remiss
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Old 06-04-2010, 01:27 PM   #14
R.A. Robertson
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Re: The Second Coming

Quote:
Josh Phillipson wrote: View Post
hi Ross,
I had thought of it in terms of the '2nd Opening of the Great Stone Door'. The strangest and foggiest notion that O Sensei himself had a vision of it happening...
fwiw
and as per the actual Second coming?

Maranantha!
Hey Josh,

Whether we follow the mythologies closely or not, many of the same questions pertain. Can aikido help us identify the stone door that occludes life and knowledge? If aikido is the dance of the old gods that enticed light out from the cave and restored it to all, how can we know when this is happening? Do we dance for the sake of the dance, or do we check in from time to time to see if the stone door is moving? Is the dance, the door, the light, personal or social or universal?

Myths exist beyond time. They are tales of long ago, but they are happening now and always. Shifting key signatures now, I could say that Christ is still healing, preaching, and performing miracles, Christ is still being betrayed, beaten, and murdered. Christ is still being resurrected. The Second Coming of Christ already happened long before he was born, is happening now, and has yet to happen. All of this occurs in atoms and molecules, in galaxies, and while washing the dishes.

All of this transpires whenever we step onto or off the mat, whether we wake to it or not. Even in our sleep, it's there.

Great observation. Thank you.

Ross
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Old 06-05-2010, 07:03 AM   #15
Carl Thompson
 
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Re: The Second Coming

I liked this point:
Quote:
Joe Curran wrote: View Post
Does the general in Afghanistan consult the Private in the regiment before deciding a course of action?
I'd like to add that aikido comes from a "respect culture" with often misunderstood concepts like the tatemae - bad examples and misinterpretations can become the norm outside of that context. Francis Shihan seems to see the need for a cultural connection, although I wouldn't say someone didn't have that connection just because they hadn't been to Japan. It goes both ways. Even the founder travelled overseas to extend the "Silver Bridge".
Quote:
Francis Takahashi wrote: View Post
How often have I had to endure listening to a Japanese person tell me that I would never understand the Founder's Aikido, simply because I "was not Japanese". The Founder never told me that.
That is reassuring.
Quote:
Francis Takahashi wrote: View Post
The vast body of those having Nidan and higher, have never, and will never go to Japan or see the Doshu. This number will unfortunately only increase exponentially over time.
I think more people do it now than in the past, but I agree that going all the way to a country like Japan isn't that easy for most. Luckily for those in the UK, Doshu sensei will be in Cardiff soon.
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Old 06-09-2010, 06:28 PM   #16
thisisnotreal
 
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Re: The Second Coming

Quote:
Ross Robertson wrote: View Post
Hey Josh,
...
Great observation. Thank you.

Ross
Hi Ross,
Thanks for your post.

Interesting. I think I know what you are saying in your first paragraph. My comment I meant in terms of knowledge and enlightenment of aiki in the world. Accesibility. Sharing. Openness. That sort of thing.

Regarding your second para; I think I intimately understand this archetypal// way of thinking. shifting key signatures. Indeed things are changing very quickly now. I understand there are a multiplicity of models for it. I guess we all do our investigations. I however have come full circle in the matter...and although off topic, and because this is near and very dear to me, I want to be clear. I think you can say what you wrote about the continuity and time-nature.. (i.e. has happened/happens now/ and yet has not happened)..and in a poetic way i think it is true enough, in that each of us falls short of the mark, and that although rare, Christ still can and does miracles, as he chooses, and as it glorifies the Father. I am not sure how (poetically?) he is still being resurrected though, although maybe that could be interpreted as his teachings are still alive on this earth through his faithful disciples (I try but fall so far short myself. no falsehood there). Anyway; I am kind of a simple guy, and I have come roundabout to a more prosaic (meaning: literal) way of interpreting these things, and I am literally looking forward to his literal return. And I spelled it wrong. D'oh. Maranatha.

And thank you too Ross.
I always enjoy your writing. You have a gift; and thank you for sharing.
Best,
Josh P.
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