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Superman
Superman
by Ross Robertson
07-24-2012
Superman

"Surely there must be a way
For me to change the shape I'm in
Dissatisfied is what I am
I want to be a better man

Superman superman wish I could fly like superman
Superman superman I want to be like superman"

I do believe in the idea of a superior human being. It makes sense to me that humans and our societies are works in progress. I think there is no more worthwhile work than that of improving the human condition.

I also think it's painfully clear that if we do not get our act together, we are headed for catastrophe fairly soon. At the same time, it's joyously clear that if we can avoid our disasters, things can only get better for everyone. Much, much better.

What does it mean to be a "superior man?" We can learn to be more resilient and more adaptable in the face of the forces of nature, society, and self. We can help others do the same. We can, and should, help design a better world. We can take steps toward the design of a better human body and mind.

Aikido is one such path along which we may take such steps.

The discipline of right nutrition can make us better, and inform us of our relationship with earth's flora and fauna and the human providers of food.

The discipline of right physical fitness can make us stronger and more flexible and give us greater endurance. In turn, we are then able to join our strengths with others and assist those who are weaker.

The discipline of right intellect can help us understand which questions are more important than others; how to frame the questions and pursue the answers; how to establish a framework for discerning truth that is free from bias, ideology, and superstition; how to persuade others gently, compassionately, and inexorably without needing to score points or cause defeat.

The right emotional discipline allows us to become increasingly sensitive yet decreasingly vulnerable; to remember vividly that feelings are reports on our internal states rather than impartial data gathered from our perceptual apparatus.

This discipline of superiority is necessarily a personal one. The measure of success is not in comparison with others, but in measurable, observable improvements in one's own condition and level of fitness.

Personal development is well and good, but the measure of increasing superiority cannot be subjective only. The superior being is defined in a world of relationships. One who gains from the loss of others is inferior to those who serve. Efforts at improving the human condition require environmental changes as well as personal ones. Better relationships among healthier individuals give rise to better social structures, and this will be reflected in our architectural and institutional choices. Healthier societies give rise to better relations between nations.

Conflict-based practices can be reworked such that everyone benefits from the outcome of a well-designed and wisely implemented contest. Collaborative enterprises can be seen as a more efficient method of fostering pluralities of models and modalities, and choosing among the fittest for the job at hand. Societies and nations and corporate interests must work at every level to manage resources and optimize processes. In so doing, the non-anthropogenic world may be transformed in ways that favor the human condition, but our relationship with the earth's biology and geography must foster increasing abundance, diversity, and sustainability.

Preservationism (a kind of conservatism) and constructivism (a kind of progressivism) are characteristics of a superior being. We seek to identify those things which are worth keeping and which deserve our protection. We seek also to identify those things which need improving. We seek what is yet to be, but must be. The superior being is primarily oriented toward protection and creation.

Even so, there must be a discipline of mindful destruction. We need to recognize when things do not serve and be willing to let them go. We must identify the sources of suffering, and be willing to tear down structures and dynamics which perpetuate fear and harm. Not all scientific models deserve endless investigation; not all religious beliefs deserve our tolerance. No single economic model is universally appropriate, nor is any form of government. We should expect the same flexibility and adaptability from our overarching institutions as we seek for ourselves.

This requires that we practice a healthy discipline of dissatisfaction and discontent. While it's true that the things that aren't broke shouldn't be fixed, the greatest gift a superior being can offer is the insight that "there has to be a better way," and the gifts to help find, implement, and show the way.

I believe in an aikido dojo as laboratory for exploring how to create better individuals. (You may say "for individuals to find ways to better themselves" if you prefer.) A dojo culture should reflect this commitment to excellence, and aikido organizations should strive to be exemplars for societies at large. Where politics and personality cults hold sway, it is the discipline and right exercise of every individual to stand up and say "there has to be a better way."

"I'd really like to change the world
And save it from the mess it's in
I'm too weak, I'm so thin
I'd like to fly but I can't even swim

Superman Superman I want to fly like Superman
Superman Superman wish I could fly like Superman"

["(Wish I Could Fly Like ) Superman" lyrics by Ray Davies]

2012.07.02
Ross Robertson
Still Point Aikido Systems
Honmatsu Aikido
Austin TX, USA

www.stillpointaikido.com
www.rariora.org/writing/articles
@phospheros
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Old 07-24-2012, 04:19 PM   #2
graham christian
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Re: Superman

I like the column Ross and all you say in it except for one thing, the title.

One of the main things I say in my Aikido when getting across to others how so many seem to take the wrong path is that they are enticed by the concept of being some kind of superman. Enticed by a physical image and trapped in the idea of superiority.

It's now a common saying amongst my students when watching others trying to develop 'power' and super strength and other egotistical things.

I encourage the path of selflessness instead and the way to the true selfless self.

Either way, thanks for the column.

Peace.G.
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Old 08-03-2012, 12:24 PM   #3
R.A. Robertson
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Re: Superman

Hi Graham,

I know we disagree on the healthy function of ego, and I think there is a balance to be found between Self and selflessness.

I do wholly agree that chasing after superiority can be a trap. In particular, it's a distraction when people chase after this or that sidhhi, looking for validation of their progress.

Nevertheless, progress can be made. Some states are better than others. Some ways are better than others. I don't think it's productive to pretend otherwise.

But as for the title, it simply ties in with the song by the Kinks. I think the song conveys an almost universal urge to become better, to improve our condition, and to be more able to help others. Such desire comes sometimes from despair, and sometimes from humility. But the desire is an expression of love.

I do want to be content with who I am, and I want to feel at ease in the world where I live. At the same time, I want to be better than I am now, I want, expect, and demand a better world.

I think whenever I can achieve any of this, it's really super!
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Old 08-03-2012, 02:27 PM   #4
graham christian
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Re: Superman

Granted Ross. Once again I don't disagree with what you say here and balance is always 'superior'.

Let me ask you this question: What training and goals does superman have and how do they differ from yours?

Maybe we need to realize we are 'superman' or 'superwoman' ......

Peace.G.
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Old 08-03-2012, 02:50 PM   #5
jonreading
 
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Re: Superman

This is a good read, thank you.

I believe the Bible called these beings angels and they envied us for we had free will. I understand that we want Utopia, but at what cost? When we speak of Superman, I believe he represents ideology that should never be realized, only emulated. Hollywood felt the man of steel so untouchable as to make the most recent movie about his out-of-wedlock, deadbeat dad relationship with Lois Lane. Truly the only thing better than seeing 'em go up is watching come down... in flames.

We should seek to affect our lives for the better. But, should we never taste a cheeseburger for fear of heart disease? Or, exercise to the exclusion of other activities? I think in pursuit of the Global Citizen we sometimes get ahead of the natural curve of things. As an example, when Henry Ford rolled the first car off the assembly line, he did not have to incentivize people to sell their horse and buy a car... Unfortunately we now are being force fed an electric vehicle that is in few ways better than a conventional vehicle. Bad concept? Absolutely not. Bad timing? I'll let GM's sales speak for themselves...
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Old 08-04-2012, 07:09 AM   #6
phitruong
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Re: Superman

didn't thought superman need exercise. i meant, "he woke up in the morning, he's superman. he puts on Clark Kent as the costume." now, batman on the other hand, needs constant exercise and improvement. of course, superior can go the other way too. how many times did Lex Luthor beat out superman? and the joker to batman. sometimes it's harder to be superior in the other direction. i know this, because my evil twin worked harder and much better than i am.

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
http://charlotteaikikai.org
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Old 08-04-2012, 03:05 PM   #7
Nick Hentschel
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Re: Superman

Technically speaking, Supes has needed to exercise, in order to keep his super-strength up, since the big reboot in 1985.

[Lifelong comic-book geek speaking.]
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Old 08-10-2012, 12:54 PM   #8
R.A. Robertson
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Re: Superman

Quote:
Graham Christian wrote: View Post
[\] Let me ask you this question: What training and goals does superman have and how do they differ from yours?

Maybe we need to realize we are 'superman' or 'superwoman' ......[\]
Hi Graham,

Realization is twofold: One, we become aware of potentialities we already possess, and from this awareness, can access them instantly. Secondly, we are in a constant state of becoming real. In this sense, realization is ongoing, generally gradual, but punctuated by significant leaps.

These aspects of realization can synergize or work at odds. Focusing on one can inhibit the other. Understanding the relationship between the immediate now and the ongoing now helps us see the bicameral nature of a single thing, a single process.

My point about training is that it should lead toward a kind of superiority, or else it is of dubious value. Now, I completely agree with your earlier point that we should not seek after super-natural powers, or seek comic book super powers. Even so, it's quite logical to try to get better at something, which means our ability and understanding is increasingly superior.

In my opinion, the endgame (which is endless) of any discipline should be the personal ability to thrive, coupled with an increased capacity to serve the well-being of others.

One key realization is that the personal and the social are inextricably interdependent. This alone should resolve a great deal of our current political conflict.
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Old 08-10-2012, 01:06 PM   #9
R.A. Robertson
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Re: Superman

I'll mostly sidestep the issues related to comic book supermen, despite my having framed the discussion with just such a reference.

Since I seem to be on a twofold kick today, I'll say that training (like realization) is twofold. We train to maintain our abilities, and we train to improve our abilities.

Can we ever reach a state where an ability is as good as it gets, and is self-sustaining without upkeep? I suppose it's possible in some cases. Even then, I would imagine in a world of limitless possibilities that we would then turn our attention to the next ability.

As for cheeseburgers, I'd say as a devoted hedonist that I'd like my discipline to help me enjoy more pleasures, in greater varieties, in greater depth, in sustainable and healthy ways.

As for electric cars, I think some things have to happen before their time, in order for it to become time.
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Old 08-10-2012, 02:01 PM   #10
graham christian
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Re: Superman

Quote:
Ross Robertson wrote: View Post
Hi Graham,

Realization is twofold: One, we become aware of potentialities we already possess, and from this awareness, can access them instantly. Secondly, we are in a constant state of becoming real. In this sense, realization is ongoing, generally gradual, but punctuated by significant leaps.

These aspects of realization can synergize or work at odds. Focusing on one can inhibit the other. Understanding the relationship between the immediate now and the ongoing now helps us see the bicameral nature of a single thing, a single process.

My point about training is that it should lead toward a kind of superiority, or else it is of dubious value. Now, I completely agree with your earlier point that we should not seek after super-natural powers, or seek comic book super powers. Even so, it's quite logical to try to get better at something, which means our ability and understanding is increasingly superior.

In my opinion, the endgame (which is endless) of any discipline should be the personal ability to thrive, coupled with an increased capacity to serve the well-being of others.

One key realization is that the personal and the social are inextricably interdependent. This alone should resolve a great deal of our current political conflict.
Hi Ross. The 'endgame' you describe I fully agree with and like the way you put it.

The 'superman' concept which I was referring to was more about identity rather than anything else. In my experience too many get caught up in being some kind of super identity and indeed are enticed by such things and this is what I say leads down the wrong track.

To put it in my way of speaking I ask people to look at for instance a person being the identity called bus driver or manager etc. Then to look at the difference of someone being theirself being a bus driver or manager etc. 'Superior' identity, or inferior, is a trap for identity itself is a trap.

My view is that we are all the same. We are basically sentient beings. We each develop various abilities and skills and thus become able and useful. The more able you become the better results you can achieve and thus the more you can help.

So when it comes to superior I don't think in terms of amount and to that degree physical but only quality and thus harmony.

So many are impressed by physical size and power, amounts of riches, superior identities, number of this that or the other. Amounts, amounts, amounts. All physical and thus more equals better. Delusion.

To me there is quality and quantity and without quality quantity is useless except to ego. I am only ever humbled by someones quality for quantity means nothing to me. One quality anything is worth a thousand other 'similar' things.

Now add to that there is only ever one so when it comes to things, to attackers in Aikido, whatever, there is only one so the question then is once again quality. Two people are one pair. Lot's together are one group. Twenty things to do before I leave for work is just one program. There is only one (physical) and 0 (represents quality).

Binary zen ha, ha.

Peace.G.
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Old 08-11-2012, 03:04 AM   #11
sakumeikan
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Re: Superman

Dear All,
I cannot say I find the concept of the Obermensch [Nietzche]particularly favourable.The superior being attitude can cause millions pain[think Adolph].I much prefer being a dumb cluck.
Still I do like jumping out of windows of tall buildings clad in my home made rather nattily designed Superman rig ,one of a blue body suit and enhanced trunks of scarlet hue.I often shout out Shazam in case I should be Captain Marvel in a earlier existence.Old super power habits ae hard to break.
By the way, anyone know the whereabouts of my arch enemy, Lex Luthor?
CheersClark Kent [aka Joe]
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Old 08-12-2012, 06:41 PM   #12
graham christian
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Re: Superman

Just changed my mind. Usain bolt is superman

In jest, G.
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Old 08-12-2012, 06:48 PM   #13
HL1978
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Re: Superman

Quote:
Graham Christian wrote: View Post
Just changed my mind. Usain bolt is superman

In jest, G.
Nah, Jim Thorpe perhaps was.
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Old 08-12-2012, 10:46 PM   #14
PeterR
 
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Re: Superman

Shades of a "Fish Called Wanda"

Nietzche was talking about a moral superman (not his fault that Adolf, his own sister and others tried to bend what he said to their beliefs). In the most simplistic terms it was taking the high road rather then fitting to the common denominator. There was nothing about taking on airs of superiority or other elitist garbage but how to run your own life or a goal for humanity.

Last edited by PeterR : 08-12-2012 at 10:53 PM.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 08-14-2012, 12:30 PM   #15
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Re: Superman

If my Philosophy memory sticks with me, I think Nietzche was critical of the systems that encouraged belief but did not transmit behavior. Christianity for example in "God is Dead". I think Nietzche's critique of Christianity was that rather than teaching us to believe in Christ, it should teach us to be like Christ. My point was to state that ideological beliefs should begin with emulation. I think often in aikido we have either "everyone is right and everyone is great...in their own way." Or, "I can never be like shihan X." Neither solution is correct, yet both are philosophically valid.

My point with Superman is that our modern culture considers him to be so unreachable as they can reduce his superiority and he stills remains a super-man. I remember a dog racing story that implies successful dog races happen when the rabbit remains just ahead of the dogs. Not too close or it is caught, but also not so far ahead as the dogs give up. Our training should constantly set to improve our skills, but never extend so far beyond our skill as we give up.
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Old 08-14-2012, 01:45 PM   #16
graham christian
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Re: Superman

Quote:
Hunter Lonsberry wrote: View Post
Nah, Jim Thorpe perhaps was.
Ha,ha. He was a commentator over here and was quite good at that too. I think most of the olympian gold medallists were super men and women. Even making it as an olympian is quite a feat. Hats off to all of them.

Peace.G.
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Old 08-14-2012, 05:29 PM   #17
sakumeikan
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Re: Superman

Quote:
Graham Christian wrote: View Post
Ha,ha. He was a commentator over here and was quite good at that too. I think most of the olympian gold medallists were super men and women. Even making it as an olympian is quite a feat. Hats off to all of them.

Peace.G.
Dear Graham,
I may be incorrect here .The Jim Thorpe qouted herein as a superman was an incredible athlete.He won Decathlon/played American sports.His life story was made into a film starring Burt Lancaster.He was possibly part Red Indian heritage.No known date of birth.
Sad to say he died almost penniless.I doubt if he was a commentator .
Cheers, Joe.
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Old 08-14-2012, 06:12 PM   #18
graham christian
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Re: Superman

Quote:
Joe Curran wrote: View Post
Dear Graham,
I may be incorrect here .The Jim Thorpe qouted herein as a superman was an incredible athlete.He won Decathlon/played American sports.His life story was made into a film starring Burt Lancaster.He was possibly part Red Indian heritage.No known date of birth.
Sad to say he died almost penniless.I doubt if he was a commentator .
Cheers, Joe.
Hi Joe. You're probably right and I am probably talking about the wrong Thorpe. This one sounds quite a super guy, thanks for the correction.

Peace.G.
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Old 11-27-2012, 02:13 PM   #19
TheAikidoka
 
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Re: Superman

Hi all,
The first lines of the song at the bottom of mr ross`s post is most important I believe.

"I'd really like to change the world And save it from the mess it's in"
I seriously do not think this is even wise to contemplate. Too many times we have seen individuals and nations alike, try and change "things" for "their own sakes"!
No! No! No!
Like Mr Ross says one model of rule is not fit for all.

So I would like to say

"I would love to change My world and save it from the mess it is in"
"then maybe people will see the example, and make their own bloody minds up :-)"

Really good post thoroughly enjoyed it thank you Mr Ross

Andy B
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Old 12-07-2012, 01:45 PM   #20
R.A. Robertson
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Re: Superman

HI Andrew,

That others have made a royal mess of things, even with the best of intentions, is no reason for us to abdicate our own responsibility to try. I do think there is tremendous merit in tending our own gardens, and I think this is a good basis for taking larger responsibility. But some problems go far beyond individual gardens.

I really would like to save the world from the mess it's in. Actually, I don't care all that much if it's me, you, you and me together, or someone else entirely. There are things that are seriously wrong, and we will all suffer if they are not addressed. It needs to be somebody. It ought to be everybody, but I think part of the problem is too many people waiting for it to be everybody else before they step up.

It's quite true that many, maybe most of these problems are beyond my individual reach. Still, I don't think any of us can afford to shrug and say "it's not my problem" when in fact there may be openings and opportunities for us to take action in meaningful ways. All I could recommend would be for people to simply be ready to help. To be vigilant for opportunity.

Anyway, those are my thoughts, and I'm grateful for yours. Can we allow ourselves to believe that our small conversation here in this remote corner of the internet can be part of the solution?

Why not!
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