Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Empty your cup

Bamboo Startup Painting by Drue Kataoka
A friend of mine asked me for help on the computer and I tried to help them. I did not know the answer to the problem, but I decided to try my best to help. I felt I might have found a solution, but as I was making an attempt to resolve the problem and explain what I was doing, my friend kept interrupting me and telling me that I should look at other settings. He told me that this setting means this, and that setting means that, and that he knows a lot about computers. Sometimes those settings had no relevance to the problem at hand. I listened to him, and then tried to resume my attempt at the solution before looking elsewhere. However, my friend persisted, constantly interrupting me. I was staring to get very irritated, but my solution thankfully fixed the problem. Despite this, my friend was clearly perturbed.

The experience reminded me of a Zen story I read just a couple of weeks ago in the book “Striking Thoughts”.

A very learned man traveled great distances to inquire about Zen from a respected Zen Master. As the Zen master spoke about Zen, the learned man would frequently interrupt him to discourse his opinions on this or that. Finally, the Zen master stopped speaking, and went to serve tea. The Zen master poured tea for the man full, then continued to pour, and the tea began to overflow.
“Stop,” said the learned man. The cup is full and no more can be poured in.”
“Like this cup, you are full of your own opinions,” replied the Zen teacher. “If you do not first empty your cup, how can you taste my cup of tea?”

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Simplicity: in life and the arts

Back in Middle school, I was watching my best friend jump over a tennis net, the kind of jump that they do in the Olympics. I never thought I could jump over that net, but seeing him do it, it looked so easy. So easy, that I thought I could do it. 10 seconds later, my foot was caught in the net, and immediately to follow was a thud and a fractured arm. Fail. It made me realize, besides that I couldn’t jump over that net, was that the better someone is at something, the more simple and easy it looks to the casual viewer.

The most beautiful performances or works of art are so often the simplest looking. These works are usually extremely difficult, but the fact that it looks so simple, graceful, and natural is what makes it amazing to the viewer. The slightly extraneous or tense movement of a beginner make clear that the novice’s fault is not in his doing too little, but too much. This is why it makes sense that to get ahead, experts often say things like “go back to the basics.” As Bruce Lee once said, “It is not daily increase but daily decrease; hack away the unessential.” Simplify.

It’s a joy of mine to find parallels of life truths in the arts. For me, it’s often about the Martial Arts and chess, since those are my biggest hobbies, though also evident in other arts of course like singing and dancing, and regular everyday activities as well. Let’s take the Martial Arts, and to extend Bruce Lee’s involvement in my post here, his “one inch punch.”

In that burst of power over the course of one inch, there is an ease of movement despite maximal effort applied. The one inch punch works because he uses his whole body, has trained his nerve pathways to react at the exact precise time, and cohesive coordination. A facet of that is that he is not applying extraneous effort in any muscles that are not required for the movement.

Antagonistic muscles
See the antagonistic muscle pairs above. When the bicep contracts, the tricep extends, and vice versa. While performing a punch, a beginner will often use excessive tension in the lengthening muscle which will not only cause quicker fatigue but will also act as a brake, slowing and weakening the punch. So as you can see, the beginner is actually doing more work, working against himself, while the expert knows the value of not doing to get the job done.

What is your art or hobby, and do you find links like these between art and life insightful? What are life principles that manifest in your art, or perhaps facets of your art that taught you something about life?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Leeloo's big blog debut

Leeloo, blog dog
Meet Leeloo. Leeloo didn't inspire me to start this blog, but she's a pure, healthy being, and that's what it's all about. She lives openly, with love and simplicity. Now I know what you're thinking, and that's just plain rude. I don't mean to say that I want to just sleep, eat, and poop all day. OK, now that I've said that, that ain't such a bad idea. Right, so as I was saying, Leeloo is effortlessly pure. She breathes life in deep fulfilling breaths and everybody loves her for it.

As I venture making posts here about my thoughts every now and then, I probably won't mention Leeloo too often, because after all, this blog isn't about my dog (sorry Leeloo). Eventually though, the intent is to be like Leeloo. So remember her pretty face, or she'll bark what she thinks of you... You've been warned.
Pretty face