Saturday, May 17, 2008

nothing and everything

I had to repost the comment I left for Formosaneijia regarding his post on "traditional vs mixed" arts because it led me to an a-ha regarding the direction I am seeking:

I agree with the “third fork” that taijiquestion offers but in a different way.

The mixed MAs or “cherrypickers” as it were, if I may borrow from my basketball playing days, do pick and choose but I find they most often only pick and choose from another style that may be technically different but not necessarily different in terms of the energy. They are in essence picking the same things from different styles. I can’t explain it in any other way but that it “feels” the same. Even when I see hard stylists do taiji, few ever get the subtleness of the movement which even for a taiji practitioner takes years of practice and training. There is a lack of depth. And so they look like a hard stylist just faking on the surface tai ji movements. When we seek depth are we truly learning something “new”? not really, but we are seeing it in ways/directions/energies/styles that we didn’t see it before which make all the difference to that technique.

However, for the traditionalists, how far do we take “tradition”? When does it begin, what is this tradition and that is not tradition? Does the oldest thing win? I find traditionalists very arbitrary in what they deem tradition. And to retain tradition, can the next generation really do what the previous generation can do? Are there not subtle and even not so subtle differences in the technique and style based on what each new generation lays importance to? So even as traditionalists say that this is unchanged for X number of years, it truly has changed, in the same way English or any other language has changed.

So where is the universal language? I often think of learning martial arts as I learn languages. How fluent do I want to be? How does my base language block or enhance my ability to take on new languages? It’s one thing for me to take a couple of semesters of French to get by as I travel in Paris. And I find that my native English gives me some building blocks to learn French, but will I get the subtle nature of French humor. How do I get beyond the words and simple phrasing to really start to think in French? How long will it take for me to be able to switch easily into the different languages I know with ease and grace? What will it take for me to be able to do so?

I can see the importance of tradition in order to help tap into the “new” discoveries, but tradition is not the “whole” thing in the same way for all the ancient fossils we have of dinosaurs we can still only guess at what they might have looked like and sounded like and we will never really know. I think traditionalists lack the understanding of why this tradition is relevant now and they understand less of why it was important then. It’s like holding history in a sieve, each step forward, a little bit more is lost through no fault of our own. And no matter how much we try to “record” it visually, we cannot yet capture the feeling.

Because of these “holes” it is important to look at other styles for clues to the gaps. The difficulty in this, is letting go of your previous thing. It is so hard for me to really let go of English even as I become more and more versed in other languages. English is where I return to when I am doubtful. So going back to the language analogy, are we really speaking French or are we speaking English with French words? This becomes most visible when going from English to a non-Romance language where the thought processes to create it are completely different.

I believe there is a medium in which one truly can become fluent enough to really mix languages. I knew a friend who spoke English, Chinese, and Spanish, and when she spoke with her father and sister, they mixed all three. When I asked her how she chose what words, she said it was instinctive and more often than not, she chose what would make the most efficient sentence. For a native english speaker, I found how they spoke enchantingly beautiful and could not fathom how their minds worked to create that beauty. But I do realize now that, I did envy her and in learning languages, that was the end goal for me. Not to simply learn enough to get by, not necessarily learn a language so I can read the deep linguistic versions, but to be able to go in and out and merge them with such fluidity.

This is what I think is the true third fork. Not the bag of tricks of mixers and not the traditionalists with their texts plus addendum. This is where I think the passageways of knowledge lie to really bridge between worlds so one becomes both nothing and everything.

It struck me that to break out of the ideas of either/or, to transcend dichotomy, it's not about what you are as opposed to what you can become. As what you are is a temporary thing, while what you can become is well the moment we are always stepping into. Not to say it's not important to know who we have been (ala "know history, know self"), but this is no longer the end point. I cannot live in the past, and actually I cannot live in the present or the future either. It seems that we always live in the transition and interplay of these three things. We live in all of these moments in every given moment whether we are conscious of it or not. I am nothing, yet I am everything. Life just got alot more interesting (again).

No comments: