As neither the strongest nor the fiercest animals on the planet, our ability to share and pass on information that makes us smarter, quicker, is what has (in large part) paved our way to the top of the food chain. We have brains and opposable thumbs, we are adaptable, can communicate complex ideas, and work well in groups.
For many 1000s of years
this communication was done orally, through story telling, theatre and song, alongside learning necessary physical skills directly from family and tribe.
Then, we discovered writing .....
For a long time, of course, reading and writing were the exclusive province of the highest echelons of society - the priests and kings - and access to this powerful medium and the knowledge it held was strictly guarded, through caste and taboo. Only after the invention of the printing press in relatively recent history, along with translations of texts into the vernacular, did it really become the province of the masses.
Now, in the day and age, through blogs, tweets, and almost universal access to media, we are all sharing our insights, our opinions, and our critiques to anyone who will listen ... and it has become a vast flatland of information, way too much for one person to ever assimilate.
On the one hand this is great, so many connections to knowledge and skills from around the globe, coupled with the ability to comment and refute, improve and disseminate ideas. On the other .... a morass of half truths, unsubstantiated rumor, and a vast amount of wasted breath.
It's a noisy world out there.
So, I have been working on a book, a tactical thinking book, based on dueling and deception. It's what I know, am interested in, and feel I have something to say about .... but I have come to realize I hate martial art books, and whichever way I try to present the knowledge, it turns into one of the books I hate. Not the cool historical stuff, or the cultural stuff, or the stories and myths of the characters that populate this world, the 'how to' books, with the awful descriptions and the bad still photography ......
Don't get me wrong, I truly believe there is worth in the written word, after all, those folks researching old Renaissance and Medieval fighting technique are able to read about them and see drawings from 500/600 years ago, because someone back then decided it was a good idea to preserve them in a book. Had he not done so, the knowledge could have been lost for good once firearms changed what fighting was, (and some say that would have been OK) but the knowledge survived because of books.
My question is really this - Are the books I dislike so much the best way to communicate ideas? After all this format has held it's ground for a long time now (Yes, yes, I know there is video too but they often irritate me too). Or is the reader actually unimportant ...... ? Should the writer just put down what they have in their heads with no thought for the reader and leave it at that? Or do they bear a responsibility to try to actually communicate in a way that someone else will understand?
The same question could be asked this way - Does an artist make art purely for themselves? Or does it only become 'Art' when someone else looks at it? (I mean, why write it down unless you want to share it ....?)
Over the centuries writers on martial practice developed many devices and voices to talk through, some purely catalogued techniques, others wrote poems or songs that retained only the important principles, others held conversations with Tengu (mountain demons) or debated over cigars and brandy at a country house. Some were more oblique than others - Musashi's "Practice this well until you understand" comes to mind for instance, others liked to break things down into practical detail, yet others got so complex that the instructions and diagrams became closer to an esoteric book of magic than a practical guide .... but which is most useful ...?
Is any of it useful at all ....?
The more I read, the more I have come to realize that probably everything has been thought and said before - it really has! What we think of as innovations and insights, someone probably already had, and the proof can pretty certainly be found in some old book, painting or story, if we care to look.
But ....... I am not talking myself out of the exercise altogether despite my dislike, because the other side of the coin is that much has also been forgotten, and that is why those that feel the compulsion to share really should do it, should give it their best shot and let their point of view out into the universe.
I'm not as yet sure what 'device' I myself will attempt to communicate through ... and it may still be misunderstood or misinterpreted, misquoted or just plain ignored, but who knows, one day in the far distant future, someone might even find it useful .... and if not useful ... at least a worthwhile diversion.