The war that never ends

- Ian Sinclair A recent Newsweek article got me thinking about the future of the world and the state of my own mind. It reminded me of the meaning of martial arts, and highlighted some of my obligations as a teacher. You may have seen the headline,

"The United States has spent nearly $6 trillion on wars that directly contributed to the deaths of around 500,000 people since the 9/11 attacks of 2001."


I have no way of knowing what factors are at play within the various countries factions involved. I suspect there has always been and ebb and flow in the quality of tactics and strategy by the various players. But when a conflict goes on for a long time, there may be a need to look at the conflict differently. If we do, then we might see ALL of the combatants in a new light. Perhaps they are victims of as yet undiagnosable function of their own minds, or subject to a greater social pathology. Science is constantly changing our perception of the physical universe, and no scientist would presume that we have it all figured out. So, it should be reasonable to suspect that we do not have an accurate perception of the nature of conflict. Tactics and strategy can obscure the real nature of the war, even from the leading tacticians and strategists themselves. We can get so caught up in our own deliberations that we fail to see the whole picture, and miss some great opportunities.

Those who have been in my classes may have heard me say that when the INFINITE game is forgotten, then the FINITE game is doomed to repeat ad infinitum.

…we may win all of the battles, but still lose the war.


When we neglect long-term strategy for short-term tactics, then we fail to understand the variability of our situation. But even some of the best strategists can fail to observe the true nature of our place in the world. So, we may win all of the battles, but still lose the war. We become so focused on the conflict that we forget all about the harmony for which we had struggled so long. It is not unheard of for even the wealthiest of nations to spend so much on their military that they can't afford to maintain the very things that military is meant to protect. Another common mistake in warfare, is that we forget who we are, and ignore that fact that the enemy are people just like us. When this continues for too long, then all sides inevitably find themselves becoming slaves to the same military industrial complex. The role of leadership is to prevent this from happening, to minimize conflict, and to avoid wasting both lives and resources. But leaders get caught up aspects of their own demagoguery, such as demonizing the titular enemy. They may even vilify their own people, turn against their own advisors, rebel against their own conscience, and feel threatened by reasonable dissent.

As martial artists, we are the generals of our own minds. We must constantly seek to improve our own self awareness so that we can clearly see the effects that our thoughts and actions might have on either mitigating or exacerbating the eternal conflict. This applies within ourselves, within our immediate family, within our community, and in the world as a whole.
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The good news is that even in the case of global conflicts, it often requires only a little wisdom, from a few good people, to save the people from themselves. There have been several times throughout history when imminent disaster has been averted by one or two people of good will. Extraordinary effort by a few good people has saved us from the brink of destruction, or pulled us back from an apocalypse in progress.


For millennia, the great generals have said, "Know your enemy and know yourself." But you cannot know anyone by hating or fearing them, and knowing the parts must be concurrent with knowing the whole.

Open your heart to yourself and to your enemy alike. Then your mind will be better suited to see the best path forward.

We are taught that, so long as there is a single calm mind and a single caring heart, there is hope for the world. You can save the world by finding the peace within yourself.

Cannot meditate?

Student: "I can't meditate." 
Me: "Why not."
Student: "When I try to meditate, there are too many thoughts in my head."
Me: "Where did you expect your thoughts to be?"

The act of meditation does not require the perfection of a still mind. Meditation is the process of becoming aware...aware of the mind...aware of thoughts...aware of awareness itself. The process has so many benefits that listing them would be a distraction.


Are you aware that you are being distracted by your thoughts? Congratulations! You are meditating.

Believing that you can't meditate because of your thoughts is like believing that you can't listen to music because of all the notes.

Do you find that focusing is more difficult if you don't get enough sleep and exercise? Congratulations! You've discovered one reason why martial arts became so popular with monks. Another reason is that the right kind of martial art practice can provide an effective kind of biofeedback for meditators. "Is my mind clear?" *whack* "Apparently not."

Of course, martial art practice doesn't need to be painful, and neither does meditation. There are many types of training that are suitable for different personality types, and for people with different mental and physical characteristics.

- Ian Sinclair

P.S.

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