Saturday, July 7, 2012

Spirals or Loops

Sometimes it seems that almost everything there is to be thought about and analyzed (at least in martial arts) has been thought about before. Conclusions have been drawn, problems solved, idiocy and short sightedness ranted at, and bad ideas railed against ....Yet still we have the same conversations that folks were having back in the 16th Century, and even further back into ancient history. I can hear the complaints of George Silver*, for instance, down to the present day.

- Why is it then that we are still trying to solve the same problems? (Though weapons and technology changes, there are still human beings at the other end ...)
- IS it the same problem?
- IS it just because in any group there will always be the same selection of archetypes, arguing the same viewpoints?
- IS it that there is more than one right answer over time .....?
- Do we just not pay enough attention as we try to pass knowledge down?

Also, why is it that solutions that one discovers or stumbles upon now, have all been 'known' for a long time (if you care to do the research), yet often seem hidden or even surprizing in the present? Some of this knowledge, put forward as 'secrets' or huge advances particular to a teacher or system ... are in fact common knowledge that has been around for hundreds (1000s?) of years .....

Are we just short sighted, amnesiac mice, running around on some silly treadmill, thinking that we are getting somewhere new and unexplored?
Or is the incentive to ACTUALLY, TRULY, change something, consciously, just not urgent enough?
(I would say that natural evolutionary forces do the job quite well ... I'm just irritated at out frontal lobe's seeming inability to join in)

I read the book 'Collapse' a while back, Jared Diamond's follow up to 'Guns Germs and Steel'.
One of the reasons he posits as a cause for the collapse of a society, is the 'forgetting' that happens over a few generations as conditions change. A marginal location, for instance, may have originally been able to support a community of fixed size, but given a few generations and a change in rainfall, say, leading to an easier life and a growth in population, and the dry, difficult, and perhaps more common, conditions for growing food are forgotten .... And when they return, the community fails.
Apparently our ability to forget is very powerful.
The recent and terrible Japanese Tsunami also holds examples of 'forgetting' the wisdom of historic knowledge and experience:
And I guess the martial arts are no different ...

My best hope is that in the same way that music, art, and science have morphed over the centuries, we too can keep interpreting the world we see in different ways, and that it will all keep adding to the rich variety of knowledge that is our reality - that would be OK.
The possible alternative of course is much more absurd and futile .... that we are condemned to solve the same problems ad infinitum, endlessly chasing our tails.
It would certainly be nice to think that we are moving in a spiral - didn't Mark Twain make some comment that 'history does not repeat itself, it rhymes? - and not in an endless loop, the minimum length of which is the amount of time it takes each one of us to forget.

* -


Nick said...

I would suggest that martial artists' tendency to "forget" tells us an awful lot about the nature of the arts themselves. The martial arts are non-linear, sensual and personal,which is to say only the bare bones can be passed on orally or via print or other media. Mostly, they have to be felt and perceived by each individual in turn, and anything apart from body-to-body contact is too inaccurate to preserve these arts faithfully. The trouble obviously is that when that body disappears, so does the "knowledge" for want of a better word. This is how whole cultures disappear, as culture is non-linear and therefore not disposed to being preserved or transmitted by any means other than immersion and person-to-person contact.

Jake said...

I think some of it is forgetfulness.

Some of it is changing circumstances; cultures and people morph, and you can't always bring things along with you.

Some of it is development. The spiral thing. Getting better, but still trying to solve the same basic problems.

Some of it is just stuff you need to experience before you get it. I know that there are many things I was told by my teachers that I either a)ignored, because I was young and dumb, or b)understood intellectually, but didn't get the substance of it until I experienced it for myself.

(Unrelated to your post--your youtube feed on the blog seems to be showing reviews for Volkswagen cars...)

Anonymous said...

Maybe because of two things - a closed system becomes more complex over time, eventually collapsing into chaos and then returning to singular simplicity and, 2) each generation, born afresh, must seek, again, the way to power and tribal status.

I think the one idea that has never had a successful developmental system is the 'Way of Harmony.'

Of course, this has been written about, and 'practiced' for many thousands of years in all cultures except western, but, whatever 'system' (such as the Taoist) is taught is still immersed in the application of violent power (yes, yes, judo is the 'gentle' science but when your head hits the floor the result is the same). The reason we still cling to martial arts instead of peaceful arts is that peace among humans doesn't really work, and violence does. Genetically and biologically we are structured toward violence - we are hunters and exclusionary tribalists first and foremost. When we perceive any challenge to our self-image or turf, it triggers our survival/tribal instincts and we become confrontative.

Wouldn't it be loverly if one could develop a training system that applies calm and harmony instead of posturing and struggling?

I can hear the chorus of "but - but --" out there now. "But, one needs to be at least ready for confrontation! But - we have to be able to defend ourselves! But - turning the other cheek just means you get TWO black eyes!"

Let's face it - you can meditate your ass off, and find inner peas, but the moment some asshole fronts you, it's game on.

Wouldn't it be loverly -