Monthly Archives: February 2017

Briefly Joyful

Aikido practice, in Japanese, is called keiko, which can also be translated as “meditating upon the elders.” Today was the first practice of the spring semester at Taiwan University for me. I practiced with the teacher. It was a strenuous practice. He told me later – “thank you – the more I teach, the less I practice – the older I get, the weaker my body gets.”

“It happens to everyone.” I said.

As I folded my hakama, I thought about the elders – all those who came before. All my old teachers who were once young. The teachers before them, who have passed. Once, I wanted to lean Aikido to be strong and to be able to fight. Now, it is enough for me to be connected to this stream of history, and for me to use it to develop and maintain my body.

Much of the jazz music I listen to is by musicians who have passed on.
Many of the books I read are by authors who have passed on.

Jazz, aikido, dance, food, sleeping, then waking with coffee. I love all of this. How could I ever give it up? But there have been many before who felt the same way. All of us, briefly joyful.

Eulogy for Lost Dreams

A friend of mine was a young genius, admitted to college two years younger than was the norm – had also applied and been accepted to Julliard Music Conservatory on the virtue of his love for and proficiency on the trumpet.

His parents knew what was best for him, though, and lovingly decided that he should join a good computer science program at another reputable university.

He found himself able, but not motivated, took solace in the thought that he could do well in class if he tried, turned instead to playing Counterstrike (a first-person shooter computer game), slept irregular hours, and flunked out of school before he finished his first year.

His name was Winston. I lost touch with him.

I wonder if he has found his muse, or if he labors in quiet desperation at a job that he doesn’t much care for, a victim even now of an insidious homogenizing strand of thought that would discount genius and force people to be average in favor of a nice steady job, in a cheapening of what is artisitic, passionate, or interesting. Fuck. That. Shit.

However much we sell ourselves short in order to gain the good opinion of others, or for material wealth, we cannot take any of it with us when we die.

Old friend, you must have lost your way for a long time. Do not die with your music inside of you. I pray that you have found your way.

The Link

I studied Aikido this afternoon with a friend. He is a new to it, and has lots of questions. As we train, I realize that I do not have explicit knowledge of the answers to the questions he is asking. I have been led to them by years of practice and experimentation. Movements in martial arts are those movements that were originally left behind by those that survived wars. They come to us from the deep past, and are largely passed down from person to person. They are not really mine – I only channel them.

I can hold these techniques and movements for awhile, but only while I am alive. They are mainly for me to pass on. I am a vessel for these thoughts. I am the river to gather streams of thoughts and channel them to the great sea of infinite time and space.

I am not the first to think these thoughts, nor shall I be the last.

It is the Lunar New Year, and the Taiwanese believe the ancestors are close. They burn offerings of ghost money to comfort them, they set firecrackers to scare away the restless souls that still wander the earth. I am not afraid of ghosts, in fact I think it would be nice for me to meet the ancestors, and learn how better to use what I have been given.

We are all given a finite time in this world, though we don’t know how long. Today we are just a little closer to the end.

The knowledge of the ancestors comes to me in sensations, some learned, like en-trained reflexes in martial arts. These originated in battle, and have been preserved, refined, and transmitted from person to person in an unbroken chain. Some ancestral knowledge is instinctual – I crave bananas when I am low on potassium, for instance. I know this because in between the time I took my last blood test and saw the results, I ate a lot of bananas. They looked good on the fruit stand, so I bought a lot. When the results came, they showed me that I had been low on potassium. This instinctual knowledge has been passed down to us from organism to organism in an unbroken chain, reaching back through deep time. We are just the latest link.

A prayer to the ancestors while they are close: show us the Way, protect us as you would protect your Legacy, let us channel you in work and in play, remind us that life has just one source, and that we are all children of the common beginning. May all restless souls find a listening ear, and be able to rest in peace.