September 26th, 2005

Dance

Confrontation

Feeling contemplative right now. We'll run with that.

Confrontation so rarely occurs as one expected that when things follow expectiations it is often even more suprising. To successfully confront someone requires a certitude of purpose, not only a belief but a faith in the rightness of one's actions and points of view. Indeed, to waiver in the midst of confrontation is in many cases to guaruntee failure. After all, if confrontation is the direct meeting of two opposed forces, then it stands to reason that if one force pulls back then the other will continue its trajectory and push through.

Aikido, however, teaches us to re-examine many so-called weaknesses. It tells us that when someone comes at you with force not only to evade the attack but to accept it, to bring it into you, not only let it touch you but let it enter your being. One confrontations are idealogical rather than physical it is a valuable tool.

Idealogical confrontations are very different than physical confrontations. Physical contests usually have a clear winner and loser, whereas idealogical confrontations generally result in no-one being persuaded of anything. People have their say then go home, perhaps content and perhaps angry, but the confrontation rarely serves a purpose. The aiki philosophy tells us to approach it in a different manner. For starters, one must be receptive to the possibility of being wrong. Make your claims, it says, just as an aikidoka takes his or her stance, and let them try and persuade you, let them come at you. If we remain stubborn and resolute nothing but frustration will result, if we hold our pose and block punches we will exhaust ourselves and be beaten, but if we allow the other the possibility to make a full case then much good may come of it.

When someone feels you are really listening to them it is the start of real communication. One must remember that the goal of idealogical confrontation is not persuasion - how often does that happen - but peace of mind. The purpose of every action should be peace of mind. If I argue with someone for three hours and at the end we're ready to claw each other's throats out at the other's shear stupidity, but we're laughing about it and headed for a beer, that is peace of mind. If you like the confrontation better unresolved, that is peace of mind. If you "win" and the other person throws his or her hands up in the air and says, "Fine!" while stomping away, that is not peace of mind. For me an idealogical confrontation is not intended to persuade but to achieve understanding. That is peace of mind.

Socrates was a master of this method of idealogical confrontation (notice how I use that phrase rather than "argument." That's an important distinction). He never argued directly, simply let people explain things to him as best they could while he asked questions. Socrates was also a bitch about it, using his questions to demonstrate stupidity on part of the speaker. Perhaps that's what gave Socrates peace of mind, but he was never interested in really understanding anyone else's point of view, merely in showing that his was superior. This is unfortunate.

I am not so arrogant as to claim understanding. My standards are not so low as to pretend happiness at how things went. But I have a bit more knowledge, things remained civilized, and I was able to finish with compassion.

I will do my sword work and go to bed. A wooden blade strikes truest.