Category Archives: confused

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.

乾脆做做看

我喜歡去幾復数的大學練合氣道。大學生體力比一般社會人好,但是有可能是最近熱了些,因為常會有人說「要休息一下」或者「要欱一點水」。

我都從頭到尾盡量不休息,不欱水。有人問我「對身体不好吧。」
「不會啊,身体會更壯。我練習後會補水的。」
我們組先在狩獵時,獵物也不會等著讓我們補水。在街上打架時,對手也不會讓我們補水。我們祖先一定是在又缺卡路里,又缺水的狀態能做出激烈運動。如Nassim Nicholas Taleb 說的,這種刺激我們不只可以忍住,而可能是不可缼的。要不然,我們的身体會衰弱。有幾會,不如做做看,找一找自己身体的限界。

最喜歡的練法是少說技法,乾脆動一動,用動作去找答案。不管對方的練習成度,只要動一動,我也可以學一些東西。但是有很多人會希望我用說的教他。那樣我還照樣動作解釋再加幾句「這樣破勢,這樣摔。」那樣教的話,大部分的人會不知不覺地動作出來,而會很感動他們能夠突然做比剛才更好。

但是有些人,特別是「好學生」就算動作已做得出,還會要我解釋。這就證明語言和動作不一樣。用語言解釋有時反而有害。我常遇到學生因為我或別人解釋反而做得比剛才差。說一句手的他就忘了腳。說一句腳的就忘了手等等。在練習中是輸流做四次技法。有人會做完個技法後愣在那裏問「那我手是應該怎樣?」「你才剛做出來了!用身体學。如果通過說話可以憧的話,我們在家裏看合氣道書就行了!大概的動作要先做個幾百幾千次才可以講更詳細的。」我那樣一面和他練,一面勸他,他似乎有點怕我,說要休息去欱水去了。

好學生不感動得比想得快,但是頭腦永遠趕不上身体的動作。還不如先做後想。可是成積好的好學生是將承擔我們的社會㖿!希望他們可以通過合氣道學會用自己的眼睛看東西。我想要好好修理他一下可是他一定會要去欱水的吧。

感謝這種人是少数的。最好玩的是我和一個對手在練習當中相互模倣,偷技法,適量試一試反擊。那樣會變得如玩的一樣快樂。會玩的人是最聰明的。找答案,多靠玩的,少靠想的。

思い出すために忘れる

恵比寿の家で最後の夜に書いた。

今朝引っ越し会社が来て、荷物を梱包して持って行った。これから荷物が船便で行って、俺はアメリカに会社の製品説明会二参加して二週間後に荷物のちょっと先に台湾に到着する。

昨日は一日をかけて物を整理して、捨てたりもした。今日の梱包は予定した五時間より一時間ほど早く終わったけど、物の多さにびっくりした。ものを整理して梱包する為に時間と精神力を使って、嫌になった。

本の中から売りたい本を選んで売りに行ったけど、実は逆が良かった。持ちたい本を選んで他は買取に来てもらえばよかった。誰もが大体一つ手放せないもの部類がある。食品、服、電化製品など。俺の場合は本。今回の引っ越しで少し治ったかな。

ものを積み終わったら、バーガーキングにお昼を食べに行った。途中から泣き始めて、食べ終わって顔を洗いに行ってやっと止まった。今年の一年の行動のだるさに気づいた。台北と東京の行き帰りの疲れ、引っ越すと決めても、なかなか引っ越しの準備に始まらなかった。数年前には中華の文化圏にすごく行きたかったのに、台湾に出張で行ってもつまらなかった。

日本を離れるのが寂しいから、日本の規準で台湾を評価した。勿論、無理な事。疲れを台湾の文化の所為にしたり、人の仕事のやり方の所為にしたり、夏の暑さの所為にしたりしたけど、その背後に、実は日本から離れるのが寂しい。

そこで、じゃあ、何で台湾に行くの?と考えると、やっぱり仕事の理由だろうの思った。それは十分理に叶っているけど、仕事を中心に動く事は今まであんまりない。

日本に来たのも、文化と環境が好きで、来た。住み着いちゃって、十年の間に仲良くなった友達、辿り着いた一週間のリズム、足繁く通った武道の道場、見付けた憩いの場所、学んだ日本的な人の接し方。

台湾にこれらを連れて行けない。午後の飛行機に乗る前に午前に道場にでも行くかと考えたら、泣き出した。新宮病院の見舞いした先生が「稽古したい」と泣き出したのを思い出した。行く理由を疑った。十年間東京を家と呼んで、幸せ。根を深く張っているように思える。あんまりいると他行けなくなるから、今一度根を切って、自分を植え付ける。

夜は部屋を掃除をした。部屋にちゃんとお礼をしたいと思って掃除をした。清掃する過程で部屋が次第に原状に戻った。畳に雑巾を掛けて埃を拭いたら、いつの間にか依存して来たことも払拭したように思えた。台所の調理台と流しの錆びを落として、お風呂場のカビを落としてピカピカにした。綺麗に使っていたつもりだったけど、気づかずに汚くなったことが分かった。自分も心が純粋で直感で生きるつもりだったけど、いつの間にか色々期待と思い込みがついてきた。

部屋が復原すると共に、その部屋に十年前に入って、可能性でワクワクしていた私の気持ちも思い出した。物がない部屋は広く感じたて、入る物で何にでもなれる。台湾に行ったら、物を減らそうと決めた。部屋と同じように心は期待と依存を減らして広い気持ちで何にでも対処できるようになろうと決めた。部屋は簡単けど、心が難しいだろう。

もう3時頃だったけど、寝たくなくて、シャワーして、歩いてコンビニに行ってカップラーメンとオールフリーを買った。そういえば、忙しくて晩ご飯は食べてなと気が付いた。戻りに広場を歩き通りながら、その広場で一緒に歩いた友達のことを思い出した。

よくコオロギの声を覚えようと思って部屋に戻って、綺麗な畳に肌足で歩いて、照明を暗くした部屋で窓を空けて静かに食べた。気持ちを書き留めようとして、眠気が急に襲ってきて、畳の上に折ったタオルを枕にして、全部忘れて寝た。

Reverse Culture Shock

A thoughtful friend of mine recently returned to the United States wrote to me about reverse culture shock.

“[I was shocked when my friend said.] I don’t care what you think. I’m gonna do it my way.” — which was one thing you mocked Americans for saying.

… I’m kind of surprised by how much noise there is, how loud and noisy people themselves are. It seems like we use space to “solve” issues, mitigating problems just by putting more distance between ourselves. Not just manners … we move our trash away to landfills, people move away from people they don’t like, etc.

And I’ve found myself coping by re-adopting a lot of these bad habits. Americans are also great at fighting fire with more fire.

I was first of all surprised at the speed that my friend absorbed a lot of Japanese thinking very quickly his brief stay here. I noticed the things that he mentioned, but it took me longer – maybe on the order of five years to his two weeks.

Why is reverse culture shock a sad thing at all? It seems like it must be a gain, because people who don’t absorb the culture where they travel never get culture shock. This additional cultural knowledge should result in being more able to empathize with people and more skill in working with ambiguous situations.

Why then, the sense of disorientation when coming back to one’s home culture, which one should in fact understand better than when he left? As with so many forms of interpersonal interaction, I find insights through the practice of martial arts. Martial arts is physical practice in negotiating ambiguity and conflict resolution, and represents the world in microcosm.

Each art, and to a large extent, each school is a collection of strategies for dealing with situations, and expectations about what your partner will attempt to do. This makes up its culture, and this structure is necessary because the actual world is too chaotic and boundless to lend itself to study. Some level of formalization is necessary to begin exploration and mapping of the world. Yet when the practitioner goes to another school to study, or switches to a different martial art, he finds that the formalization is a gross approximation. There is shock at encountering a different system of expectations, movement, and negotiation. He may exploit some effective openings, and face difficulties where he has his own gaps in understanding. This is culture shock.

After which, the student returns to his school, and is able to see what is wrong with what he is being taught. He may see possible counterattacks that have not been accounted for. He may see more efficient ways of moving. He may see that his partner is moving in response to a preconception, instead of responding to the situation at hand. When he sees such discrepancies in the people he was studied with and tried to learn from, he may become disillusioned with his teachers and fellow students. This is one definition of reverse culture shock.

Reverse culture shock requires its own coping mechanisms. At times people’s thinking and behavior look so obviously to stem from blind dogmatism that one has a strong desire to overtly educate people, but this seldom works well. The knowledge that we have is generally gained through experience, and acts at a level deeper than conscious thought. While a theoretical explanation works on a conscious level, it has a limited effect on behavior. What you have learned through experience, the other person must also learn by experience. Yet relentlessly exploiting a weakness to attempt to compress the experiential learning can make the other person become psychologically closed off. So, the most natural way to bring about change is to work within a framework of trust and feed the practice partner a set of ideas and experiences at a level appropriate to him. This may be done so subtly that the other person sees them not as things you are teaching but as insights that he has gained through interacting with you.

So this takes care of the problem of transmitting knowledge… This is another definition of reverse culture shock – the strong desire to pass on what one has learned. But the other issue is once there was the comfort of expecting that there was a correct way of doing things, and the confidence that it could be discovered. That comfort is gone. What is left is a feeling of being an outsider after having traveled to a different school, yet on returning in one’s home school, there is no relief – one still feels like an outsider. This is something I am still struggling with, but I think it is the beginning of being one’s own teacher, of having the sense that there is a lot to be learned, but we have to walk our own path, and there might be no one who can teach us everything that we want to know.

Yet, this path is formless and by definition, unwalkable. I can see in children of bi-cultural families where the parents are inconsistent in applying discipline, and in students who try to start two martial arts at the same time, that the students are confused by conflicting messages. While it may be possible for parents to completely educate children biculturally, or for the student of high physical aptitude to start in two martial arts at the same time, this is generally very difficult. For any student, there must be a home culture, a starting point. And, because we are all students, we must choose for ourselves a place to start. We must choose for ourselves a home ground, even with the realization that the worldview it represents is not objectively correct. American and Japanese culture are not correct to the exclusion of the other. Aikido and Karate are not correct to the exclusion of the other. Mathematically speaking, euclidean and polar coordinates are not correct to the exclusion of the other. They are just better adapted to different situations. After the shock of discovering the limitations of one’s original value system, one is painfully aware that choosing any perspective means that some things will be obscured from view. One is loathe to take on any obstructions again, so it is counter-intuitive to choose, but for any progress to be made, we have to choose a starting point.

In Aikido, I have often traveled to schools where they say “we follow” a certain teacher, and I have met Jewish rabbis who say “we follow” a certain rabbi. These are vast systems of codified and sometimes contradictory points of view that try to map the chaos of human choices into a transmittable system; the hope is that each generation can learn just a little bit faster and get a little bit smarter than the previous one. Without this codification, each generation would be stuck with the enormous task of creating its culture from scratch. But, even Aikido and Judaism are so vast that people choose a teacher to follow – one who has wrestled with contradictions and developed explanations – they explicitly choose a point of view to be the starting point of their experiential learning.

Cultures, like all maps, are feeble approximations of the real world, but one map must be chosen. In realizing that the map is not the territory, dogmatism turns into a healthy distrust of the map, which one follows with a measure of faith, but with an awareness that there are places not mapped accurately, or not mapped at all. We heed the GPS, but keep our eyes on the road.