Swords

Okay! I had a feeeling that sword-fighting would kill my depression, and IT DID.  As swinging steel at friends often does, I’ve gained a little clarity and made connections in my mental life that weren’t there before.

There’s something about the Western Martial Arts that’s very… hygienic.  Nothing is wasted – everything, if executed perfectly, is stripped down and efficient.  A move perfected is part of a flawless whole.

Early on, it’s easy to think that you know a better way.  Some movements seem excessive, or needless, or inscrutable.  That’s because you can’t understand the game from the outside.  Once you start to learn the language, you see the order in the senseless, and how your “innovations” don’t apply.

That brings us back to efficiency.  The sword-styles we learn aren’t the dramatic chops or thrilling high binds that you see in the movies.  The styles are much more controlled and fit with a theory of the body that is entirely sophisticated and functional.  The length, heft, and balance of a given weapon aren’t accidental.  They are perfected in their design and in proportion to the body.

There’s nothing so hygienic in the rest of my life (despite TJ’s best efforts).  I’m a mess, I get home and strew my belongings far afield, I have a million projects going at once, I’m lucky if I brush my hair once a week or so, and change my jeans just slightly more often.  Having something so orderly helps me judge and organize and sort thoughts – and with some luck, it might carry over to the rest of my life.

Naturally, I thought of Wittgenstein, my current obsession.  He describes logic as a language game: it is a well-structured activity designed to analyze and separate the true from the false (even though these conclusions are not reality).  Just as logical arguments are  divided into “true” and “false”, sword-fighting arguments are neatly divided into “alive” and “dead”.  Wrong movement? Dead.  Right movement, but executed badly? Dead.  Killed your opponent, but forgot to defend yourself? Dead.  Unlike the messy variances of everyday life, it is easy to see what side of the line you’ve fallen onto, and, if dead, how you fell into error.  It’s the rules and structure of the actions, like other games or forms of argument or etiquette (or, as Wittgenstein would call them, forms of “therapy”) that makes for easy connections, For sorting into convenient categories of successful and dead.  Though neither logic, nor sword-fighting, nor Tarot cards, are reality, their execution can act as therapy and bring us clarity and happiness.

For Wittgenstein, the world is simply all that is the case, a collection of facts that is possible when we share the same definitions.  There is no categorization: the things that are simply are.  To make sense of our observations, we engage in all sorts of games and exercises with different rules (prayer, magic, logic, and scientific theorizing are examples).  None of these are any better than the others in his eyes, because they are all equally not real.  But, they are very useful, so long as they bring us peace.  The natural conclusion is SWORD FIGHTING IS AS GOOD AS SCIENCE.  Let’s analyze this microbe – WITH MY SWORD.

Ahem.  I think I need to go lay down.  Nice talking at you.



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