“The only journey is the one within.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
I’m am currently immersed in a collection Bruce Lee’s writing called Artist of Life, and came across something that I’ve tried to express many times, but could never quite get a good handle on. Lee puts it this way, in an essay titled How to Chose a Martial Art Instructor:
…What if the “master” does not wish to show you his style? What if he is “too humble” and firmly guards his “deadly” secret? One thing I hope readers should realize regarding Oriental humility and secrecy is that although it is true that highly qualified teachers do not boast and sometimes do not teach gung fu to just anybody, the fact remains that they are only human beings, and certainly have not spent ten, twenty, or thirty years on an art in order to say nothing about it. Even Lao-tzu, author of the Tao Teh Ching, and the man who wrote “He who knows does not speak. He who speaks does not know”, wrote five-thousand words to explain his doctrine…
…The unknown is always wonderful and the “fifteenth-degree red belt holders”, the “experts from super advanced schools”, and the “honorable masters” know how to draw around them a mysterious veil of secrecy. There is a Chinese saying that applies to these people: “Silence is the ornament and safeguard of the ignorant.”
So how does one determine a genuine attempt at teaching — the sincere wisdom conveyance of a master — versus some form of self-aggrandizement from an also-ran? I think the simplest “litmus” is the detection of the teacher’s ego bleeding through, or being confused with, that which is being taught.
I’ve had the great privilege of crossing paths with a few true “masters of their craft” in my time — in sports, in the arts, in business — and one thing that always seems to separate these folks from the “near-miss master” is their sense of utter humility. The idea that it is not “of them” but “through them” that their expertise flows. They don’t dismiss their hard work and dedication to the craft (and in fact, embrace it), but it is seen by them as more of a duty to the craft than anything they “endured” or “suffered”.
And by the way, this post’s title is from a quote generally attributed to HL Mencken — though we can’t be too sure about that. Maybe it was a tongue-in-cheek comment, or maybe taken out of context, who knows. If it’s true then I lost some respect for Mencken, who I’d otherwise say is one of the greatest political thinkers and writers of our time. Teaching, coaching — any conveyance of “truth” — is truly an art. To dismiss it as a second rate endeavor is a true indicator of a shallow mind.
But to add a little levity back to the post, it was Woody Allen who famously said “those who can’t do, teach — and those who can’t teach, teach gym” 😉
A little Sunday GPP –
I’ve been asked to please include a workout or two in my posts. Sure thing. I’ll kick it off with a Sunday GPP bout. All done in the 100 degree plus, south Texas heat. Yee-haw –
150 yard sprint
45 feet of parallel bar “hand hops”
5 pull-up bar muscle-ups
20 rung monkey bar “sprint”
5 pull-up bar muscle-ups
10-foot vertical wall up-and-over
10 450 lb tire flips
That’ll take the starch outta your britches 😉
Didn’t track the time this go ’round. I think I like it enough to keep it in the rotation, though, and so next time I’ll put a clock (sun dial?) on it.
In health, fitness, and ancestral wellness –