Friday, August 21, 2015

At The Precipice, We Change

I know that the critics didn't have high praise for the 2008 remake of "The Day The Earth Stood Still", but after I watched it again it dawned on me that it does have a message. No, not about the cliché of how love is the pinnacle of human emotion, though it played a central role to the movie, but more about evolution of not just the emotional or spiritual part of the human being, but also of the body and mind.

Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) mentioned that the only reason that his species evolved was that because they were forced to or face ultimate destruction as their star was dying. They were at one point of time, the same as humans. "At the precipice, we evolve," was the statement that Klaatu made. Precipice is like an overhanging rock at a very high cliff, meaning that we are in the brink of a disastrous event.

This actually correlates with our daily lives. If we are always looking for an easy way out or afraid of hardship, our body and mind does not grow. Even worse, it could start to deteriorate. Like being too long in zero gravity, our muscles will atrophy and bones will lose calcium no matter how much supplements we take because the body is not registering that it needs them.

On the other end of the spectrum, if we do to much, the body will break down. This is when you go over the precipice, basically falling off a cliff, you die. What about in the middle? Well, it's business as usual and then there is no growth. Which is fine, if that is the choice.

This is true in physical fitness, studying, spirtual practices, and so on. One will need to push oneself to the precipice in order to see oneself evolve in whatever discipline one is taking. If we do avoid hardship, then we may not know what lies beyond the next level.

I find that meditation is a difficult , painful, and not relaxing at all. This is not the Mickey Mouse feelgood meditation where you sit down like 5 minutes with soothing music and then you pat yourself on the back because you feel you have some spiritual enlightenment. I'm talking about the one where you sit or stand still for hours in silence, being aware and keeping good posture at all times. I've never made it to even one hour, let alone hours. It is painful and it is not relaxing at all. My heart rate actually goes up in order to withstand the pain. My mind is racing. But, it is only pain, I'm not dying yet. Even when I'm dying, moaning and froaning won't change the fact that I'm dying. Yes, it hurts, but I can get past it. I have yet to be able to fully do this, but it's starting to make sense. The pain will always be there, it's a fact of life, but it will be mynkwn decision whether or not I'll get past it. "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is a choice," so the saying goes. Quite a high ideal, not so easy being implemented.

This also correlates with a book I've read, "When Buddhists Attack" by Jeffrey K. Mann. The book discusses the correlation between Zen Buddhism and Japanese warriorship. Mann mentioned about meditation and that it's very practice support the warrior mindset. One of the reason is what I have mentioned above, it actually toughens the mind.

I have yet to speak about any physiological advancements, but as with anything within this universe, the mind and body will adapt to whatever it is subjected to and it will start to change. Too little, no change. Too much, the mind body will be destroyed. It applying the correct amount of continuous pressure that we'll be able to see progress.

A Japanese restaurant owner once told me during the 98 financial crisis that I am lucky because I will face hardship. I didn't understand it then, but I understand it now, almost 2 decades later, though I have yet to face what fits my definition of hardship.

Studying martial arts is the same thing. There is no such thing as using "no power" as many of the new age commercial arts are selling. There is nothing in this universe that doesn't use any power. The concept of "no power" is misleading and could end up being very fatal. What you see as "no power" is actually the result of the mind and body development. The mind and body changes so the person is able to do such feat. Even Ueshiba Morihei Osensei stated that he is able to do what he did because he practiced "hard style". Osensei actually had tempered himself to the point of being able to do what people thought as "no power", on the contrary, Osensei was very powerful, but in what way? That's another discussion altogether.

Where does that leave us with martial practice? There is also another word for practice and that is tanren 鍛錬, which also means tempering or forging. When tempering steel, you heat it up, shape it, using the correct amount of heat and carbon, timing it correctly, hitting it the correct way. It's a good analogy of developing minda and body. This correct tempering actually brings us to the precipice where we will change, or even evolve.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Fury Road, feminism, and messages

This is not actually a review but a commentary on Mad Max: Fury Road from my point of view and how I feel about the movie along with some of the things I see on the Internet about the movie. It's actually a collection of a number of things I posted on the social media.

First off, great movie. I love it. 4/5, only because I'm still reserving 5/5 for that ONE movie, so that's as high as it gets for me. So go watch the movie.

Though there were a lot of violence in the movie, there were not much blood and gore. Which was refreshing, you don't really need sex and gore as a device for an action story. For me this movie could have passed for a PG-13. There was as much violence as The Avengers.

Then we get to the best character of the movie, Furiosa. I can't give enough praises to the character design and personality of Furiosa,  kudos to George Miller. The physical appearance of Furiosa was just right as a post apocalyptic road warrior, and that steam punk mechanical arm completes the design. Furiosa was not a person of many words. Charlize Theron was great portraying Furiosa, her eyes speak volume. 

Max was also not a person of many words. He has also gone through a lot of shit in this post apocalyptic world, he has lost everything, and all he wants is to survive long enough for whatever reason. Max was not the center character of this movie. Bad luck, or maybe destiny, put him in the middle of this and watching things unfold. Max speaks the way things are, he is a person that lost all hope and see the way things are, in a way the voice of reason in a world gone mad. For this role Tom Hardy was alright, his look, his stare, did remind me of when Mel Gibson played Max. 

The movie to me has an "anime" feel to it. It was quite visual and the character Furiosa is something straight out of a steam punk anime. The Japanese has had many strong women leads in their anime/manga. Later I found out that George Miller wanted to make a Mad Max anime telling the back story of Furiosa and Max prior to Fury Road. Apparently George Miller used a storyboard to write Fury Road rather than a written out screenplay. He didn't want too much dialogue which may explain the focus on the eyes for the "conversations". He said something to the effect of the Japanese should be able to understand the story without the need of subtitles, making the movie very visual. This would explain the anime feel to the film. 

The odd thing I found being discussed in the Internet is some people are thinking that Fury Road is a feminist propaganda. Some of them went along with this and took sides. Some feminist now say that there was not much feminism in the movie. I find the whole thing a bit silly actually. I don't understand why someone can't tell a story about women standing up for themselves and kick ass without being labelled a feminist or having a feminist agenda. Women warriors have been existence far long before any feminist movements and they don't need feminist groups supporting them. 

Anyway, I haven't become more or less feminist or misogynistic after watching the movie. So I think it's pretty much safe to watch it if you're on either side of the issue. 

Though I don't see a feminist agenda in the movie I do see that George Miller wanted to send a message to their audience: resources are scarce and we should work together instead against each other; when resources are scarce we start doing crazy shit to one another; there will always be somebody that will manipulate your belief or make a belief of their own for their own gain which will lead to suicidal extremists; there will always be somebody to manipulate resources even if they are in abundance to control the people and make class distinctions; women could fight along men and they can stand up for themselves pretty well; kindness works better than hate; be realistic, but in the end there is always hope. 

There are probably some other messages in there I missed (no... Not feminism, I made that clear, at least from my view), but don't get too caught up looking for messages,  agendas, or propagandas. It's a damn good movie.  I enjoyed the whole thing and I would definitely give my recommendation. That is if my recommendation even matters. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Please think kindly of me

"Yoroshiku onegaishimasu" (宜しくお願いします) has different meanings depending on its uses. The short explanation could be found in the video below by Gimmeaflakeman:

A more lengthy explanation and even the etymology could be find here from What Does Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu Mean? So I don't need to do a lengthy explanation of my own (Yes, I'm lazy that way).

I've mentioned before how language reflects a culture and vice versa in my previous entry "There is no try", and this is also another expression that reflects that, though not many people think about it any more and just take it as a formality or a norm, but this expression has a relation to my previous two entries.

This expression could be taken as "Please be kind to me" or how my Japanese language teacher once put it "Please think kindly of me", especially when you are introducing yourself to someone. This, for me, is quite a deep expression. When you first meet someone, you know nothing of that person and you will always have some prejudiced thought by how that person appears or acts. When a person comes in, introduces him/herself and asked for you to think kindly of him/her, we may rethink of what we thought of this person.

We as human beings are naturally prejudiced. We will based on what is good or bad on our past experiences, what we were told, or based on some moral values and codes, your own or the tribe's that you live by. We can't help being prejudiced as we have lived by a certain standards for so long. The danger comes in is that when you do not realize it and it is alright to discriminate against someone or a group of people.

As in my previous entry "Be kind...", I have mentioned how we judge people based on our own standards. Knowing this, we may not want to be judged as well by the standards of others. It has to be reciprocal, we can't be selfish about it and forcing people to accept who we are but rejecting others as that would hypocritical.

Prejudice is actually part of our survival mechanism, for example: Our parents told us that the fire is hot, we will probably take that as a fact because it came from a place of authority. So even, when we have not tested it ourselves, we are prejudiced that the fire is hot and it will burn us. That is until we touch the fire and got burnt so we now know as a fact that the fire is hot and could burn us. It is a survival mechanism also to our way of life and the tribe's way of life. We have lived "this" way for so long and all is good and anything outside these norms, codes, and values could very well destroy us. So we will be prejudiced against any foreign ideology or a person that does not fit our moral codes. This is a good thing if it is true, the way with the fire analogy. It is a bad thing when people make things up to keep them in power or just playing on the fear of weaker people.

When you first meet someone, you don't know anything of their past or of their life. You will only be judging them on what you see then and there. It's like taking a picture. A picture paints a thousand words, but most of it would be your own narrative and may not be of what is actually happening, for example: We may see someone on the road for example in full running gear, but he's walking, we then ridiculed that person. What we didn't know is that he has been running for 10 kilometers that day and he's on his way home. We don't have that information, and we decide to ridicule that person. 

Another example: We see someone always coming in late to work. We will judge that person as tardy, lazy, and whatever things we have running though our head. What actually happened was that person need to take care of that person's family in the morning as there is little help. We may be privileged and fortunate enough that such things would not be our problem and our prejudiced mind would say that there is no excuse, one should come to work on time each time. Yes, that may be true as well in the corporate world, and it is easy to shift people out because of this, but do we really want to be that heartless? Shouldn't we try to find a better solution if possible? There may be no better solution and the conversation could come on the table when one has to make a choice. But before we have our own predisposition, we will need to hear the other person out first, the actual story and not the story that we make up based on our own standards or just some lame excuse that the other person made out. We have to have all of those information first before we easily pass judgment on others.

The following story is a good example how our prejudiced mind could ruin a person's life:

'OK people, take a look at this creep!': Man who mum shamed on Facebook because she thought he was taking photos of her kids... was just taking a selfie in front of a Darth Vader display to show HIS children

  • A woman has mistakenly labelled a man 'a creep' on social media
  • The mother, from Melbourne's east,  believed he was taking picture of her children so she photographed him and posted his image to Facebook
  • The man eventually contacted police to explain he was taking a selfie 
  • The father-of-three said he and his children were devastated by the ordeal

Before you judge people, find out more things about them, get to know them or at least about them the way they are not the way you or other people perceive them to be, find out why they do things the way they do. It may not be easy, we may don't want to be bothered and whatever information, little they are, is enough to stay away from that person or become friends or indifferent, or perhaps you just don't really care about being kind and don't care when people not being kind to you... Well, that would be your decision. But don't complain when you feel being treated unfairly by others, as you may not be fair to others as well.

As we are naturally prejudiced against things so it will take some effort to be able to be, how should I put it, "of no mind" (mushin). It will be very difficult to be able to see as the way things are, not the way that we are. Some people do have the ability to become a good judge of character without being prejudiced, but it is not an easy thing to do. Until you do, please think kindly of other people and ask them humbly to think kindly of you too.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The way things are

A villager heard of a wiseman that lives on top of a mountain and seeing himself as quite smart he decided to challenge the wiseman's wisdom.

On top of the mountain the villager laid down his challenge and let the wiseman pick the topic.

The wiseman pickup two sticks and lay one on top of another. "What do you see?" asks the wiseman. "That is easy. It's a cross," answered the villager. The wiseman replied, "They are sticks laid one on top of another."

Be kind...

For people that say that they judge a person's character objectively, I call bullshit. There is no way that it can be done, but we could be fair and kind in our judgment when we realize that we will use our own selves as a baseline to other people.

There are efforts to quantify these things, but there is no way to quantify the human mind, the human experience, the emotion. This lack of sensitivity leads to issues we face with the education system, and actually the whole human interaction.

We cannot just put people up to our standards or anybody else's for that matter as every people's experiences are different and should be acknowledged as so. When we interact with a person, the way they looked at us, the way they move, the way they talk, and then we compare them with our experiences and with our own moral code, what we see should be done. These codes are actually personal and made up but we may take leads from a tribal consensus that we have lived by or experienced.

I'm not saying that we should get out of our way trying to dig into their emotional state or personal lives. I'm not saying that we shouldn't judge either. There is no way that we won't judge others as that would be bullshit as well. We judge others all the time, it is part of the human interaction experience.

However, what I'm saying is that be kind and fair in our judgment of others as they maybe fighting a battle that is unknown to us. We must accept that there are other factors that we are not aware of. We should not put ourselves on a pedestal and point fingers saying that we know better, because really... We don't know anything at all...

Thursday, April 30, 2015

There is no try

"Do or do not. There is no try."

How many times over that this quote have been repeaby other ecially with Star Wars fans. Yoda represents the wise master, and as we all suspected the character's creation was most probably inspired by eastern phiconsciousness s hy.

Why? Why is it can't you "try" but must "do"? "Tryiworld ng" implies that there will be failure. You are already afraid of the future that hasn't happened. So your mind is already cluttered with many things and distract you from the task at hand.

I do not really know a word in Japanese that literally parallels the word "try", maybe I'm not well informed enough. In my Japanese language class I was taught to use the word "yatte-miru" (やって見る) which literally means "do then see". So it is not literally "try" but used as such. So culturally, the Japanese are expected to do it first and worry about the results later. The worries of failure should not be there.

Another word that they frequently use is "ganbaru" (頑張る) which equates to something to "giving it my all" or "do my best". You could also say something like "ganbatte-miru" (頑張って見る), "I'll do my best and then see". You could so these compound verbs in Japanese.

Yatte-miru is more common while ganbatte is more towards doing a significant task. The don't say "I'll try my best" but instead "I'll give it my all"... Failure has not happened yet and it should not be an option so I shall not think nor worry about it.

Such culture shall affect the psyche of a person even if it is only mere words. The mindset is there to "do" instead of "try".

But what is the significance of this to training or achieving your goals?  It has something to do with "isshin" (一心), one mind, and "mushin" (無心), no mind. You are doing things whole heartedly, putting all your heart/mind into it (isshin) not broken up by other things such as failure and success, not worried about the past nor the future, not letting anything affect you yet being aware of everything, a higher level of consciousness (mushin). 

So just do...