I asked for the hands of students who like to get hurt, 4 in 20 raised their hands. Human nature on display. This perhaps led to some cognitive dissonance between the skills I was helping them to acquire and the general anti-violence dogma being taught at school. Another student raised his hand and asked, "So what exactly do you use martial arts for?"
I answered them by saying, "You know how cats like to catch mice?" They nodded. "And some cats like to play with mice?" They nodded again. "Well, I'm the kind of cat that likes to play with mice. But I'm not really interested in eating them."
All of this caused me to reflect afterward that since the 1970's many schools have tried to raise "cats" who neither catch, nor play with, mice. Since this goes against human nature, we are finally seeing a recognition of how such attitudes lead to students hating and therefore failing school. Particularly for boys. There is a new book called The Trouble with Boys, and even better a website, Why Boys Fail.com. And I'm a big fan of Marty Nemko's, Men's Issues.
If my popularity as a kung fu teacher is any indicator of how things are going, then things are changing for the better. When I first started teaching in the schools 15 years ago I ran into teachers and principals who were downright paranoid. They feared having me in their school was going to result in bloody riots on the school yard. These days demand for my classes is coming from all directions, PTA, principles, teachers, and of course the students themselves. (The election of action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger governor of Cal-ee-fornia hasn't hurt my cause either!)
One of the back-bones of Daoism is the notion that our true nature is without limits. Some cats are more transcendent than others, they are more interested in exploring all the different things which can be done with a mouse than they are in actually eating one. And some cats are more masters of simplicity. When they see a mouse, they eat it. When they see sun, they sleep in it. They appear to be practicing a non-transcendent form of wuwei (not doing). And some cats are so afraid of mice and other cats and vacuum cleaners that they are constantly on the prowl, like Shaman of old, for some advantage which will enable them to dominate.
Daoism has teachings for all three types of cats. Observing external behavior is the basis for our three general categories of commitments humans make: Transcendence, Wuwei, and Shamanic. But the process of categorizing brings with it two types of baggage that beg to be acknowledged. The first is that we simply can not tell from looking, listening or analyzing, which type of commitment another person (or cat) is making. We can guess, and we can think we know--they can even tell us--but it is impossible to truly get inside someone else's head. The second is that it is our nature to move between these different types of commitments. For instance if you practice meditation you will find that you are:
- Worried that you aren't doing it right (Shamanic)
- Trying to perfect yourself (Transcendent)
- Was there a third? (Wuwei)