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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Labels, Groups, and Commitment

This is a series of thoughts that tangented off of Rory's post.

Rory does a lot with social and group dynamics. Tribal motivation stuff. I think it's important stuff to think about. The martial arts/combatives/self-defense community is certainly burdened with an overabundance of makes things very hard sometimes.

But we keep using the labels, because sometimes they make things easier. Sometimes, as another poster noted in Rory's blog, they can motivate us. I think that works on an internal or personal level as well.

Example: for the last year or so, I've been "playing around" or "reading about" minimalist philosophy. If you're not familiar with it, Bruce Lee actually summed it up pretty well with his line “It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.” Lee was talking about martial arts, but the idea can apply to your entire life. Decrease possessions. Commitments. And so on. It's something that I found resonated with me, and yet (as you may have noticed from earlier), I very studiously avoid referring to myself as a minimalist. And found myself wondering why I do that.

I think, in part, it's fear motivated. If I say I'm a minimalist, then I put pressure on myself to act in accordance with what I believe other people thing a minimalist should be like. If I just say "I like minimalist philosophy", I don't have to worry about "doing it right." I'm not really part of the group or the tribe, I just like some of their thinking. It keeps me separate, but it also, frankly, can hamper me. It gives me an excuse to keep things because, hey, I'm not really a minimalist anyway.

I see similar things in the martial arts/self-defense community. There seems to be a segment of the population that identifies as people who don't identify. Oddly, every now and then, they try to form collaboratives of "like minded independent practitioners", which never seem to entirely work out...they either turn into organizations, or just self-destruct when it becomes clear that those involved aren't as a like-minded as they say they are.

But there too, I think that people sometimes use the lack of a label as a way of avoiding a difficult prospect or commitment. It's easy to say "Tony Blauer? I love his work...great stuff, everyone should study it." It's harder to actually show up for a PDR course. Many people have told me they'd love to train with Mark Dellagrotte and the rest of Team Sityodtong. Very few of them have walked through the doors.

Is it possible that independence can be a crutch or limiting factor, as well as an aid?


Maija said...

Interesting question ...
In my experience, we have 2 opposing forces pulling us - our individuality, and our human need for relationship.
Some need to 'belong' more than others to feel safe, justified, worthy, whatever you want to call it ... and though I believe we all have different levels of need for this, we all have some need for 'connection' - no man is an island and all that.
Now this connection could be at a very close level (family/tribe/church), or it could be on a larger scale (human/nature/life).

I'm not sure what separates those who crave close connection to those who seek further and do not identify so much with tribal allegiance ..... but I suspect it has something to do with whether or not you think there is much that is unknown and enjoy exploring that idea, or whether you like the idea that all things are in their place, including your 'slot' in the whole.

It is certainly much easier and more comforting to be a member of the right/truthful/winning side, rather than to question the veracity of one's assumptions.
And here lies the difficulty in 'committing' to any one thing. On the one hand only committing to something seriously will ever get you the insight to truly 'know' that thing ... yet committing means on some level a need to belong and believe. It puts a huge amount of power in the hands of the teachers and elders, including giving them your own power, and it makes it hard to have an objective view of what you are doing.
OTOH, never committing to anything will mean your understanding of these subjects will never be very deep ....
I think this question is actually linked to my loops and spirals post because how can you improve something if you are not an explorer and an independent thinker, yet how do you understand something well enough to really improve it, without giving up that individuality to some extent?

I think it takes a particular person to be able to be IN something, yet outside it at the same time ... and the biggest problem is remembering the outside/relative reality once you are truly immersed ...

I think it is possible if you are a mission focused person, as the path itself and the exploration is the motivation, rather than the stops on it ... and I also think that the more you practice, if you are engaged and motivated ... the easier it is to move through and choose what is important.
We are all on different paths after all ... not all going in the same direction, and that's where the individuality comes in perhaps .. as a driving force to understand it all from one's own unique perspective. Finding that and not being bothered that it is not going to be the same as anyone else's, is perhaps what makes it possible to engage, yet separate ..?

Jake said...

It's unquestionably a difficult balance to strike. I think I'm more conscious of it at the moment because of my recent explorations into Kettlebell training.

It turns out that Strength and Conditioning training, like everything, gets weirdly tribal, and I'm really sick of tribalism. (Of course, on the flip side, I can get very tribal at certain moments...). I'm interested in the HKC/RKC methodology, and want to puruse...but am also acutely aware that in doing so, I'm identifying as part of a tribe. And yes, sacrificing some independence to do so.

Of course, how this will affect my learning is tough to answer. We'll find out down the road.

I think some of this might come back to my TANSTAAFL post; what are you willing to give up for your goals? Are you willing to give up a piece of your individuality? How much?

I can see the tie-in with the spirals and loops concept as well.

And I'm reminded now of something Dan John wrote about--he talks about how he enjoys getting sucked in...completely buying into a particular workout or program, but only for a short time. Then he takes whatever he learned from that experience and moves on. Maybe that's part of the key; to find a way to get sucked in, but somehow leave a lifeline to pull yourself back out?