“Every day’s a holiday and every meal a feast.”

That’s a sarcastic phase that was used to remind us of our misery when we were in the Corps, especially on Holidays.  Away from home, exhausted, lonely, eating C-rats, long duties, “what’re you complaining about, you’re in the Marine Corps, where every day’s a holiday and every meal’s a feast!”

But now, for me,

the phrase takes on power, as an affirmation of our chosen way to perceive our circumstances.  I am reasonably vital and healthy, I am in a loving relationship, we have enough to eat, shelter from the storm, sanity, and presence of mind.  Compared to my Corps days, yes, all these days are holidays and meals feasts.

A homeless woman sitting at a monument in Wash...

A homeless woman sitting at a monument in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On my mind is a homeless woman with two small children, who was panhandling at the Smithsonian Metro Station in Washington, DC years ago.  One of my colleagues was passionate about starting a recycling program to “save the planet.”  I rebelled.  Said I didn’t care squat about saving the planet, or the whales, till this lady was saved some from her misery, I said a bunch of other things too, but this was the noblest.

Some of my colleagues went out to check what I said, and got the lady some help.  It was the Christmas season, but not holidays for her, and her feasts were less than nutritious.  And I realized that our positive, loving, and noble actions, were driven by the season, and felt bad.

In a week the season would be over, then what about “Every day…” after that?  I have no answers, just emptiness.


P.S. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”  See below.

Story of Jacob, and Balintawak Arnis

English: Jacob Wrestling with the Angel. Česky...

English: Jacob Wrestling with the Angel. Česky: Jákob zápasící s andělem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s an Old Testament story I interpret in a particular way; the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel.  Jacob is on the road for several reasons, and at one point sends his family and stuff ahead of him, stays behind, and next thing you know, he is “wrestling” with someone, often referred to as an angel.

In the course of the fight, the angel is at a draw and stops playing, puts a move on Jacob and tells him to let him go (so he wouldn’t have to really hurt him?) But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  In another connected script it is written that the lesser is blessed by the greater (Melchisedek?) so Jacob is acknowledging that this being, person, whatever, is greater, and can give him something he does not already have.

So what about this and Martial Arts?  I’ve met many martial artists with long time and experience under their belts, who seem reluctant to learn a different martial art.  You can see when someone is uncomfortable knowing they don’t know something, but afraid to learn it. That’s changing some but still a strong trend.

I bet it’s because in learning something you have to admit you don’t know, and that the teacher is greater than you. However, if you are a black belt, a master, a guro, etc., doesn’t that mean you should already know all you have to?  Some think so, and would be loathe admitting there is something beyond their sphere of knowledge they should explore.  They may even acknowledge there is something there for them, but removing your ego is too high a price to pay.

I take that story of Jacob as an example of one who recognizes that which is greater than himself, pursues it, and fights to achieve it.  I don’t resent someone being wiser than me, I want to extract that wisdom to myself.  I’ve taught my family and friends; don’t let a wise man (or woman) get away from you without getting something from them.  Jacob doesn’t let go till the man (whatever) blesses him, injured and all.  That’s desire! That’s intensity of prayer! That deserves the blessing!

Back to martial arts.  I’m recently training in Balintawak Arnis.  I’ve stopped teaching FMA and training Karate/Kickboxing and I’m back to learning by the numbers.  Why?  I have a Fifth Degree Blackbelt, I am certified in a FMA.

Why?  Opportunity for one.  I met an instructor I was attracted to (not that way for you bozos). Jacob sent his family to the other side of the river, but the angel he needed to tangle with was on this side. He could have merrily kept going, but then missed the opportunity for the blessing.

Two; I know of a couple of people who though super high up on the martial food chain are not shy of learning, and starting from scratch, in order to learn from the ground up. Maybe I know how to punch some, kick, and do a no.1 strike. And now I’m relearning it some more, one day I may be real good at it, but I hope I still value getting better at it.  I have no problem being the new kid at the back of the room trying to catch up, I’m wrestling for my blessing.

Jacob was a pretty wise man himself, but no saint.  In the Old Testament his name is synonymous with “schemer,” “conniver,” and “cheater.”  I think those terms reflect abusive misuse of knowledge and wisdom, but wisdom nonetheless. Wisdom to discern, wisdom to fight, wisdom to begin anew.  From that point on in the story, Jacob starts anew with a new name, a new outlook, and a new strength.

Balintawak Arnis Cuentada  and my instructor offer me skill sets that I don’t have, but want.  There was a time when to learn some martial art things I had to travel hundreds of miles for a few hours of instruction, or worse yet the DC area beltway.  There is someone now within arms reach that can teach this.  Let’s not let him get away.

You want an oriental thought version of this story: try the Buddhist story of Bodhidharma and Huike, some essential similarity there.

You can apply the lessons to be learned from Jacob and the angel to martial arts as I do, or to religion, wisdom, academics or even business.  It’s a good story.

about: http://balintawakarniscuentada.com/about-balintawak/

Gratitude and Gratuity

Been on my mind recently, the matter of gratitude as a state of mind, or an act driven by the state of thankfulness, but without external compulsion, and gratuity; the apparently compulsory, yet non legally obligatory fee you add to a service expense such as when you are eating out and have “have to” tip on top of paying full price for your food or service.

By nature I am generous and giving, without need of an occasion or “special giving day.”  But, I don’t feel that way when it is suggested that on top of what I am paying full, asked for price, for a product or service, that I give or pay more, just as a “gratuity.”  Really.

Tip left for good service at my local Coco's. ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I want to go eat a meal that I can afford, say about ten bucks with tax, I shouldn’t go eat it because I don’t have an extra 2 bucks to give the waiter?

That sucks.  I want and can pay for the food, but in order to get it I need to pay and extra unofficial fee.  Honestly I’m not really all that thankful for stuff I have to pay for.  It’s a commercial business transaction, not a religious experience. I may be thankful that I can afford the fee, but thats an internal thing. We’re all honestly a lot more thankful for stuff that’s free!  The product should cost, the service should be free, so that IF I want, I can further express gratitude for that service with money, or a heartfelt smile, hug, or money.

Some years ago I was working in Japan.  There wasn’t a culture of tipping there.  You ate at a restaurant, and paid the price of your meal.  You got a massage, you paid the listed fee.  You could haggle for prices at some shops, and pay less than the list prices and that was OK.  I liked that.  Some resorts I’ve been to there was no tipping allowed!

Is compulsory and extracted thankfulness really gratitude?  I don’t think so.  “Even in the religious setting where they demand “Give till it hurts, cause the lord loves a cheerful giver…”  If it hurts you are in pain and that is not cheerful, you are acting under compulsion, and your so called gift is tainted with pain and remorse.

Usable restaurant check math

Usable restaurant check math (Photo credit: prettydaisies)

In this new year I will go out and eat if I know I have the money for the bill plus tax.  If I am especially so overwhelmed with the attitude and service and have money to spare I may tip.  If I do not, I may write on the ticket “Thank You, but I cannot afford a tip today, but you were great, really thank you.”  Would that not be gratitude and a gratuity?

Somewhere, a gratuity is defined as a free gift, not an enforced gift.  I will not feel bad about paying the agreed prices, but not gifting indiscriminately.  I will not let use of money be the representative of my state of being or consciousness.  Others may choose to view me through those glasses, but that is looking “through a glass darkly.”  I feel righteously about spending lavishly when I can afford it and spreading the wealth, and with the same dignity I will be frugal and honest with my thankfulness.

There’s one of my resolutions!