“All That Jazz” may be the last film that ever taught me. Perhaps. The story of a man addicted to sex, drugs, and musical theater (line stolen from the great Robert McKee) I walked out of the movie stunned, realizing that that could be my story if I was not very careful. I decided that very day that the secret to success was obsession, but obsession creates imbalance, and imbalance destroys and denies you the chance to enjoy your success.
So I decided to become obsessive about being balanced. Ka-ching. One of those “cubic inches of opportunity” I’ve had in my life. Everyone gets them. The challenge is recognizing and implementing their implications.
The Way that can be named is not the true Way. But…by looking at some of the structures and vectors discovered or designed by some of the best, wisest and most successful human beings who have ever walked the planet, as well as the combined wisdom of the tribal elders, we can glimpse it. Cannot put it into words, no–that would be asking too much of language. It will not bear the weight.
I like to look at a story from multiple directions. Each new perspective teaches something different about the story, but the story is not the perspectives or structures. I can look at it from plot, character, poetics, thematics. In my head, on index cards, in an outline, as a synopsis, written, oral, visualized, played in my head like music, as a short story, a novel, a movie script. Every different perspective tells me something different. But the story is always the story. It is like looking in on a fireplace from different windows, through a keyhole, through an open door. Each perspective is different. The fire is the same, and you have to actually burn to understand its essence.
The martial arts are the same way. I can discuss them culturally, psychologically, philosophically. In terms of anatomy, physics, strategy, tactics, integrative lifestyle, practical application, sport, fitness, self-defense, all-out combat, mathematics, and more. Each perspective offers up different information. But the thing is the thing.
The experience of life is the same. You have to burn to understand it. And when you do, “you” are not there. “The thing” is there. This is much the same as sex. If you can remember your name while you’re orgasming, it wasn’t good sex. The subject-object relationship must break down, labels disappear. People who think that labeling things is the same as understanding them are missing it.
But if I break my life down into those components: Body, Mind, Spirit. Child, parent, grandparent. Male and female. Black and white. Each tells me something different. And while my monkey mind is busy thinking about it, the Truth can slip through the cracks. They are useful tools, useful distractions, useful lies.
I think the problems of life are like rocks in a white-water rafting trip. They obstruct and constrict the flow of water, and make the ride wild.
The truth always lies between. People get stuck in the rocks. Fear the rocks. Shrink your ego and float past the obstructions.
Come on in: the water’s fine.
(P.S.–what was the last movie that really taught you something, and what did it teach?)