Jerry – You are much better at the technique photos than I am! Nice series.
(Dee also deserves credit. She took some of the pictures.)
Please tell Lawrence that we really appreciate the flowers for the kamiza.
This morning over breakfast Dee and I got into a conversation about Anselm and his ontological proof of God’s existence.
(I know, I know. But this is what we talk about sometimes.)
It started when Dee pressed me on some logic with regard to faith and I brought up Anselm, knowing full well that this wasn’t going to satisfy her.
Being a computer programmer, and a math major in school, she has a great regard for logical systems. My (subversive) purpose was to show her that all systems have built in assumptions, since all systems, logical or otherwise, are inherently reductionist. (Wasn’t this what Bertrand Russell said? I can’t recall right now and am too lazy to look it up.)
Anyhow, once we dispatched with Anselm, we had a discussion that no system yet created / discovered could answer the questions she was asking. Conversely, however, we discussed how other systems of thought did had interesting things to say.
So then the discussion veered to Aikido and whether it could be considered a formal system of thought to prove a higher truth. O-Sensei, I think, thought so, in that my understanding was he intended it to be a tool to reach the Divine.
Anyway, it was an interesting discussion over my Eggs Benedict and I thought I’d throw it out there. If this bears any fruit I may take the time to write a longer post.
edit: It was Kurt Gödel, not Russell.
That’s a heady conversation over eggs Benedict at Orsay. Perhaps it included a Mimosa to help lubricate the mind and loosen the tongue.
Let me offer an experpt from “The Soul of C.S. Lewis”:
The world as one encounters it day after day is far more complex than any explanation. The word “definition” literally means “of the finite.” We define things by virtue of their limitation and their function. It is finitude that makes definitions possible; a thing must be small enough to wrap words around it so as to distinguish it from other things if it is to be defined.
The question then arises, How do we define God? If he is infinite, then he defies simplistic and limited description. Even Jesus, speaking of the Kingdom of Heaven, proclaimed that ‘the Kindom of Heaven is like…’ He resorted to the use of similies and other figures of speech, parables and stories. In other words, the most robust attempts to understand the character and nature of God will use a variety of modes of expression.”
I happen to believe Aikido is one of those modes.
The “proof of God’s existence” is in “I know, I know”.
To experience a higher truth one needs a formal system of thoughtlessness.
The higher truth is that one is divine. No reaching involved.
Buck: Not Orsay this time, but Beach Diner, off San Jose. If you’re going to Orsay, and you don’t order the steak tartare, then shame on you.
I like what C.S. Lewis has to say (a lot), but I also like what the Scholastics said on the subject. I can almost picture a bunch of students, at say, the University of Paris, coming to arms over some nutty theological definition.
John: A different perspective, to be sure. Also probably more in line with O-Sensei’s spiritual background.
Actually, this is one of the thornier issues I’m thinking about regarding Aikido. Shinto is, to me, more of an intuitive type experience, centered firmly in Japanese culture. I’ve heard it said that to be Japanese is to be Shinto.
Our Western religious tradition, (and by Western I mean European Christianity), has been, in the main, about faith and reason, together.
So we have two different cultural touchstones here, which just happen to go the heart of how O-Sensei saw his martial art.
(I love that sentence, though: “To experience a higher truth, one needs a formal system of thoughtlessness.” I may steal it!)
You might find Lawrence’s blog interesting, Senior Samurai, especially his last post, Fame and Fortune for the Anonymous. It seems to me that you both approach the same idea from two different (?) paths (transcendental meditation on the one hand, and Zen on the other).
You know, reading my comment there it occurs to me that I sure like to pontificate. That’s why I love Aikido; it takes me out of my head.
I liked that sentence too. Are blogs copyrighted? How about blog comments?
Joseph Campbell makes the following distinction about the West (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) and East (India over to Japan): The underlying mythology of western religions and philosphies in the West are based on an experience of life as duality, the East as unity. So in the West we can have a relationship with God and in the East one can realize that one is God. O-Sensei’s statement that ‘I am the Universe’ is to me essentially the latter.
This distinction has implications on how one is capable of seeing the uke/nage dynamic – as duality or unity (fear or peace).
I could go on…
The real question, at least for me, is this: Am I practicing Aikido authentically, given my “western” background and O-Sensei’s theology. Can anyone not Japanese practice the art authentically?
My last question is a bit provocative, I know. Personally I do believe the art can be practiced “authentically” by anyone. O-Sensei himself said as much, and he did encourage the art worldwide. (I’ve also seen some pretty convincing western Aikidoka on the mat.) It’s an interesting thought exercise, though.
In some ways this is related to my debate with the Theologian, although she’d be loath to admit it.
But I’m here to listen to your thoughts, John.
Tell me more.
The answer to your question is an emphatic yes!
Can the Japenese play baseball authentically?
But baseball, unlike Aikido, doesn’t imply a system of metaphysics that goes to the heart of its practice.
And unlike the rule book in baseball, the system of metaphysics in Aikido is explicitly based on Shinto.
And Shinto is tied to Japanese culture.
(Again, so I’m not misunderstood, I realize I’m being provocative. I certainly do believe that Aikido can be practiced and enjoyed by anyone. As a thought exercise, however, I do find this interesting. Just because I haven’t figured out an answer doesn’t mean an answer doesn’t exist…)
What I’m suggesting to you is that the metaphysics in Aikido is not at its core Shinto or Japanese.
The core, as Joseph explains, is the elementary ideas/experience common to all metaphysical (mythological) systems. The cultural manifiestation is unique to a culture but the references in the mthyological system are to universals.
So one angle onwhat authentic practice is… is practice that leaves metaphysics and theology off the mat and just practice.
Interesting point, John.
We know that Shinto, and in particular the Omoto sect, was a great influence for O-Sensei.
However, Campbell states that these particular forms are just cultural gloss to universal ideas.
So therefore ⇒ the metaphysic aspect of Aikido can actually be made universal, outside of Shinto forms.
Is this your argument?
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