Friday, June 27, 2008

Pride and Perfection

Synd: What ails you, Pycha?

Pycha: Imperfection, Synd. That which ails you all the same.

Synd: Then it shall be so that you will suffer for all eternity, for the life of a perfectionist is but eternal suffering, is it not?

Pycha: Not so. An story for you, Synd; perhaps you catch me better. A novice and a master at archery face the bull's eye. The novice goes first. He aims to his best effort, and shoots the 7 ring. He aims for a second shot, concentrates and shoots again, hitting the 8th ring this time. It was good progress for a novice, he thought, and smiled. While he put his bow down and passed the arrows to his master, he wondered to himself: How long will I take before I become as good as the master? And he thought of the effort he would need to put in to continue.

He looks on at the master eagerly - he had heard of the master shooting the bullseye, then shooting the second arrow through the first. Perhaps he would see it today for himself, he thought. The master himself is aware of this, and aims his bow. It wasn't the first time, it wasn't the last time. It was just another time, and he would pull it off like the past times and the future times.

Synd: How did the master do, then?

Pycha: Bullseye, Synd. Maybe if you could land one of them you wouldn't always mull around like this. So the master took his second arrow, and aimed. The second shot was, obviously, tenfold in difficulty. Yet the master knew it was possible. He was the master and had to prove it. And when he fired, the arrow sped through the air and hit the target. Yet while the novice ran over to the target for closer inspection, the master realized that he had failed. The sound that he had heard was not that of an arrow piercing through another - it was one of an arrow that grazed against another and landed just next to it, with a few splinters on the floor from the two rubbing against each other.

No doubt the novice was impressed; two arrows side by side is a feat with an intense accuracy he could never hope to attain in the near future. Yet he heard the master shout from far away - "Get away from the target!" he had heard. A mere two seconds after he stepped back did a third arrow fly through, piercing the first arrow in the very center of the target. The novice, amazed at being able to witness the master's skill from such a close distance, ran over to the master to express his awe. What he saw instead was the master's clenched fist against the wall, his face in evident anger and disappointment.

Synd: For what did he feel anger for? For whom did he clench his fist against?

Pycha: For himself, of course. For his sin; for his failures. After all, Synd, to miss the arrow, no matter how close, is a sin in itself. No archer can possibly stand if they fail the test of accuracy.

Synd: Yet isn't it so that any man who fails will stand and train until he is at that level again? A man who leaves his sword behind only to pick it up again must train before he reaches his original ability, is it not so?

Pycha: Precisely. Do you think the master would have been as angry had he grazed the third arrow as well? He would've laughed, Synd. Laughed and commented to his novice that more training is in order for him. Yet the extra shot just proved it - he could do it and he didn't. That is his falling and his sin, Synd.

Synd: A sin to whom? He is still clearly master over the novice. The difference in skill is there. He has failed his disciple in no way, has he?

Pycha: Do you judge your sin with your subordinates as a benchmark? Is that to say that the best are the sinless? What fallacies! The best are just as sinful as we are, Synd. They are merely sins that are easier to commit. Who, then, you ask, is the sinner's sin towards? It's towards themselves, Synd. They have failed no one as you have said, yet they have failed themselves. And that, Synd, is sin to their pride.

Synd: A necessary sin? It seems to me that their pride is their sin more than their failure to stand up to their pride, Pycha. Surely it is possible for a lord to be a humble man.

Pycha: You may cry against this, Synd. A cry of selfishness on part of the master. If the master has fallen short, what of the novice who hasn't even reached the peak? If the master isn't perfect, then who can the novice idealize and have as a role model? If the world were to be so flawed that the concept of perfection not exist, must a man harp on his lack of capability to reach such heights? The lords must accept their pitfalls, they say. For the sake of those who aim to be like them. Yet I ask you, Synd. Does its pervasive presence in life make it acceptable? If a man were to accept his pitfalls, what of the danger that comes upon those who learn from him? Where will the improvement towards the impossible be then?

It is a necessary pride, Synd. A necessary pride and a necessary sin to bring about the necessary change. And though I remain unsatisfied with myself for my imperfection, it is not the sympathy of others that I seek. It is pride in myself that I seek.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Kendo Grading + The Exams

Well, it begins.

And today was one hell of a good start to it.

Maybe I'm a young'un compared to majority of the others (Mode av. being 19 by quite a bit) but it doesn't really make a diff: Almost all of us got the 6th kyu. Muahaha. The entire bunch was gloating about how noob their 'rivals' from other schools were.

Looking back, this is the midpoint of the first part. Who knows how many will follow? Must admit, though. This sure as hell is a good way to start the next half.


One of the senseis pointed out something very interesting that I've kept in mind.

What is the purpose of undertaking a course such as this? To understand its values, to appreciate its philosophy and carry it out, to begin and end with meditation on the concept of kendo in your own life and to improve the self over the blade in achieving 心気力一致? Or is it to cut flawlessly, master the blade, to begin and end with meditation on the perfection of kendo and hone your skills and self in achieving 気剣体一致?

Perhaps, that may very well be the difference between a 剣道家 and a 剣術家.

There is no argument to be made between which is better. Both are noble paths to take for non-buddhists, whether or not you learn kendo or kenjutsu. They overlap each other so much that they could very much be one and the same (Or perhaps they really are).

一つ 至誠に悖る(もとる)なかりしか
一つ 言行に恥ずるなかりしか
一つ 気力に欠くるなかりしか
一つ 努力に憾みなかりしか
一つ 不精に亘るなかりしか

The reason why the 五省 starts with 一つ and ends with 一つ instead of 五つ is seriously rather thought-provoking. It reminds the soul that they are one and the same, yet even for other philosophies or religions where the concept can be rather similar, it is never brought forth this way.

Furthermore it gives an understanding of the fundamentals of kendo: 気剣体一致 and 心気力一致. Icchi. In one agreement, concert, consensus, accordance, and so on. Harmonious existence. One in battle and one in self. One gets you 剣術 yet it needs both to get you 剣道.

It's beyond belief. It's application. Everyday application.

This will be one hell of a second half of the first section, both as a kendoka and as an IB mugger. But it'll work out.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Kitty the Cat

Of late my cat has disappeared from the household, likely not to return.

It all started when us feeling that the cat would feel quite lonely at home, hence my mom suggested taking it on walks outside (It used to fear these so badly). She put the cat on the ground and just saw it stay in the same place and not move. For 5 minutes.

My mom decided to leave it for longer. She was right. The cat knows how to stay in one place really well. Apparently it found a nice place next to another cat that did the same thing as kitty. Real good at it too.

Nighttime comes and kitty finds herself at the base of one of the staircases near my house (I suppose she can't recognize which is which since they look similar) and mom picks her up at night.

My mom comments that at times she notices that others like to pet kitty and stroke her gently. There's a big difference between her and other cats, of course. She doesn't bite back and she sits there doing nothing because she's too lazy to do anything. Yeah, that keeps up for hours btw. Kitty staying there and doing nothing, that is. Not the stroking.

One day kitty just disappeared after over a week of this schedule. We've been searching for it since but no results came up. The cat isn't at the spot we leave her at (the one with the other cat) nor any staircase around nor around the vicinity. My mom thinks that someone else thought kitty was abandoned (since she does appear at that spot everyday and no one notices her disappearing back into my house at night) , felt pity for the cat and picked her up and brought her to his or her own house. It sounds like the most possible occurrence currently.

My well wishes go to the cat, whereever it is. I pray that whoever picked you up was not the SPCA.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

IVPSSC Reflections

"If it's not from the heart, it's not worth doing..."

I still don't know if I approached this with a heart. I won't deny it, I do it for more than the rest. But whatever it is that they have seen in me that they didn't in others isn't a heart. I just can't think of what it is.

It's... a kind of pride, really. I can't put it at anything apart from that.

Do people really serve because they have a heart? 'course, on my end, I'm too pessimistic and lacking in faith for humanity as a whole to believe that people serve from the heart.

When I finally put a finger on what exactly it was that I had, I suddenly got more questions than answers.

It's a kind of pride, but it's also something different. It's the belief that what action I take matters. That what I do isn't a completely vain thing, that it matters to someone, even if it is myself. That there is conviction that exists outside of the world of academia, conviction that matters.

Perhaps this is the 'heart' that people speak of - a belief that it matters. Perhaps it's always been like that - would anyone take the extra step if he felt it vain? Not a heart that wishes for world peace, nor a heart that believes it must do good, but just a heart that feels that it matters.

I had felt rather confused that time when my camp president remarked that he felt that my team was a strong one, that he knew that in the committee from last year that I was capable of doing very well. The way I saw it then I questioned myself whether he was serious or just flattering me to be diplomatic and to make me feel happy and work better with him (I have to admit such things make my day if they came with the frequency of no more than once a month >_>)

I've always felt cynical towards compliments, yet rarely towards complaints ('cept few stupid cases, but I shan't name names). Maybe it's merely insecurity. Maybe it's in reality a highly complicated subconscious mechanism to prevent complacency. But even then, my belief still stands.

Is this 'heart'? Something so simple and pure, as if reduced to its barest essence, instead of anything complicated. If something is done without this, does it make the action not worth doing? This from a thing that can be mistaken as pride?

Why pride in the first place? It shouldn't even be considered arrogance that you consider the notion that your actions matter, hence you perform them in the first place. It's a necessity, a foundation before any self-improvement is in order. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and someone who does not believe in himself will never take the first step.

Remind me to avoid English translations of Chinese proverbs in the future.

With this belief I get proven wrong infinite times on the notion that conviction is sufficient to topple those gifted with intelligence. It pretty much never will, sadly. Yet people still continue, don't they. By this point you can easily name whatever force it is that keeps pushing you up and continuing to be pride and heart at the same time. Yet any guy who isn't half an ass would realize the fundamental difference between the two.

I dunno. But anyone who ever said I did things with a heart I'd consider pretty wrong. Anyone who ever said I did things for my own pride I'd have considered pretty right. Yet I won't be able to argue that the two are different, let along mutually exclusive.

It's a queer night to be pondering over such a thought. That much I can be honest with.

Friday, June 06, 2008

IVPSSC The fucking facades

There are times where you know that the fucking show can't go on without destroying everything that makes up the objective of it all. When you know that this is a pure facade, a fake, a pathetic show to the outside world to show that he's good and money should come towards him. When you believe in the damn objectives - no matter how ideal they are to the fucking cynics - and wish that whatever you have originally set out to do will fulfill it

and there are times when the fucking show goes on anyway.

I never had an issue. I never believed it would work. It was unsustainable because we were what we were. I was aware of that in spite of the fact that fellows tried their hardest to make it work.

And now they see it fucking won't. Ideals up there. Sweet talk. Empty speech. Masks of kindness. Paper faces. The masquerade it all is.

To cry in vanity shows the utmost disappointment - conversely, the ultimate hope. And to make others cry in vanity is an utmost sin. That is my issue. The sinful smile, the wretched words, the fake facades, them all. That would you lead one to such hope and shatter it in their faces while you bear that smile and that handshake in front of all those cameras by the minister and the media.

He was right about one thing. It sure fucking teaches you what the world is like.