2014-08-11

[General] A System of Me, and of Life and Death in Iaido and Veganism

It's challenging trying to understand myself.  At least as far as my priorities go and what sort of person I want to become.  I have interests that can be clearly named, and activities associated with them.  But there's too many possibilities in the world and too little time.
drawn in Xournal

Here's a small map of some interests of mine off the top of my head.  The one's that I am either most active in or wish to be more active in are highlighted.  My main problem is that I barely have time for all of them as it is, and that's with being fairly super productive.

What I'm managing to cover well
  • German
  • Iaido, Jodo,
  • Writing
  • Cycling, fitness, outdoors
  • Adventure
  • Veganism (barely)
What I'm managing to cover a little
  • Nintendo
  • Programming, Open Source, GNOME
  • Travel, nature
  • Kendo (not at all during the summer though)
  • Feminism, gay rights, social justice
What I'm completely missing right now
  • Music, piano, violin
  • Drawing (well, a little at work)
  • Aikido
  • Academia, computer science, neuroscience
  • Language, French, Japanese
There's so much more to do.  Improve my swimming ability, (at least I'm canoeing regularly,) run more, actually complete a video game, read more, etc, in addition to all the things above.

What I want to do is find more points of intersection and make each activity more efficient.

Intersectionality in my life: Iaido and Veganism, two stories of life and death

I was thinking about this on the bike ride home today.    I've been thinking about how I could connect my veganism and my iaido.  It seems challenging because there are few examples of them meeting up in the circles I travel in.  I've met one other vegan iaidoka, and two vegetarian iaidoka.

I would like to believe that these occasional unions help demonstrate a real connection between the two, rather than just incidental.  So far, my inspiration lies in the idea of respect for life.  In iaido, an important aspect deals with how the stories of the kata speak to life and death.  Some people in time and space may have practised iaido with the desire to become more effective killers, but ideally no one practising it today aspires to that end.  Still, I am learning how to effectively control the life of my opponent, how to struggle against someone effectively, with the stories of the kata invariably teaching me how to overcome another and spend their life to preserve my own.

I don't think my interest in iaido could really be interpreted as a desire to take life.  In learning an art that dealt with that practise, though, it's something worth considering: when and why would someone choose to risk lives?  What is the value of a life?  What is the point in knowing how to end a life?  How do you get into a situation where ending a life seems like the desirable course to take?  When is the perspective that your own life is at risk a valuable perspective to have?  Why treat others like threats, and why act to threaten them?

With veganism, it's similar.  Intelligent life forms life or die based on dietary, fashion, policy, and entertainment choices we make (and choices in other domains as well).  Generally, with modern society, it's far from anything you could consider essential or necessary.  It typically boils down to pleasure and convenience.  "You must die so I can specifically enjoy your taste for a meal."  It's nauseating.  "You must die so I can have a bag made from the hide that was meant to keep you together, because I prefer its feel/durability/style over synthetic alternatives."  It's kind of the same decision made when you buy non-fair trade chocolate in some cases, "I want children to be taken out of school and away from their families to work on plantations because I think chocolate tastes good and I don't want to pay a little more so you can have a better quality of life."  Lots of people I speak to make these decisions implicitly because it's not a consideration they actively make.  (Caveat: I make many implicit decisions that promote the suffering of others every day; I'm far from perfect, and never will be, (I'm not sure humans can be given how the universe is,) but I would like to keep trying because the alternative is horrific.)

Here I see a connection.  The considerations on life and death are essentially the same.  In iaido, I become intimately acquainted with a way that can optionally bring or deny death, and ideally my acquaintance improves my understand and helps improve my respect for life.  Veganism does this too.  I put a lot of consideration into choices and their consequences, as they ripple out, and consider what is in my power to do.  I am not capable of changing society and civilisation overnight.  Violence would never achieve my goals.  But I still learn about the exchange between life and death and the choices involved, just like in iaido. 

I see a path from iaido, and the reflection on the value of life, to veganism, though it's obviously not one that many people feel.  I see a path from veganism to budo, towards education in the business of death.  This is something I can continue to reflect on, and transfer lessons between the two, increasing the value of each in my life.

Of other things: open source, for better budo and veganism

I forgot to draw it right, but for me there's a distinct connection between Social Justice and Open Source.  Right now, I use my programming skills for the benefit of vegans and gay rights by helping maintain websites.  And I've been able to help out socially minded friends by installing and supporting their use of open source software (I honestly don't peddle Linux to friends; I just respond to requests).  I would like to find more direct connections, though.  Also, between budo and open source. 

Programming is a skill you can hone just like a sword skill.  You can be proficient, and practise, and teach it.  You can delve into it, as you can with a violin, and grow closer to a deep understanding of its essential nature.  So, these are, as skills, parallel.  Can I practise kata and kihon in programming?  Maybe, like with design patterns.  I could apply principles from budo and iaido to my programming perhaps?  Some discipline, focus, efficiency.  There's already Kendo UI.

I could work towards apps/games that let you practise different aspects of budo.  I would like to resume working on Forget Me Not (a German gender guesser), as I used it to help me learn and memorise different sets of knowledge.

Too much

A lot of this I need to spend more time on.  There are too many possibilities, and some of the interconnections are really too fascinating to let go.

Wheee, life!

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I am aeronautical, vanship-style.  I am olympic and mythical.  I rest on my laurels.