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The Atom Bomb
The Atom Bomb
by Ross Robertson
The Atom Bomb

The atomic bomb was just a teenager when I was born.

You could say we sort of grew up together. Like an older brother too distant in years to be close, but too worldly to ignore, I have to credit The Bomb for his pervasive influence on my life.

My father served in the US Navy during World War II, as did his brother, my uncle. My dad flew submarine patrol in a PB-Y MadCat over the Strait of Gibraltar, while my uncle was a commander of a PT boat in the Pacific. My spiritual brother, AB, also had a role to play in that conflict, albeit at a very young and tender age.

In the town where I grew up was the command center for the DFW Nike Missile defense system. In the third grade, I could look out the windows of my classroom at the elementary school and see the radar antennae scouring the skies for threats of instant incineration. That was AB, simultaneously torturing my mind while standing guard over me.

I'm a citizen of the country that developed The Bomb. It's my country that first deployed the technology, and first to use it against other human beings. We also hold the record for the most detonations. These things leave an impression.

As I said, together we grew. My height was measured in pencil marks on my grandmother's doorframe. Here is but one record of my famous brother's growth chart: https://www.ctbto.org/specials/1945-...sao-hashimoto/. I hope you'll take the time to appreciate his impact.

I also had a real biological brother. From him I learned many of the '60's cultural values: an appreciation of music and psychedelia, free love, antiauthoritarianism, social justice, mysticism and spirituality, and pacifism, to name a few. My spiritual brother, The Bomb, also taught me pacifism. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

My awareness of the wider world expanded. I can remember lying awake at night wondering when there would be nuclear war. I would hope that it could be forestalled, but with such a genie out of the bottle I knew it could never be put back. The apocalyptic prophetic fantasies of all our forebears had now materialized, and these alien/demonic seeds had been planted all over the earth. No one could seriously think that this could ever be undone, so a kind of flimsy containment was the best we could hope for. In the long nights of the Cold War, where were my blankets? Peace? Love? Freedom? Comfort, yes, but no real protection.

I was afraid, and I wasn't alone. I watched the '50's era paranoia sic-fi and spy shows. We all knew something had changed. We built our selves into cells of normalcy, but we knew we were all Prisoners. I also read science fiction. In "Dark They Were, and Golden-eyed," Ray Bradbury wrote of a family that emigrated from Earth to Mars, to escape the atomic wars. Though the new environment threatens to subtly change them, one wonders if it isn't really the disease they brought with them, and it comes through in the language of dissolution:

The man felt his hair flutter and the tissues of his body draw tight as if he were standing at the center of a vacuum. His wife, before him, seemed almost to whirl away in smoke. The children, small seeds, might at any instant be sown to all the Martian climes.
The wind blew as if to flake away their identities. At any moment the Martian air might draw his soul from him, as marrow comes from a white bone. He felt submerged in a chemical that could dissolve his intellect and burn away his past.
They built a small white cottage and ate good breakfasts there, but the fear was never gone. It lay with [them], a third unbidden partner at every midnight talk, at every dawn awakening.
"I feel like a salt crystal," he said, "in a mountain stream, being washed away."

It was my real brother who, in the late '70's, introduced me to aikido. I took to it, attracted by what seemed like an almost mystical approach to conflict. I learned the techniques, and I studied its philosophy -- not quite pacifist, but pragmatically compassionate. I studied its history. I was learning from the enemies of my fathers. Like the characters in the Bradbury story, my mind, my identity was being changed.

If Japan had been irrevocably changed by The Bomb, and if America had injected itself into the ancient heart of the invincible Rising Sun, then the explosions also blew pieces of Japan, its meat and bone and soul, all over. Some of that shrapnel lodged permanently in my psyche. The fallout continues.

I will never be Japanese, but the grafting of Asian DNA onto my soul has taught me more about what it means to be an American -- to be a US citizen. One can never be a true American if one is purely American, for such a thing no longer exists, if ever it did. To be American means to be mixed. Scrambled. It is the recapitulation of every war epic, where the conqueror ultimately absorbs the blood of the vanquished, and is altered by it. You are what you eat.

Historians of aikido often divide the art into pre-war and post-war eras. The arc of the entire conflict doubtless had its effect, but The Bomb changed the equation for all of humanity, with Japan as the epicenter. The awakening was luminous, radiant, and horrible. Light itself had come into the world in a New Dawn, and it would annihilate everything with a completeness and purity that Dark could never hold a candle to. Whatever spiritual sources O Sensei drew from, it seems clear that The Bomb caused a mutation in the nature of aikido.

O Sensei spoke words and conveyed ideas that I knew to be true. If they were not yet true, they had to be made true. Warfare must evolve. Where once it served to defend a people or acquire new resources, it now promised to end all life and contaminate all treasure. The logical end of warfare was now indeed the end of all conflict, but only by virtue of the eradication of all contestants. (Oh, there might be survivors. The idea of a limited nuclear exchange with relatively minor global consequence is even remotely plausible. But never has it been more clear that unlimited escalation conceivably can end human history.)

Aikido is one rational answer to this. We cannot afford any sort of weak pacifism, but neither can we wage war under obsolete assumptions. We need new technologies and new strategic minds to address the conflicts that have not yet happened in a sustainable tomorrow. The new traditions we must follow are those rooted in the distant future, and conveyed to us by the countless unborn generations.

So oddly, I've grown up to be a warrior, of sorts. Probably nothing like what the military line of my family would recognize. I've fought on no battlefields, and in fact have never been in a fight in my life. I am not brave, and I am not and only accidentally will ever be a hero.

And yet, I survived the First Cold War. And in ways you'll likely never see, I carry the scars of it. I live close to the reality of unbeing. I experience periods of dissolution and insubstantiality. At times I and the full depth and dimensionality of existence is revealed through the eye of my trauma to be nothing more than a thin and fragile surface.

The aikido that I have inherited, the aikido which I now create and foster, addresses this. This and only this is its real relevance. It's not what it is, but what you do with it that matters. So I know what I'm to do with it.

I'm healing.

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


"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room." ~ President Merkin Muffley
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Old 12-01-2015, 05:37 AM   #2
Susan Dalton
Dojo: Greensboro Kodokan
Location: Greensboro
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 346
Re: The Atom Bomb

Beautiful column, Ross. It's one of my favorites of yours.
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Old 12-01-2015, 12:08 PM   #3
Janet Rosen
Janet Rosen's Avatar
Location: Left Coast
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 4,339
Re: The Atom Bomb

One from the heart. Thank you.

Janet Rosen
"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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