Weird to get a text message from my mom this morning. I suppose her phone is working again. It’s sometimes weird to realize just how much things have changed. Which is, I’m told, an old person thing to say. I’d disagree with that. I remember being in my late teens and watching the Skytrain zip overhead while sitting in a cafe. I thought about my great-grandmother, then in her nineties, and how such a thing must look to her. That same Skytrain is now a rickety old thing, loaded past capacity, and a hated necessity for a lot of people commuting to and from work.
The text message was an invitation to a birthday party for me this Sunday. Took me by surprise. I didn’t realize it was close just yet. I’d sort of been thinking that it might be nice to do something special this year. Forty five is a milestone, I suppose. As usual, though, time has snuck up on me. It’s one of the absolutes in my life that time moves at a different rate for me than for others. I’ve given up trying to change that. Once in a while I look up and realize a whole lot of time has passed. I do wish the world would kindly wait for me when I’m busy doing other things. Inconsiderate damned thing.
I’ve really gotten damned tired of apologizing for who I am. I’ve become a perverse proof of astrology. Born with Gemini rising, I have a twin appearance. So far this means people always expect me to be something I am completely not. They build up an image in their mind of who I am and what I will do for them, and then get increasingly frustrated when I don’t meet up with the image they created for me. And what am I, really? I was born in the year and month of the Monkey. I am change. I am never the same thing I was. Paired with the stubborness of being born in the hour of the Ox…I suppose it’s no wonder the only thing I’ve ever been good at is martial arts, and even at that I never found my place.
I love the art of the sword, but I don’t think I really belong in the world of Western or Historical European martial arts. It’s funny, because depending on your reckoning and experience I could be seen as first, second or even third generation of the current re-birth. What was isn’t what is, though. The people I admired…F. Braun McAsh, William Wilson, Bob Charron, etc…are mostly forgotten or unknown. There was a time that now seems brief when things grew fast and strong and unified. Then there was a time of conflict. Discovery turned to debate, and there were winners and losers. There was right and wrong, victors and vanquished. We know who writes history. Our arts were written out of history until we started to dig them up again.
It’s difficult to continue on when failure has been your only result. They say every good business owner only succeeds after toughing out a string of failures, and that has to be about the pithiest saying of all time. Get shot at enough and eventually one of the bullets will miss, due to your incredible ability to stand still. Ever wonder why most business advice, such as the above, is only heard from the winners? No one wants to hear from the losers, obviously. Lessons should only be learned from the winners, as they are the recipients of the divine spark, the secret knowledge that allowed them to be better when opposed to the lessors.
In any given contest, we are left with only one winner. And only the winner matters. It might feel different to the rest of the competitors, but to those outside that contest, only one person matters. Only one was blessed by the gods and is worthy of acknowledgement. The rest are ephemeral. Dust.
And that’s us. Dust. Invisible. We aren’t the movie stars, the rock stars, the rich or the celebrities. We aren’t the tournament winners, we aren’t the names on everyone’s lips. We’re just the dust that doesn’t matter.
But my blade is steel. And the world is huge, more than any one person can ever grasp. Winning is a thing for a tiny few, and that makes it the smallest possible part of the world. The winners are the single atom in the whole vast universe of things. If you hold it up to an atom, even a dust mote is huge. When you compare yourself to a small and finite thing, the world shrinks and becomes very, very small. And that…that is a fantasy. That’s not reality. I live in one city. In this city there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of winners. Champions. Rich and prosperous. Maybe even a hundred thousand. But there is a million or more of the rest of us.
In the Society for Creative Anachronism, the crowns of one kingdom have a saying inscribed inside them. Every new king and queen who puts those crowns on sees these words: “You rule because they believe.”
You chose to make your own world view smaller when you look at winners and losers and try to fit yourself into one category or the other. Those are blinders you put on yourself. You aren’t alone in doing it…those shared blinders are how some communities are formed. It doesn’t have to be, though.
My sword is steel, and holding it in my hands, fighting with it, is one of the most enjoyable things in my life. The community I want is a community that shares that feeling, and exists to support others who feel the same way. We share what we can to help those who need it, and we work together to help create opportunities to share our favourite activity…to share, not to create a smaller world of winners and losers, but a world where our art exists as an integral part of the whole. It’s so much easier to understand creating a champion than it is to understand making good soil for things to grow.
Forty-five is coming up for me, and I love to create ferocious fighters. I love that my art is still a child in my hands, and I wonder if I have what it takes to let it grow to maturity for myself. And I really hope I can continue to push fighters to grown themselves into their own potential while still keeping an eye on the bigger picture. Like everything, it’s a lesson I first have to teach myself.