Gentleness, Sensitivity, Compassion

^z 11th January 2024 at 7:40am

From Chapter 10 of There Are No Secrets by Wolfe Lowenthal, a reminder to soften:

Many students resist the notion that it is possible to be soft in the face of a violent attack. Perhaps it is that most of us feel so powerless in society; we carry such residue of frustration and anger. Whatever the cause, a prevalent image is that of the violent attacker who deserves death or worse at our hands, whether or not we're capable of delivering it.

"Fearlessness in the face of ferocity" also requires the old Confucian virtue: "Do not do to another what you would not have him do to you." Confronted by an attacker, our tendency is to depersonalize and objectify. The attacker as monster. Not a fellow human being, full of fear and pain. We cannot see the small, hurt child beneath the raging image of the mugger — and who knows what subconscious parental images are being triggered at the same moment? These images produce tension, anger and fear, none of which are of any value in an appropriate martial response.

One of the principles of the Tao is that the world reflects what we hold in our hearts. An angry person will live in a hostile, anger-provoking world, while a loving person will have a much different experience of the very same environment.

It is true that there are few capable of mastering their fear to the extent that they can respond softly to a violent attack. But it is both the paradox and glory of Tai Chi Chuan that the very virtues which many understand to be the secret of living — gentleness, sensitivity, compassion — are as well the secret of mastery of the martial art.

"So far to go," sighs the student.

Echoing the "... simple, soft power of Aikido ...".

^z - 2014-03-09