Saturday, July 19, 2014

"Here is something you can't understand: How I could just kill a man"

I'm not sure how often I put a post title in quotations, but I did so today because I wanted to make clear that I have actually never killed anybody, and don't plan to.

Yet despite a complete absence of first hand experience, I can identify with this violent act. Something not worth denying when my first solo exhibition consisted of a series of 70 homicides, and my last piece in my last exhibition was Hercules killing Antaeus, the Libyan Giant.

Chances are so do you, given the likelihood of you playing video games, having watched action movies, crime dramas and you probably watch 'Game of Thrones' if you are a member of the average anglosphere populace.

Perhaps though, and I don't know what I'm talking about, I don't shy away from that identification. I'm not in denial.

Now the title may be some Cypress Hill lyrics, but I don't particularly identify with lyrics like:

"Didn't have to blast him 
but I didAnnotate
 any wayHa ha ha! Young punk had to pay.."

It's more like the Sublime lyrics:

"Fuckin' and fightin', it's all the same."

and I guess I hold the view that homicide is an intimate act, fundamentally different from love making, but still incredibly intimate. I recall my high school house teacher pointing out that sex can be both the most supremely intimate act and the most vile weapon of war. That versatility has been long known, and I would guess by analogy it would explain why I can be anti-capital punishment yet pro-euthanasia and abortion.

And a question has to be asked as to why the most thumbed, most dog-earred, most re-read book in my whole collection is a book by a man who fought some 60 bouts of mortal combat with an allegedly undefeated record. What person, who killed their first opponent at the age of 13 would be able to publish a book today?

Both Musashi Miyamoto and Sekishusai Yagyu, and some others achieved a status of Kensei, and this is where my mind has to do acrobatics. Kensei = sword saint, or perhaps more meaningfully 'invincible' which is to say the expectation for any duel against these men was that you would lose, not just that they were undefeated but that society (and the men themselves) carried the expectation that they were undefeatable.

Sekishusai is a relatively more speculative subject because we only have the text written by his descendant Muneyori, but I propose that both men engaged in combat from a vantage point where they could feel safe. Which isn't to say they callously and recklessly assumed they couldn't be hurt. But that whether or not they got hurt was fundamentally in their control. Musashi had his middle gaurd, the Yagyu's their 'margin of safety' both men put an emphasis on seeing the situation for what it is. To see through their opponents sword.

Seeing gives way to choice, if you can see the situation for what it is, you can choose how to approach it. Systems are controlled by the component with the most choices. These invincible swordsmen achieved a very powerful, very intimate life-hack.

Consider the Werribee Zoo, I've never been out on one of the trucks but it's a safari style zoo here in Victoria, Australia. What I have seen is the cheetah enclosure. It's essentially an aquarium but instead of water there's oxygen and instead of fish their are cheetahs. If you are lucky enough to be there with a member of society under knee height, the cheetahs will get very close to the glass.

It's so beautiful and exciting and thrilling to be so up close to these animals, yet completely safe.

I project, that this feeling is similar in nature to mastering martial combat. Just diluted. Effectively Musashi and Sekishusai stood behind impenetrable glass, up close to this lethal potential. But the glass was their skill, their vision, and they were able to take in this intimate thing of beauty. To simultaneously feel safe, yet exhilarated.

The 'real thing' we try to capture playing video games or watching violent movies. Where the director or game designer has to go to so much extraneous effort to make us identify with some avatar to bring us into the action.

I identify with it because I can trust it. As I was saying to an old teacher earlier in the week, you can get so much business wisdom from the military because the military has to believe what works.

The same has to go for Musashi Miyamoto or Sekishusai Yagyu.

From there, you can simply remove the lethal context, and apply the principles to much more benign situations where shit is at risk - eg reputation, employment, relationships, friendships etc. 

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