"Maybe you are right”, I said. "But I believe that Revolution, is not something made, it resides in the individual spirit or it is nowhere. It begins not in the storming of the Winter Palace, but rather in the moment we accept that things don’t have to be the way they are."
"And what way should they be then”, said sifu, donning a beret and adopting a Che Guevara posture?
"Who knows what form it will take," I replied, "I’m not concerned with the final expression, but in the dismantling of those ways that no longer work."
"Ah ha" he said.
“Ah ha”, I replied. And so we began….
Hot Hot Hot
It's hot in the kitchen. In fact it's hot full stop. We've been experiencing the highest temperatures on record this summer, so to cope with these conditions - on goes the air conditioning, on goes the fans, turn up the fridge, store more frozen produce in the freezer... And yes, this means more hot air being blown out into the street, into our public media, into our minds and yes more fossil fuels being burnt to provide the extra power for us to cope with the rise in temperature, provoked by our increasing reliance on fossil fuels....
Its an old story now, a little tired, a little worn at the edges. We collectively mutter concern, pledge to watch another documentary on melting polar regions, pledge a paypal micro payment to some green cause, but change little, if anything, of our habits that give rise to Sifu Simon’s Stance, that we are doing as much as we can.
But this podcast (see below) and article is not about global warming, it's about change and our relationship to the threat of change. For all change has the inherent capacity to be disruptive: to be interpreted as a welcome respite from an old and possibly weather-worn model or a challenge to the familiarity and security of our behaviour.
Thought and Action
How we see change, I believe, has something to do with the chasm that exists in our culture between mind and body, between theory and practice, between thought and action.
Before we get to tai chi, lets look at a few familiar examples: we know smoking kills, we know passive smoking kills and yet still people are permitted to smoke, and in public places. We have known since the 70’s that refined sugar causes umpteen diseases, premature deaths, destroys teeth across the globe and has created sweetened addicts wherever fizzy drinks have been put on sale. Ahhhh... the glorious benefits of unhindered trade…..
We know we are killing ourselves and the planet, so why is it so difficult to change?
Why it is so difficult
Why does information, facts and data alone not convince us to change? Maybe, it's because we have broken the link between knowledge and action. For despite the warnings on food labels, cigarette packets, and the messages about environmental armageddon, we still do not act.
They say if voting changed anything, it would be banned. That could be said of data too. If knowledge by itself empowered, books, films and the internet would be banned. I would be banned. Sifu Simon would rule the world and we would all be happy bunnies in a world of consumerist goodies.
To change this passivity, knowledge and ideas must be rooted in some form of practice, otherwise they remain as just probabilities - projected on to the back of Platos cave - discussed, debated and argued over endlessly on FaceBook forums, but rarely lived with a quiet and gentle force.
To a make an idea live, to allow it to breathe, we must exercise it, but how do you exercise an idea? Can you take it to the gym, can you take it out on a lead for a walk? Can you swim with it? Facts, like grains of sand blowing in the wind of our minds, seemingly scatter when we attempt to act upon them, and before you know it, the next thought has entered our head and dislodged the first.
Outwardly conform, Inwardly sabotage
When we let go of the fear of losing, we win, whatever the outcome
When people ask me: "Hey TeapotmOnk - how effective is your tai chi”, it is often a rather sneaky way to relegate the discussion to that of martial technique. Yet, for most of us, daily combat does not take the form of an attack by multiple ninjas, but rather the ideological assault that encourages us to not challenge, to not explore the unknown path, to not question or query, but to accept that this is the best it can be. For we have the best voting system in the world, the best representative democracy that shines like a beacon for others to follow, and the best we can do in the light of global annihilation, is "to do our bit" - to turn down the air conditioning a little, to share your internet connection, to drink low fat milk, to plant some basil and pat yourself on the back that you're doing all you can.
Tai chi shows us another way. What that way is depends on you and your path. It's not the same as mine, or my dogs. The revolution will ultimately be your personal expression, for Tai Chi gives us the tools to challenge ourselves, our habits, and our conduct with others. It gives us the tools to reshape our world, recognising that in soft-ness and adaptation, in yielding and letting go we find a better world: More just, more honest, more egalitarian. And, like any revolutionary practice it requires neither uniform, no certificate, exams, nor incense. And much to the frustration of Sifu Simon - requires no gurus either.
So don't just listen to this, don't just read it. Act on it. Share it. Dismantle it. Throw it away if you like because Data alone can't do it. It never could. It needs to link to tools that we can embrace, that are simple, powerful and empowering and can be applied to any situation, any circumstance. Tools that we get to try out with one another, to test out in the hope that by losing, we will learn to win. Tools that don’t wear out like an old pair of shoes, or an out-of-date manifesto. That is the revolutionary impact tai chi has for urban warriors in the 21st century: For whatever the outcome, we learn to fuse idea and action, we learn to grow every time we lose, we learn that winning, so often, takes the form of losing.
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