Friday, December 18, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
We all are...
I find it so interesting how different two brothers can be, even raised similarly in the same family. My brother Allison was describing the differences between his two very young sons, and I asked him if he saw any similarities between them and us when we were that age. He said in his reply email that he couldn't see any obvious similarities, but added half-jokingly that he and I were skewed and damaged by the events of our childhood until we were 30. This, to me, pointed out the differences between us.
For instance, I see skewing and damage as inevitable results of being born self-conscious human beings. Whereas he seems to idealize the state of childhood somewhat and believe that if it weren't for the damage done to us as children, we would all be better people.
I think we'd just be fucked up in different ways.
I think being human is to be fucked up, that is to say wounded, conditioned by early traumas, stuck in the past, etc. There are different flavors and intensities for sure, but we're all, in my view, everyone of us, wounded, groping, overly something, underly something, not fully alive, all fucked up.
Great joy is possible, of course: the pleasure of living a creative life and loving nature and other people (all of which I experienced all through my childhood and still do), but I think we mostly miss the mark by a pretty good measure. I just see damage as so inextricably part of being human. I've never met anyone in my life who wasn't damaged in some core way. Life is damaging to all living things and ends up killing us in the end. To me, the task of existence is to connect with life and express myself as best I can in spite of whatever inevitable damage has occured. Preventing it seems mostly impossible. In fact, tons of damage gets done by people trying not to do damage. I would even go so far as to say: To have children is to damage them.
(I have a song about this on my new album, Flow More~Force Less, called "Scarred For Life". It's on my site under Musical Recordings. Other relevant songs, also on the new album, are "Grateful For The Shovel" and "I Don't Care What You Call Me".)
I hardly ever focus on what was done to me, or how I was damaged. I only want to touch life as fully as I can with whatever parts of me feel alive and functioning. True, I did a lot of work on myself, my body and its capacities when I was younger, to wake up as many parts of me as I could that felt asleep, but basically, with a few exceptions, the changes I made were modest. I'm still basically the same person I always was, I've just learned a few things, tossed a few patterns, and done as much of what I wanted to do as I could.
I've had a lot of pleasure in this damaged body, much more it seems to me, than many other people I've met who seem much less damaged in the standard sense. Then I look a little closer and I see that their joys are different from mine, that they value different abilities, and that they're as alive as I am, just doing different things.
Everyone seems obsessed to me. Seriously obsessed. Everyone. We're just obsessed with different things. We tend to look at other people's obsessions and call them "sick" or "obsessive" as though they had a disease and we're fine. But I have never met a single person who wasn't obsessed with something. Sometimes it wasn't obvious, but everyone seems to have something they can't say "No" to, something they "have" to do. In my view, it makes us all equal. We're all obsessive nut cases. Some are just more visible, or honest, or sneaky, or dangerous, or transparent, or legal, or societally approved of at the moment. I'm much more forgiving when I see other people this way. And much more alert.
I might be wrong here, but I think this fundamental fatalism of mine about damage, is a place where my brother and I are not very alike. Another difference, as I see it, is that he tends to express his opinions as though they were facts, as though what he's seeing is how things are. He has great confidence in his perceptions and opinions. I tend to express my opinions as opinions, because I think we're all, myself included, groping around and have no real idea where we are or what's happening. I have a limited confidence in my perceptions because I see perception itself as inherently inaccurate. I do have unlimited faith and confidence in the part of me that knows what feels right and what doesn't. I obey that all the time and my ground is most solid when I just report this, as in "Your song didn't work for me" vs. "Your song was bad.".
I think things out, I analyze like anyone else, I see a certain world out there, I have opinions that I express as facts too, but what I keep coming back to over and over is: I just have a point of view and it's probably mostly wrong. My certainty is constantly falling away, and I find myself less and less drawn to categorizing damage. I find myself more and more focused on what feels right to do right now. That, and questions like, Who can help me?, Who can I help?, and, Who should I stay the hell away from?
In these comparisons, I don't feel critical or judgmental, at least not that I'm aware of. They're just ways that we seem different to me. Like his kids are different from each other. Is it biology? Wired in? Is it a result of their experiences? Some complex interaction of the two? Who the hell really knows?
Monday, October 26, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Walking the beach
But here's the actual math: Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. There are 31,536,000 seconds in a year (60 X 60 X 24 X 365). So, forgetting about leap years, that means light travels 5,865,696,000,000 in a year (31,536,000 X 186,000). The nearest stars, according to our latest wisdom, are around 4 light years away which would be 23,462,784,000,000 miles (5,865,696,000,000 X 4). Since our beach walk round trip is about 4 miles, we divide 23,462,784,000,000 by 4 which gives us a total of 5,865,696,000,000 trips up and down the beach!
The average walking speed of human beings is around 3 miles per hour; but since we stop and practice, take our time, and are walking on sand, I'm thinking it's more like 2 mph. Since each round trip would take us two hours (4 miles divided by 2), we take our trip total (5,865,696,000,000) and multiply by 2 and we get 11,731,392,000,000 hours of walking. We take that total and divide by 24 to get the total number of days: 488,808,000,000. Divide that total by 365 and we get the total number of years we'd have to walk to win our freedom: 1,339,200,000. Only about 1-1/3 billion years of beach walking! That's only a bit more than a third the age of the Earth...(Special thanks to www.metacalc.com)
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
|This jpg. came out blue for some reason.|
The actual certificate is as red as this text...
It is my pleasure to announce that I recently gave Teaching Certificates to five of my students. They are: my wife Samarra Burnett, Neil Buettner, Benjamin Grunde, John Michael Greer, and John Soares. Samarra, Neil and Ben all live in Ashland and may teach in some capacity around here. John Michael is moving from Ashland to Cumberland, Maryland this Summer and plans to teach there. John Soares lives in Mount Shasta and may teach down there.
Every teacher has to come up with their own criteria for giving people permission or their blessing to teach. Some teachers require that the student know their entire system inside and out, including all the forms within that system. Some require that the student take over some classes and get years of teaching experience under their belts. Some teachers charge quite a bit of money when they issue teaching certificates. There are valid reasons for requiring all of the above and more. But for me the important issues are summed up in what we as a group came up with for the text of the certificate:
This is to certify that
has reached the stage in his/her study of the Symmetrical Old Yang T’ai-Chi Style of Tchoung Ta-Tchen where teaching may become part of that study. He/She has shown consistent and demonstrable understanding of the core T’ai-Chi principle of cultivating unforced balance in action – including the Bone, Muscle, Energy, and Spirit levels of work – and has shown consistency in both the form and content of T’ai-Chi practice. Therefore, I proudly issue this teaching certificate to him/her on this
29th day of July, 2009.
(The certificates also include an approximate lineage and a red yin/yang symbol.)
In my opinion, each of these five students has met the above standards and are indeed ready to include teaching in their study of T'ai-Chi. Some know more of the forms in this system than others, and each of course, has their own strengths and weaknesses, but I'm proud of all of them and wish them well on as much of the teaching journey as they choose to take on.
We met several times as a group to discuss different aspects of teaching and what the contents of the certificates would be. In the spirit of the way I was taught by my teacher Andy Dale, there was no charge for the certification process, nor are teachers "under" me expected or required to send me a percentage of what they earn as teachers.
I am, like Andy, inspired primarily by my love of the art and particularly by the cultivation of "unforced balance in action." Expert masters are wonderful, but what I personally value and encourage most is simply the ability to help people live less forceful lives, lives more in tune with what's going on, in and around them. I sincerely believe that helping people with simple things like having better posture, breathing in a more relaxed way, having more spring in their legs, improving their ability to respond physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually to the world around them is vastly more important and needed than helping people do a jumping high kick, adopt super low stances or punch a hole through a wall.
To sum it up simply: what I love to do most and what I hope these five new teachers will love to do as well, is to help people to flow more and force less.
Congratulations John, John Michael, Samarra, Neil and Ben!