Friday, April 3, 2009

Maze Dull

What can I say. It had a nice casual atmosphere and if you stayed on their good side it was pleasant. The quality of the training? I have little to compare it to. It was in my opinion somewhat haphazard -- no clear lesson plan, no records kept, no stated guidelines for advancement. But these faults were not important to me. I was at a rudimentary enough level where virtually any competent instruction was enough.

When someone asks me now where I train -- because I still call it my sport -- I tell them I've taken a year off, to focus on conditioning. It's true, as far as it goes. Where did I train? Oh, at such and such. How was it? And here I'm at a loss. It was as I just described it. How strong a recommendation does it seem. I'm careful, very careful not to let subsequent emotion color the communication. But I have to be truthful.

When I was there, it was an issue with a number of fellows, the fact that R was not there on a consistent basis. Rarely, it might be said. Months, literally, might pass -- and I would know. When I started there, the daily instructor was still a blue belt. So that would be a problem, to some people. It wasn't to me. And when the criticism was made, I did my best to give a fair defense, without seeming defensive. I think of that as loyalty. No one picked up on any ambivalence in my tone. No one pays that close attention to nuance. But if I were pressed, if the question were made explicit, why exactly did I leave, I'd have to say I had a blog, and they didn't like it. And my gi smelled. And I never smiled.

It has to do with loyalty. Feeling offended does not excuse someone from the obligation to agree with truth. I have recently learned, in a roundabout way, and with some apparent reluctance in the telling, of another, not dissimilar circumstance under which someone "left". Well, it's not my business. Makes me a bit melancholy though. Because I did like and respect R. The more we learn about a person, the easier it is to judge, but I knew that already, and make accommodations for it in my opinions and expectations. What I was told seems a little out of character, but everyone has a temper, and everyone has vulnerabilities they are sensitive about. That's not the issue.

The problem is that once we've let our guard down, once the mask slips, then we have to regroup, and apologize when we've been wrong. I surprise myself by doing that -- apologizing when I've been wrong. The surprise isn't that I've been wrong, it's that I have sufficient maturity to overcome my ego. I'd have liked to have heard that about R. We're allowed many personal faults. But sometimes they cut too deeply into our character, and it's ugly, and the damage spills over to others, who did nothing wrong and meant no harm. Emotion is not an excuse for shoddy behavior.

There's a classic experiment with rats. The highest and lowest performing maze-solvers were bred with like-scorers. After a handful of generations, two distinct populations developed for this trait. The highest scoring maze-dull rats made about as many errors as the very worst maze-bright rats. Two bellshaped curves that barely met at the respective extremity. Well that's interesting -- maze solving has a high genetic component. But what's really interesting is that further experimentation revealed that the maze-bright rats were not more intelligent. They were less emotional.

They were less emotional.

I figure I lose about half my IQ when I become very emotional. Seriously. As has been loudly and repeatedly asserted in these pages, I am ever so brilliant; but I take a hit of 50%, I'm closing in on some unflattering labels. Upshot is -- aside from how wonderful I am, which really doesn't even need to be said ... I just like saying it -- emotion makes us dull. We can't make the right choices. We side with injustice and egotism, even when it's not our usual way of seeming, or how we like to think of ourselves.

You know it's true. We have to forgive emotions more often than we have to forgive actions.

Now, do you care about any of these details, this rehashed brooding and vague gossip? Isn't there something of substance I could write about? Of course there is. I could. You think I don't have stories to tell? But this will have to do. And I'll write what I want. It's my blog. I think of it as a passive emotion generator.


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