Thursday, October 07, 2010

You are a fine gentleman (1).

When I was young, I wanted to try new things. One day, I found a posh building in central Tokyo. I went in. There was a rather nice French restaurant. I examined the menu. Although in those days my means were limited, I would somehow be able to manage it on that day. Yes, I wanted to venture into this establishment. So I asked my girl friend, who was standing beside me, if she would like the idea of a romantic dinner together. She said she would actually very much love it.

So I went to the entrance, and a lady in black formal dress welcomed us. When I said "we are two", she said she could not accommodate us on that evening, she was sorry, because all the tables were booked. I shrugged my shoulders, and walked off, thinking that nothing could be done, since all the tables were booked. Apparently it was a very popular restaurant.

Then something strange happened. As we strolled in the corridor, I looked back. There was a middle aged man and a younger lady in front of the French restaurant, looking at the menu just as we had been doing a few moments ago. From their behavior, it was apparent that they were just passing by, had not made a reservation, and were now examining the menu to see if they would like it. The man was a typical "salaryman", wearing a bland jacket and tie. The girl's dress was no better in taste.

Then something extraordinary happened. The lady at the reception came out, said hello to the salaryman and his girl, and welcomed them in. I could not hear what they were saying, but she was apparently inviting the salaryman and his girl into the restaurant, without any reservation, making no fuss. In a moment I understood what had happened. I walked away slowly into the street, trying not to disturb my girl friend.

It was a warm summer evening, and I was wearing a T-shirt and a jacket. My face was red with something, which I could not fully grasp. As I walked on, a sense of deep humiliation overtook me.

Whenever I lose the balance of my mind, I tend to remain silent, trying to contain my inner turmoil. My girl friend apparently noticed my transfiguration. Since she was a sensible person, she also walked on slowly, without asking me why or how.

(This essay to be continued tomorrow)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Abrupt concentration.

For some time, I have been making a point of abrupt concentration. I may be idling on the sofa, and all of a sudden, I would start concentrating on something, whether it is work or play.

When I give a lecture, I would shortcut all the protocols and niceties, going straight to the point, often on the verge of conducting an attack of pleasant surprise on the audience.

I was discussing this particular piece of my philosophy of life with Prof. Tatsuru Uchida, a well-known scholar in French philosophy. Tatsuru remarked that what I had just said was actually the core spirit of martial arts. Tatsuru is a practitioner of Aikido, you know.

In the tradition of Japanese martial arts, the basic assumption is that you never know when the enemy would attack you. It is quite possible that when you are relaxing and idling away, the opponent suddenly attacks you from behind. It is therefore absolutely necessary to be able to "ignite" your system in a moment, reaching the highest level performance within a second. There is no time for "warming up". The enemy does not wait until you are up and ready. Tatsuru's comments made sense to me.

So, without knowing it, I have been practicing the core spirit of Japanese martial arts.

I am quite a peaceful person, though.