Corporate small talk – During lunch one day we talked about different polo shirts that we had gotten from the company, and what colors we liked.
Resolve – A co-worker told me that it is not necessary to speak out about a person who is not doing his job. For one, the person speaking up is often punished. Once, he spoke up against his supervisor, who made the blame fall on my co-worker, and eventually got promoted in spite of the complaints against his management style. I thought about my own childhood, seeing people who spoke up and those who did not, and thought that speaking up is like standing up for yourself in a fight. The goal is not to win, but to make the other person pause in the future before doing anything disrespectful.
Compassion – He had spoken with his mother about a current co-worker of his, and his mother advised him not to say too much. Just think, what if the man got fired? Could you live with yourself?
Patience – the day after, my co-worker finished the story. His supervisor had gotten promoted over another person that my co-worker’s team was supporting for the promotion. This was considered unjust. Yet, when turnover at that team remained very high (due to the promoted man’s managerial style) he came under scrutiny, and was removed. Thus, the man was removed not by any one person’s complaint, but by gradual general consensus. You just have to wait things out.
Martial – I learned a new way of falling when getting thrown that allows me to counterattack with a knife in my free hand even when someone is twisting my arm. It requires me to jump over the shoulder of the arm that is being twisted, while knifing the person. During practice, I do not think of knifing my partner, as such a thought would cause me to tense up. Rather, I think whether it is possible to touch him. It will take some more work before I can execute the movement naturally. After practice, I spoke with the teacher. He praised my worn, patched hakama, the dress-like garment that is worn on the lower-half of the body over the pants. More than a belt rank, it is proof of the depth of one’s training. I asked him why he doesn’t wear his old hakama. He says the students would ask – why aren’t you wearing the new one. I remembered hearing that the new hakama was a gift from one of the students, and I realized it was because he didn’t want to disappoint them. This, too, indicates depth of his training.
Intellectual – How wonderful all the options for ways to make a living and tools to help us that present themselves to us. Yet, so many are dependent on oil and natural gas. Just in 2014, Canada was extracting oil from tar sands, an undertaking that requires burning large quantities of natural gas. That is how scarce oil was. Now with cheap shale oil, we have a reprieve, but for how long? All of human endeavor is currently subsidized by millions of years of fossilized sunlight. When we run out, as we certainly will, we will return, if we are lucky, to the Italian Renaissance, or to Tokugawa Japan. Where the Italian Renaissance got its energy from, I’m not sure, but Tokugawa Japan got its energy from large-scale planting of cedars, which were converted to coal to power industry. So extensively were cedars that the fill the air during pollen season so thickly with pollen that many who live in Japan for a few years become allergic to it.
Seeing things both ways – A Taiwanese-American recently moved back to Taiwan, in love with Aikido, having attained a certain level of training, teaching in order to spread ones love for the art. Such words describe me and one other person. But we are also different. I find that I am very Japanese. I came, met a lot of teachers and students, expanding my network of Aikido friends, helping to teach at various universities. I have done this for over two years. Stereotypically, Japan’s is a culture that looks to history for answers. The other man came, and after visiting a few places, decided that he wanted to do things differently, and opened his own dojo. Stereotypically, America’s is a culture without a past.
Friendships – Facebook has a feature that digs up old pictures and puts them on the newsfeed again. Today an old friend messaged me, commemorating eight years of friendship on facebook, but thirteen in reality. I had just thought about her yesterday, funny coincidence. In many ways I liked myself better then – truer to my ideals, faster to act, smiling more, talking more.
Aikido – A student of mine is going to Japan to live with a couple in Japan, whom I’ve known for eight years. The couple do Aikido, and when they came to Taiwan to live for a year, they came to the NTNU dojo because I’d recommended it to them. I know the couple well because I continued training at the same dojo in Tokyo in spite of some conflict between the teacher and me. I had considered leaving, but I stayed. As for my conflict with my teacher, this seemed in the end not so important as the fact that we were connected by our love for the art.
Different lives – Once, I did scaffolding, and the people I did scaffolding with would scarce imagine that I was trained as an engineer and once worked at an air-conditioned desk job. Now, at a desk job, the people around me would scarce imagine that I once used my sweat and muscle to earn money regardless of biting cold or sweltering heat. The cold was alright – moving kept me warm. But the heat was rather unbearable. One day, I drank five liters before getting off of work. I liked it well enough to continue doing it for a year on weekends after I went back to a desk job. And I think to myself, I have at different points in my life lived as an American, a Japanese, and now a Taiwanese, and they are all personas that I assume. Everyone has a persona that they assume for convenience or protection.