我問講 “Two twenty?”
我問講 “Two twenty?”
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.
I have taken an interest in diabetes recently, and done some reading.
The feeling of exercising while hungry must have been familiar to our ancestors on the savannah. Surely they did not have a little something to eat before going out on a hunt, but rather must have gone hunting because they were hungry. My own experience and that reported by my friends who also train martial arts is that exercise suppresses appetite.
Doing some research on PubMed, I find that exercise actually _increases_ blood glucose. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23835594
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.
On a train ride home today. Brown line in Taipei, meaning narrow cars where there’s just enough room for one person to stand between the seats that are facing each other. It was crowded. Evening rush. Blue seats are reserved for the elderly, the pregnant, and children. Green seats are for general seating. It’s crowded, so one young guy sat down in the priority seating. He gestured. “There’s a seat free.” I gestured to the man standing between me and the seat. “Will you sit?”
The man moved out of the way, and I sat.
The young guy who sat down first must have been in high school. “Someone asks us to move later, we could always apologize.”
“Or, we could just offer the seat if we see someone in need.” I offered.
“Yeah.” he said.
I got out my phone and started reading. (Retropia installments from the Archdruid Report blog.)
“If I find keys, I tell the police.” He said.
“Did you find keys today?” I asked.
He shook his head. “No, but if I find keys, I tell the police.”
“That’s good.” I nodded, and continued to read.
“If I find keys in a store, I tell the police. I tell the police.” He said.
“That works. But why not just tell someone who works at the store?”
“I tell the police.” He insisted.
“Yeah, that’ll work, too.” I nodded, and continued to read.
The train stopped, and the person sitting across from him stood up and got off. A woman who got on sat down.
“If I find a wallet, I tell the police.” He said, looking at her.
“Do I know you?” she asked.
He shook his head. “If I find a wallet, I tell the police.”
My eyes were down as I was reading, so I couldn’t see the woman’s facial expression, but could see her she get up, and walk toward the doors, standing in the area in between the doors.
“I think I scared her.” said the young man.
“Yeah, it looks like it.” I agreed.
“Hey, sorry.” He apologized to her. The woman didn’t acknowledge him. “I’m sorry.” He repeated, this time in Taiwanese, rather than Mandarin, to show his sincerity.
The train stopped at a station, some people got off and some people got on, confirming that the woman had stood up just to get away from him.
“You know, maybe you should just smile and nod.” I offered.
He nodded. I continued reading.
“Sometimes people are scared of me, but I would never do anything bad. I’m the sort of person who’d never do anything bad. Never. Never do anything bad.”Yeah. I said. “But people aren’t used to talking to strangers. Maybe you should just smile and nod.”
This seemed to make sense to him, and he nodded. “But if I find keys I tell the police. Tell the police. Doesn’t matter if I’m riding my bicycle.” At the next stop, the woman got off.
“Bicycle! Do you like bicycling?”
“Yes, and if I find keys, I tell the police.”
“That’s nice.” I continued reading.
The train arrived at my stop. “Well, hey. This is my stop. I’ll see you.”
“Bye.” he said.”Bye.” I said, and got off.
A thought. I observe and experience frequent communication problems in Taiwan, compared to Japan or the US. They often manifest as someone asking a question and the person answering giving an answer that doesn’t match. Either the person asking hasn’t properly formulated the question, or the person answering hasn’t properly confirmed it.
Could it be because the current generation of people speaking Mandarin was raised by a generation who spoke Taiwanese natively? It’s as if Germany suddenly mandated that English was the official language, and everyone schooled and raised their kids in English, and even prohibited use of German in school, even on the playground. Some people would be able to speak good English; others – not so well. And many people would be frustrated by the act of talking, and try to take shortcuts.
Former president Lee Teng Hui (just two presidents ago) admits his Mandarin was so bad that he spoke with former First Lady Soong Mei Ling in English.
Maybe I need to assume everyone is a non-native speaker, and take conversations more slowly.