Monthly Archives: November 2013

持っているものを欲する

今朝は実家に電話して、アメリカにいる両親と弟とテレビ電話で「感謝祭おめでとう」と言った。そして「何を感謝している」と聞くのは一つの伝統である。

あるお世話になった合気道の先生が「持っているもとを欲する」ということについて話したことがある。大概、欲は持っていない物に対して感じるが、持っているものを欲すると実際にその物があるのだから感謝する心が育つ。

方丈記で「行く川のながれは絶えずして、しかも本の水にあらず。よどみに浮ぶうたかたは、かつ消えかつ結びて久しくとゞまることなし」とある。地震、台風、怪我、急病、転職、津波など自然と人工の災いで突然変化が起こる。これを覚えたら、大切な人のありがたさが分かるだろう、馬が合わない人も気にならなくなるでしょう。持っている物を欲するというのは当たり前のことが奇跡だと意識することでもある。朝に目が覚めることは当たり前に思っているけど、寝て目が覚めない人もいたでしょう。美味しくて健康的な食べ物をいただけるのは当たり前に思っているけど、食べ物がないあるいは病気で食べることができない人もいるでしょう。愛する人に会えるのは当たり前に思っているけど、奇跡。仕事があること。健全であること。そもそも、ここでこの時刻に一緒にいるのは沢山の偶然が起きて初めてここに一緒にいる奇跡がある。

今日、私が感謝していること。日本に元々2年いるだろうと考えたのが気がついたらほぼ10年になって、それを可能にした人たち。寂しいときに遊んでくれた友達、迷ったときに道を示した師匠。日本語を喋るようにさせたトーストマスターズの仲間、仕事を教えた先輩、強く鍛えてくれた鳶職の職人、合気道で恵まれた朝から笑顔とハイテンションの人に囲まれること、金曜日の夜に一週間の締めを付ける港区合気会の仲間。

ある稽古で先生に「久しぶりだ、元気かい?」と聞かれたら、私が深いお辞儀をして動揺しながら「お久しぶりです。おかげさまで元気です」と答えたら、先生が「もうそんなに畏まらなくていいですよ。もういい男ですから。」といった。

確かに、気持ちはまだ青年かもしれないけど、鏡を見ると私はもう10年前の青い新卒じゃない。老けることも一つ感謝しないといけない。ふけることで時間の限りを感じて、ここにいる奇跡をより身近に感じられる。ニューヨーク協奏楽団の元指揮者Leonard Bernstein が言った「すばらしいことを成し遂げるには二つのことが必要。計画、そしてそれを実行するのにちょっと足りないこと。」気持ちが若くても、経験がたまってくるのと同時に見た目が老けてくることで周りに期待される。合気道でまだ分からないことが多いけれど、港区合気会の先生に黒帯を締めさせていることでちゃんと後輩の面倒を見なければいけないだろう。やんちゃなな動きをしてもよかった青年だった私にも次の成長が待っているでしょう。

ここにいる奇跡を十分尊重するには、そのときそのときを大切にしないと行けない。人はその歳にその歳しかできないことがある。そして、私は明日にしかできないことがあるので、もう寝ます。おやすみなさい。

Advertisements

Overheard Today

In the men’s locker room today after practice.

R: Compared to where I’m from, Japan is such a prosperous country, even minimum wage is pretty good. The way I see it – “just buy another gi.”

me: are you trying to tell E that his dōgi is old and smelly?

E: No, but my daughter thinks it is. [imitating daughter] DAD! You washed your dōgi with my clothes AGAIN?

R: E is fine. But after practicing with certain people, I think I understand how these ki throws work now [pantomimes closing I for an attack and being overwhelmed by a cloud of body odor].

Gene Sequencing and World Views

I listened to a radio show from the United States today that talked about genetic sequencing, and the uncomfortable potentials that it had to be used in the future to make designer babies, to try to determine whether someone had a variant of DRD4 – the so-called “cheating gene” that has been statistically linked to infidelity, or to pre-screen people candidates for health insurance. I thought about why such possibilities are uncomfortable, and realized they are particularly uncomfortable because of the particular world-view that is present in the United States, and might be less of a worry in Japan.

What is the kind of world-view and social context that makes these thoughts uncomfortable?

One of the core emphases in the United States is meritocracy. People believe that if you try hard, you can succeed at anything. Popular folklore is studded with examples such as Bill Gates and Paul Allen starting Microsoft in a garage, or how Harland Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken as a roadside restaurant. One is led to think that if you’re smart, hard working, and have a garage, you, too can be fabulously wealthy. The focus is on action, rather than the cards that one is dealt. People don’t talk about how Bill Gates went to private schools and as a result had access to a mainframe computer in high school. People don’t talk about the role of the group of investors that bought out Harland Sanders. The belief is cultivated that anything is possible with hard work – moreover that we deserve it. This is the one world-view that would lead people to making designer babies.

Another thing that could lead to designer babies is an intense faith in technology. Blind faith in technology has replaced blind faith in religion, as seen in the subsidized corn-based food chain that is the source of cheap calories in the U.S., with little regard to obesity or pollution problems with the runoff of synthetic fertilizers into river (and Gulf of Mexico) ecology and our water system. Many in industry analyze, optimize, and scale up as much as possible, often without thinking of the consequences.

In a country such as Japan that is less meritocratic, people might be more accepting of the role of fate, and less likely to pursue such things such as designer babies. This is in fact visible in lower rates of child adoption in Japan. People believe that if they cannot bear children, they were not meant to have children. Unfortunately, a fatalistic point of view has other consequences, such as a high rate of suicide. (Four in the past week on my commute between Tokyo and Yokohama that have caused delays for me, and it’s only Wednesday.)

Success in life comes from both hard work and luck. The emphasis in the States is more on hard work, and the emphasis in Japan is more on luck. So, when we in the States are confronted with the idea that genes predispose people to certain behaviors, such as infidelity, we become uncomfortable at the “pre-determined” nature of it. Whereas, if one is more accepting of the role of fate, one can see it as a pre-disposition, and know that there is a lot of personal choice that is still involved.

And then let’s examine the question of health insurance. In countries that have universally mandated health insurance, it doesn’t matter what people are predisposed to – everyone is still covered. This is not yet the case in the U.S., so one worries whether private insurers will deny applicants coverage based on certain genetic predispositions.

In the debate about the ethics of gene sequencing and engineering, the technology is still behind the debate, but there will be one day when the technology catches up, and we should rethink our value system such that we can more comfortably work with the technology then. Often, when we are uncomfortable with a person, it is because that person reminds us of some part of us that we do not like, and rather than work on ourselves, we try to push that person out of our lives. So it is with technology – sometimes we’re afraid of it simply because it is a mirror.

物と心が一つ

2013年 8月 22日に熊野塾の庵野先生からの頂き物。ある仏教のお供えの方法の本の序文。

此の世の中は物と心が一つになって生きています。二つが離れたら物も心も働かなくなります。次の世の歪みも人が病み・悩み・貧乏し不幸せになるもの、物と心の調和が歪んでいるからであります。従って私達が幸せになり此の世が幸せになるには物と心の歪みを直して調和させなければなりません。

病に薬を物として与えても、悟りだけを与えても病人の体は調和しません。又此の世を良くすると云って物を沢山作っても、教えだけをいくらしても此の世はよくなりません。

物に魂を加えて与えなければ病人の体も此の世の歪みもよくなりません。

私達の魂は魂が何かをしたい為に、それに相応しい肉体を作って生きているのです。若し私の魂に委せ切っていなければならないのです。物が先でもなく、心が先でもありません。生きている物はすべて物と心が日取るであります。薬を病人に与えるのに金を取るのは物が先だから効きません。先祖供養にお経を百万遍唱えても心が先だから通じません。

合気道と云う媒体

いくつかの道場を言ってみて気づいたのは先生の世界観が合気道にでる。

例えば、ある稽古で「私は健康維持、そして人と触れ合うために合気道をやっている」という先生は稽古中に、呼吸、姿勢、自然の動きに着いて話しながら稽古を指導する。

そして、稽古の途中に、生徒を座らせて、「今日、入院中の中口先生に見舞いをして、おとう祭の写真を出して見せた。同じ部屋にいた患者さんも多分話しが聞きたいから、誘ってみんなで写真を見た。」

「せっかくだから、後半は中口先生の技をやろうか。」

と言って、中口先生の個性を大切にして、今日の指導者がいつもと違う技を指導した。こうすると、中口先生がいなくても、彼から伝授した技をみんなで稽古した。指導者が伝えているのは技だけじゃなくて、世界観も。

Story Wars

Isn’t it interesting, how our life story comes out in everything that we do? It comes out in the stories about ourselves that we tell, in the advice we give to other people, in the way we approach work, in the way we approach play.

Today, I was at a seminar whose keynote was given by a man whose life story was he was the youngest (38) mid-level manager at his company, each fact which he drew attention to three times throughout his talk. At the beginning of his talk he said – “Don’t be intimidated by my ‘manager’ title. I’m a person, too.” The talk sounded like “I’m the most successful young guy at my company, and it’s because I’ve worked intelligently to get here. Here’s how you can work intelligently, too.” He spoke in generalities, and I felt like needling him. So I did. For example:

When he asked “What is one of the things that a marketer should do?”
I said “Avoid saying anything bad about the product, and say only good things. For example, if you raised beef on a feedlot without pasture, you might say that the beef was raised in an area with ample space, clean water, and the companionship of his kind, and simply not mention that there was no pasture.”
“Yes, I would interpret your answer as ‘make sure the customer knows the benefits of your product.'”

When he asked “Why should we try to model successes?”
I said “How can you know that the success wasn’t by chance? Maybe the successful guy was just lucky, especially if he’s never failed before.”
And he said. “We’ll I’m speaking in a sales context, of whether or not a salesman has met his quotas, and believe me, I’ve had my share of failing to meet my quota.”

He was a good sport – he took everything that I said and turned it around into a motivational exhortation. Good for him. I can admire that. So the “you can work intelligently, too” part of his life story was a genuine desire and a belief. For this, I had to respect him.

Not only did I learn a few tricks on how to put a positive spin on things, but this has me thinking of me and my own life story. Why do I feel the way I feel? And this is the first time that I’ve been able to see it in this way. I guess my life story is: “I’m moderately successful, but I’ve been very lucky, because I’ve met a lot of intelligent and motivated people who have not been so lucky.” So I become suspicious of people who come across as believing they are successful because they have worked so intelligently.

Writing about this now, I can see that the root of all personal conflict is when another person’s story conflicts with our story. The problem is that people are so into their own stories, that sometimes they can’t step out.

I recall an argument between a former president of my local Toastmasters club and a member who wanted to come back to give a speech after having taken a hiatus. The president was new enough that she had never met the old member until the day that he showed up wanting to give a speech. The exchange went something like this:

I’d like to give a speech. He said.
Her response to him was – only members can give speeches.
I am a member.
Have you paid dues?
I haven’t paid because I’ve been away.
You’ll have to pay dues before you can give a speech.
I’ve been away because I’ve been sick. I’ll pay my dues, but you’ve made me feel very unwelcome. You should apologize.
Why should I apologize? I’ve only stated the rules.

This actually escalated into having to call the district governor in to mediate. You can see that maybe on the one hand, the president felt that the man was asking for an exemption to the rules, and she had to put her foot down, and on the other hand, the old man was willing to pay dues, but just wanted to be acknowledged and welcomed as an old member, which the president was unwilling to do because she felt a man she didn’t even know was questioning her authority. They never did apologize to each other, and the president ended up leaving with half the club to start a new one on the same day of the week at a different location.

Amazing, right? Two people, having the same conversation, constructing two very different webs of meaning, to the extent that they’re not really having the same conversation. To the extent that we can have safe conversations, from a pool of shared meaning, we can have harmonious relations with each other.

The president could have said. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to make you feel unwelcome. I’m glad you’re back after being sick, and I’m looking forward to hearing speeches from you. Let’s reactivate your membership so we can schedule a speech for you.”

Or the man could have said. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to ask for an exemption. Let me reactivate my membership today. If I seem disappointed, it was expecting a warmer welcome back.”

To get to the pool of shared meaning, we have to step inside the other person’s story, uncomfortable because it feels as if we must give ground, and difficult because we have to speak from inside a story that is a challenge to ours.

The One Thing a Teacher Must Do

Truth in martial arts, as in anything, must be arrived at by testing and debate. Although testing and debate can serve to obscure truth, dogmatism is worse. It used to be that the environment of testing and debate was the battlefield, and teachers demanded obedience from their students. But now, I think it’s a disaster for teachers to demand absolute obedience. Each generation must re-create effective techniques for themselves. The goal of the teacher should be to make his students stronger himself.

That is the role of the dojo, right? The place where the “way” becomes a “place,” where things are laid out and can be examined in an environment of safety and experimentation, as would not be possible in a streetfight. There is no place for dogmatism here. Dogmatism prevents experimentation. Without experimentation, there is no progress.

And when we experiment, we need feedback. The opponent must reach out and touch where a blow could land, or point with his foot where a kick could land. Such things are embarrassing to see sometimes because they show us where we are weak, but I always appreciate when people do such things. Most people appreciate when I do such things, but there are a few people, and I have felt the burning eyes of a teacher, who do not like it when I do such things.

But this is natural – in martial arts, as in anything, those who are most reluctant to admit that they might be wrong, make the slowest progress.

The teacher has experience to guide, but his role should be to guide each student’s individual journey of questioning, not to make unquestioning copies of himself. I hope I remember this as a teacher and a parent.