Thursday, March 20, 2008

Fallen Heroes / Shattered Delusions

The following post is inspired by a well written Aikido blog posting entitled "Hypocrite" revealing a practitioner's hurt on learning of an alleged inappropriate relationship between a well respected, high-ranking Aikido teacher and a 13-year-old student. There are undoubtedly many people who will experience the news the same way: If this fellow was a role model, and if he represents the an objective goal of my years of hard practice, then why in the world am I even practicing? What's the point?

These types of feelings occur in many other situations though, and probably at some point in everyone's life.

To anyone in such a situation, I empathize with your feelings. If I may suggest it, though, this is a good opportunity to check into the source of those feelings. Consider:

  1. What actually changed from the moment before you had learned this news to the moment after?
  2. What made this man a hero?
  3. Where did a hero fall?

The placing of someone on a pedestal, the fall of that person from that pedestal, and the resulting feelings you are experiencing all occur only in thought, all between your own two ears, so to speak. In effect, this teacher did not fall; you fell.

Here are three things to consider:

First: Perfection, enlightenment, states of morality, level of mind-body integration, and so forth truly are moment-by-moment states. The man you were just a second ago died an eternity ago. There can be moments of complete clarity, and they may come and go. People can find god in their last breaths. An individual's circumstances can spiral uncontrollably downward in an instant, leading to a hell-on-earth with all of the associated actions that others may judge and look down upon. It is difficult enough to know ourselves from one instant to the next, to track all of the thoughts, actions, and other circumstances that brought us to this moment right now; how can we possibly know another's?

Second: Hypocrisy, in and of itself, in reality affects only the observer. The observer's sensibilities are offended at the disconnect between the words he hears and the actions he sees. Though it may be conditioned human nature to do so, the value or truth of a message should not automatically be discredited, regardless of how flawed the messenger may be. Any flawed person can pick up the Torah, the New Testament, the Koran, a sutra, a poem, or anything else and read a verse aloud. Is the message now diminished? Is my hearing discredited by the speaker's tongue? Is my understanding nullified?

Third: Aikido, like any teaching from literature to rocket science to scripture readings, is in itself inherently empty. Aikido knows neither good nor evil. Aikido has no inherent value outside the affect of its practice upon you and the spirit with which you fill it in your own life.

Bringing those three points home:

When this fellow taught or teaches Aikido, he may have been / may be perfect in that moment, regardless of any other circumstance. That he may have been imperfect at another time does not discredit what was transmitted when he was in a better state. Finally, almost every lesson we learn comes to us from people whom we may judge to be flawed, but that does not negate the value of the lesson to us. After all, though a teacher may be skillful in helping us to understand, in the end it is not that we are taught; rather, it is that we learn.

Assigning hero, saint, or similar status is divisive and can do tremendous harm. Requiring (or assuming) that status in a teacher or in any other person with whom you have some relationship sets you, not that person, up for a terrible fall.

1 comment:

Aikiinseattle said...

For all the words in my blog post, the one thing I did not address is the validity of Clint George Sensei's teachings. Your post has helped me answer the question - that his message is not invalid even if the deliverer is flawed. I like the analog you made with the Torah. Very apt. Thank you.