Wednesday, November 24, 2004

True Knowledge

So I take the kid to Aikido last night.

As I mentioned previously, it's been a rough week. In fact, it's been a rough month. We've not been making it to Aikido much. But we made it last night. The kid's dojo has three sensei, and the senior one was teaching last night, the one I like best; and most importantly of all, the idiot woman who spends the whole time talking on the cell to her idiot relatives was not there, so I could get some serious reading done during class time -- but I didn't.

Because it was nice to just sit in the balcony over the dojo and watch the five to seven year olds in the giant dojo in their tiny ghis doing their Aikido stances and rolls and throws while the giant sensei treated them so seriously and the rain pounded down outside and just be there then for while and not have to be anywhere else.

Then the sensei said something I liked*: he said, "When you have the black belt, only then are you really ready to learn."

All the kids in this class, of course, just have white belts. (The very first belt in Aikido.) Don't know if they knew what he meant.

But I did. It's exactly what Socrates meant when he went around Athens telling people he didn't know a goddamn thing, and what Jesus meant when he said you had to be like a child if you wanted to get to heaven and what the Chinese meant when they said when you reach the foot of the mountain more mountains appear and what I mean when I tell my students that having a Ph.D. only means you know how much there is to find out.

Or -- as my best professor in graduate school taught me, one cold November day sort of like this one -- the best attitude for anyone, when confronted with the knowledge that he or she does not understand something, is that of the Zen student: "I approach you seeking knowledge."

It's an attitude more of us out here in America need to adopt, I'm thinking.

*Actually he said several cool things, another one being that sensei, which I had always thought meant teacher, actually means one who goes before. It was an enlightening evening, altogether.

1 comment:

Jeff Dooley said...

Your story reminds me of something I've often heard from Bill Witt, Aikido 7th Dan. He says that during his 40 or so years of studying the art he has remained focused on the fundamentals of footwork and hip movement in hopes of nothing more than that his practice may improve. He says, "what I do is not Aikido; I simply practice."