Monthly Archives: September 2013

Change

It’s certainly cliche, but change is all around us. If you’re new to Tai Chi, perhaps change brought you to the first step on this path. If Tai Chi is “old hat” to you, then you’re many steps down a path that really has no ending, and exemplifies finding your way without needing to arrive.

Tai Chi represents change in many ways: we study changes in weight distribution forward and backward, up and down, left to right, and between ourselves and our assailant; we study the nature of our body’s movement – how the arms and legs move, how the hips/waist direct movement of the limbs; we study changes in how we perceive our surroundings as we learn the art – at first focusing close to monitor footwork and movement, and then focusing further afield to monitor our imagined adversary; we study how we breathe when we move, as we learn to visualize breath movement and seek to access the meditational levels of Tai Chi; and we seek to study how an adversary moves so that we can learn the self-defense aspects of each and every movement in this art.

Change continues outside of us as we learn Tai Chi, and it is this change perhaps to which we need to pay closer attention.  Tai Chi is hopefully teaching us to be more calm and philosophical in the face of change: the ways in which our family’s grow and adapt, the ways in which we personally grow and adapt to work and society, and the ways in which society changes to ongoing ups and downs.

We each pay attention to different arena’s of change: some have a focus on the social scene, some on politics, some on sports, some on the comedy in life situations, and some the business side of life.  Of course many people are able to blend a couple or several of these areas, in varying depths of understanding.

Looking to the business side of things, I recently heard news that in addition to increased (five-fold) foreign investment, Myanmar, a.k.a, Burma, is experiencing workers organizing for better work conditions. Adam Smith’s invisible hand generally needs help from the visible voice of concerned workers. I believe that worker organization will run its course in the Asian economies, bringing about worker-focused reform, while encouraging even more investment.

The “developing” economies of the world are in many cases are only now going through the industrial revolution and work-life revolution that the long-industrialized sectors of the globe began to work through long ago.  This is change on a huge scale, on a scary, in-person scale, to be sure, but it is change that must occur: if these economies are to catch up with their peers, they must (or should) also learn to work with their employees for the betterment of all.

Note that the binoculars of social change looks not only outward to the rest of the world, but must also look back to the long-industrialized parts of the globe.  As life is in constant flux, America for instance is not perfect: we have many labor and business issues that are in dire need of resolution, some of which are rearing their heads right here in Pittsburgh, PA as the long road from manufacturing-based employment continues to shift over to service-employment.

Does your study of Tai Chi, whatever the intensity, give you greater perspective as you move through life?

..Alex.

Age

I saw a plaque nailed to a wall the other day that read “Your Life is comprised of two dates and dash. Make the most of that dash.”  I didn’t fully comprehend at the moment what the word dash meant.  Was it that everything goes so fast, that is dashing back and forth everywhere we go on a daily basis? Or, perhaps that the life that we live follows a line, though I admit that the line is seldom straight.  Then, reality caught up with my brain: “Date – Date”, e.g., “1872 – 1925″.  Oh, that kind of dash. Everything I do or do not do is reduced to a single character representing the correlation between the year I was born and the year I died.  On a tombstone.  In a public records book.

Sobering.

What the heck? What am I doing to make the most of that dash? What part of my life, or what is it about my life that deserves expansion beyond a simple dash?

Nothing.

Well, not nothing – I have an awesome family which I love very much and am loved by – but nothing Earth-shattering.  I haven’t found a new continent, discovered a vaccine for cancer, led anyone in combat, or given millions of greenbacks to charity.

I’ve had many excellent friendships, have an amazingly loving family, have worked 9to5 jobs and have paid bills to creditors for decades. The primary thread that has developed, aside from much unproductive day-dreaming, has been a habit of studying martial arts, particularly Tai Chi.

How can merely studying a martial art lead to mention beyond a dash?  Lao Tzu and Confucius already performed the hard work of developing the underpinning philosophies of Taoism and Confucianism. Countless others have commented expertly on these writings, and/or translated them into their own languages. Others have documented the biggest and smallest details of Tai Chi itself: Wen Shan Huang’s Fundamentals of Tai Chi Ch’uan, Wang Peisheng and Zeng Weiqi’s Wu Style Taijiquan, or Zhang Yun’s The Complete Taiji Dao.

My unique contribution is a positive attitude, blended with study of Tai Chi Ch’uan, and my “new” art of Tang Soo Do.  By bringing a positive attitude/outlook to the study and the teaching of these arts, I can make a difference in the lives of my family, students and community. Time will tell whether history will remember me as well as those above, but what matters today is how I interact with family, friends, teachers and students … and a positive attitude is critical to achieving positive relations with everyone. Positive attitude will embody the dash between my years.

..Alex.

The iPad’s Magical Energy

When Apple, Inc.’s CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPad tablet as “a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price” he was certainly talking about the iPad’s ease of use. Like any great statement, however, many translations exist. I prefer to see Steve talking about the iPad as the amazing translation of Apple’s perseverance in developing the optimal computing device for every global citizen.

While perseverance is the key word here, the translation of that word is also very important. Had Apple merely stuck with the tried and true desktop PC model and come out with an evolutionary product, that would certainly have been both an understandable result of vision and perhaps have augmented the global supply of desktop computers.  But here the translation was to a device which did not need a keyboard, a floppy drive, or even a power cord, and yet provides nearly all the computing power a person needs. Note that previous attempts at a tablet computer by other companies did not take the world by storm, so this unique recipe of perseverance was indeed magical.

In the I Ching (Yijing), the Book of Changes, the meaning of perseverance can go many ways, but the general idea is that perseverance, or continual hard work, generally brings good fortune. This good fortune can appear to others to be what I’ll call “magical energy”, or simply “magic”, but in the end it is always the result of somebody’s hard work.

The I Ching’s hexagram 30, Li — The Clinging, Fire, yields several different translations. The judgements vary thusly:

“Let (its subject) also nourish (a docility like that of) the cow, and there will be good fortune.”
– trans by James Legge, 1882, (c) University Books, Inc., 1964, 1986

“The clinging. Perseverance furthers.
It brings success.
Care of the cow brings good fortune.”
– trans by Wilhelm/Baynes, (c) 1950, 1971

“Compliance with the shifts of fortune assures survival. Symbol of docility, a cow was also an important capital reserve for farmers.”
– trans by Kerson and Rosemary Huang, (c) 1985, 1987

The Wilhelm/Baynes “Perseverance furthers” is the most widely quoted phrase from the various interpretations of this trigram, meaning that hard work over a long time generally yields good results. Just as the ideas, technology, and implementation of Steve Jobs and company yielded a “magical and revolutionary device”, anyone seeking a goal must turn away from distractions and work hard toward the attainment of that goal. I. A. Smalis puts it best in his book “Money: Only a By-Product”: “Turn off that blasted television and concentrate on your goals!”

..Alex.