Friday, February 03, 2006

Nails and Shells

To his way of thinking, he had had a battle with a nail, and the nail had won. As a student of the martial arts, he was humiliated at having let himself be taken unawares. "Is there no way to resist any enemy of this sort"? he asked himself several times. "The nail was pointed upward and plainly visible. I stepped on it because I was half-asleep -- no, blind, because my spirit is not yet active throughout my whole body. What's more, I let the nail penetrate deep, proof my reflexes are slow. If I'd been in perfect control, I would have noticed the nail as soon as the botom of my sandal touched it."
His trouble, he concluded, was immaturity.

Taken from Musashi - Eiji Yoshikawa.

Although it is arrogant and egotistical to compare myself with Musashi, right now, this is how I approach the world. Everything is a battle. Some battles are small, such as seeing that I get my quota of 40 reports a shift. Some battles are large, such as retaining a positive outlook. Some are fleeting and exhilerating, such as climbing cliffs to fish off dangerous rocks, as was involved last weekend. (I didn't fall to my doom or hurt myself, so I defeated the cliffs.)

This is, however, Musashi at his young, reckless, and very immature stage. At about 24, to be precise.

I'm not trying to find the Way of the Sword, yet still trying to find a way. Any way. My way. Maybe I'll grow out of this need to conquer the world around me, but not, I think, anytime soon.

Right now, I'm not sure what it is I'm battling. I have the vague suspicion that it's me, and the not-so-vague suspicion that I'm losing.

"To tell the truth, I myself have run up against a wall. There are times when I wonder if I have any future. I feel completely empty. It's like being confined in a shell. I hate myself. I tell myself I'm not good. But by chastising myself and forcing myself to go on, I manage to kick through the shell. Then a new path opens up before me.
"Believe me, it's a real struggle this time. I'm floundering around inside the shell, unable to do a thing."

I've kicked through a lot of shells in my life, but they've been easy to identify, as far as shells go. External problems, internal issues, things that determination will get the better of.

This time, I do wonder if I have any future, or more precisely, what I want my future to be. I don't know. I'm not sure what I'm aiming at anymore.

Do not merely pinch off the leaves
Or concern yourselves only with the branches.

At this point, Musashi has acknowledged that he has failed to kick through the shell, and he is now seeking, from the outside world, this one thing that will untangle the mess, break the dam, unlock the door, kick through the shell. Just one thing, one simple, obvious and beautiful that will open his eyes, and give him that new path.

I think I'm spending all my time with leaves and branches. I'm fretting over the leaf mould when right beside me is the tree itself.

Eventually, I will find the trunk again. But this time, looking inward can help me no longer.

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