Budo is a balance between two forces. To the senses, they are not equal. To the mind they are completely opposite. Despite our seeming inability to perceive these things as one and bring them into balance, it is when we walk through the world that these two sides are realized.
The two sides could be described as form and chaos. We unconsciously engage the chaos with instinct and use the faculties of our mind to adhere to form. Complete indulgence in one side while neglecting the other is to suffer imbalance. So how much effort or non-effort do we put into each side? This is perhaps the great impossible quest of the budo-ka.
When I imagine the warrior life, I don’t think of a lot of things I actually need in order to live the life I lead. For example, my idea of a warrior’s day off is far from what I’ve done so far today. I went to the bank to withdrawal money from my precious savings. I went to pay my yearly resident tax for living here in Japan. I went to solve a problem with my pension, the result of which is paying more money every month. Both of these required going to the City Hall twice and a separate tax office. I also went to the train station to buy tickets for a trip to the airport for my trip home this summer. I went to the grocery store. On the way I spent a lot of time waiting at traffic lights. I still need to fix a light in my bathroom. I need to clean my apartment. I will go to aikido practice tonight, but that will also require lots of train-riding and waiting.
Where is honing of sword skills? Where is the beast? When do I get to be the hero of my story that everyone admires? When do I get to feel good about making progress on the warrior path? All of that momentum of spirit dissipates with each menial arrand I engage.
All of these necessities are a part of form. They are necessary to live the life I lead here and now, but I need to make them as small as possible, though in fact they feel very big. I do this largely by reducing worry. I think about how to go about dealing with these errands, execute that plan, and don’t spend excess thought or worry on the subject. This requires a lot of patience and gaman, a wonderful Japanese word that means “to put up with”. It also requires the ability to accept fate, especially when it deals you worse cards than you expected.
After going through all of this I don’t worry, but do need to think about how I can spend my funds in a way to deal with the newfound taxes, live a happy life, and still be able to put money away monthly into savings.
Think, plan, execute.
Don’t worry, because everything is OK.
If finding balance between the impossible opposites is the quest of the warrior, the realization that everything is OK is their sword.
With that sword we protect what deserves life, and slice through that which does not.
The only one who can weild that weapon is oneself. To live within one’s means is to be strong and independent, and to be wise is to realize that we need others. Everyday I move in the world as form in chaos, or perhaps chaos through form. These words are the tale of a budo-ka learning the world, not a text with answers. I sit in awe of it all, and shake my head at all the faltering effort, but it’s what must be done.
I don’t know. I move.