Sometimes this job has all sorts of perks. Sometimes they are few and far between, but when they happen it makes the less pleasant parts of the job worth it.
Case in point, every once in a while I’ll have a really cool conversation with my boss. It’s interesting because he and I actually have similar perspectives on things, especially in regards to martial arts and personal philosophy. He was telling me this idea someone had for a movie, which turned into a discussion on martial arts (the movie was about students of martial arts), which turned into a discussion on philosophy.
You know how I’m always saying “The journey is more important than the destination”? It’s funny … he said that today. We were talking about Yin / Yang and reasons people do martial arts.
Of course, people take martial arts for all sorts of reasons. Some do it to become national champions; some people do it because their parents make them; some people do it because they want to look cool … the reasons are as varried as the people who take martial arts.
He was saying that all of those reasons are based on the subjective interpretations of others. You want to become a champion? Who defines that as a champion? It’s the public’s perspective. You go compete … you’re judged … you get a medal. But are you any different as a person? If you are, is it because you are the national champion and have a shiny medal?
Or if you’re taking martial arts to look cool … who’s definition of “cool”? Your own? societies? Who are you trying to look cool for?
Then, even deeper, if you’re not doing it for other people’s subjective opinions, maybe you’re doing it for your own. What do I mean by that?
You might say “Well, I do wushu because I love it .. not to look cool.” but then ask yourself, why do you love wushu? Maybe your answer is “I love wushu because I like the way I feel when i practice” or “I love wushu because it helps me get in better shape”. But those are based on your subjective opinions too. You’re trying to get to another state than you’re currently in. You want to get in better shape … that’s a destination. You’re trying to feel better … that’s another state.
I was asking him “Well, what’s the Buddhist answer then?” and he sat and thought quietly for a long time. After a while he said “From a Buddhist perspective there is no destination. There is only the journey. You’re not trying to get to something. You’re ARE something, and that something is what you’re expressing through martial arts.”
So, it’s not where you’re going that matters. That’s just a direction — the place you’re heading. It’s not where you are right now .. or WHO you are right now.
Think of it like this. Imagine you have a car driving down the road. You see it started at Point A, and right now it’s at Point B, and it’s going towards Point C. Let’s say you freeze this moment in time. The car is at Point B, completely still, frozen in motion. Where would you say the car is going? What would you say is the purpose of the car?
I guess from the Buddhist perspective the car isnt’ going anywhere. It is just right here. And it has no purpose other than to be a car. The destination doesn’t matter. Where it came from doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is what it is right now, in this instant.
And thinking of it in terms of a student of martial arts, then you can ask yourself, “What is my destination? What is my purpose”? Perhaps your destination doesn’t exist — maybe it is an imaginary reality created by you and society. Maybe there is no purpose — you are just who you are, at this exact moment.
Whatever reasons you might have for taking a certain action, that reason really boils down, not to where you want to go, but to who you are when you take that action. The action is you, and you are the reason for the action. It is because you are who you are that you study martial arts. You don’t study it to be someone else, you don’t study it to accomplish some accolade. You study it because who you are right now is a person who studies martial arts.
This moment right now is the journey. Where you were, doesn’t matter. Where you’re going doesn’t matter. But right now … this is the journey between the two … this is where you take the actions that define who you are. And the reason you do what you do, is because you are who you are.
So, I guess the next time someone asks me why I study wushu, I’ll just answer them: “Because that’s who I am” (and undoubtedly that will frustrate them to no end).