Archive for Teach

The Assassin’s Creed, Part 2

Posted in All, Miscellaneous, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2010 by marushiadark

“Hide in plain sight.” ~ Second tenant of the Assassin’s Creed.

It’s been said that the best place to hide something is in plain sight. It sounds so counter-intuitive, yet it happens all the time.

I’m sure we’ve all had experiences of losing something, only to find that it was right under our noses the entire time.  People who wear glasses have this problem all the time.  They can’t find their glasses, so they search the entire house, only to realize afterward that they were sitting on top of their head the entire time.

So why does this happen?

As near as I can figure, some part of our ego decides that we are too intelligent to lose something and that the object in question must be in some place that is less obvious – some place that only a crafty sort would think to search.  The reality is often that we simply had a momentary lapse in judgment, and we feel ashamed or embarrassed to admit our fallibility.  Some people prey on this arrogance and hide a great many things before our eyes.  The only reason we don’t see them is because we’re too afraid to admit that we might not have all the answers.  That our senses are flawed and imperfect.

The modern military employs camouflage, allowing them to effectively position themselves right next to an enemy without being detected.  But the Assassins don’t use paint and shrubbery.  Instead, they use a more illusive and universal form of concealment.

Green paint may be good when you’re out in the woods.  But when you have to get up close to people on the street, in buildings, or out in the open, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb.  So instead, you must learn how to disguise your persona, from the way you dress to the way you speak.  In the TV series Burn Notice, the main characters do this all the time, playing roles to get close to targets that would otherwise be out of reach.  It’s not always complicated, either.  Sometimes, the simplest of ruses can yield the biggest results.

“You know how to disappear.  We can teach you to become truly invisible.” ~ Raz Al-Ghul.

Not everyone is a spy or an assassin, of course, but that doesn’t mean the same techniques can’t be employed for other more mundane situations.

I can remember, as a child, going to the mall and feeling overwhelmed by the number of people that would walk by.  I would pretend that I was a fish and try to swim through the crowds as smoothly and stealthily as I could.  With this shift in attitude, I found that I could maneuver quite well through the mall with little to no attention being drawn to me at all.  On more than one occasion, I had managed to separate myself from my parents in this way and we had a hard time finding one another, even when actively searching.

In more recent times, I’ve been able to pop up behind someone without them realizing I’m there.  Often, I don’t intend to do this, either; it just sort of happens and the reaction I get is priceless.  I always joke about it afterward with the person, saying that it’s a good thing I’m not an assassin or they’d be dead.

I’d like to think that people have the capacity to be quite reasonable and understanding and that, if they knew better, they’d do better.

As children, we are pure, untainted, trustworthy, loving, ambitious, and willing to learn if the right person taught us.  The only reason we become anything less than that is because information is withheld from us, power is withheld from us, love is withheld from us.  In some way, we are lied to and the truth is kept locked away from our view.  So the idea that “a person is smart, people are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals” could be overturned in a generation with the right teachers, the right leaders in place.

Because people are inherently good and trustworthy and loving and reasonable, I think a lot more could be gained from greater openness and transparency.  It is only ignorance and arrogance and lust of control that causes the teacher to withhold information from the student.  If the teacher did their job properly, the student would become wiser than them.  That’s the definition of progress.

“No nation hiding behind closed doors is free, for it is imprisoned by its own fear.” ~ Bill Clinton.

Our governments are comprised of people who wield power over us on our behalf.  As such, we place great trust in them not to abuse that power or use it to harm us.  Government ought to work for its people, not the other way around.

Sadly, the reality is quite the opposite.

Much of that power over us comes from the withholding of information.  We are told that it is in our best interests that we not know what the government is doing to us and why.  We gave them the power to work for us.  Only Frankenstein monsters have power over their creators.

Our leaders withhold information out of fear of loss of power and thereby risk to their political and administrative survival.  True servants reveal information when requested by their masters.  Towards that end, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was created, to serve as a balance of power.  Yet even such inquiries have been overridden under the guise of “National Security.”

“The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.” ~ John F. Kennedy.

There are certain things that ought to be kept secret and never revealed.  One’s bank account numbers, one’s personal computer passwords, the launch codes to nuclear weapons, etc.  Things that would cause massive damage if made known.  However, a great deal of that which is guarded ought not be kept secret, but should instead be brought to light.  The ingredients in mass-produced foods, the test results of pharmaceutical companies, the financial backgrounds of our public officials, the secret government files on 9-11, and so forth.

If we, the public, can be asked to submit to a pat-down and x-ray scan at the airport, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that those in positions of great power over us have a proportional level of transparency.  Wouldn’t that be in the interests of public, national security?

“People should not be afraid of their governments.  Governments should be afraid of their people.” ~ V for Vendetta.

In the animal kingdom, the scariest creatures are often the most afraid.  Rattlesnakes make noise with their tails because they are afraid of being eaten, so they create this persona of being really viscious.  Many animals make themselves look larger than they really are, or have designs of the eyes of large predators on their bodies.  But all this is an illusion.  It is out of fear that they create such personas.  And yet, it allows them to weild great power over their environment and hide in plain sight.

Our governments are no different.  They use such ruses to hide in plain sight, so why not learn to do the same and take that power back for ourselves?

Our truest political leaders are the ones who are open and honest with us, remembering that they serve the people, not control them.  Those that have nothing to hide, who welcome inquiries and investigations into anything that we might feel threatened by or insecure about.

A clear and clean sheet of glass often goes overlooked.  We tend to focus more on what’s just beyond the glass than the glass itself.

By far, the most effective way to hide in plain sight is to not have anything to hide in the first place.  To be a pane of glass unmarred by blotches on your soul.  Steel your heart and mind against human weakness and become a better person – a wiser, more compassionate, and more powerful person.  Work to serve your fellow man and become more transparent yourself and the world around you will follow suit.  Hide in plain sight.

C is for Chi

Posted in All, Health, Science, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2010 by marushiadark

“You guys can do all this awesome Bending stuff … I’m just the guy in the group who’s regular.” ~ Sokka, Avatar: The Last Airbender

When I was young, around nine-years old, my dad decided to enroll me and my younger siblings in martial arts.  My father was a black belt.  The sensei of the school he enrolled us in studied under the same master as him.  From time to time, my dad would show us techniques well in advance of what most of the other students were learning.  I don’t really consider my father to be the best of teachers.  I feel he lacks the patience to go through things in a step-by-step, kinesthetic, ground-up manner.  When I first learned to drive, he started me on my mom’s SUV, which to this day I still get nervous driving.  However, regardless of how I may feel about him, there’s one thing I owe him my gratitude for and that’s introducing me to the concept of chi.

I don’t remember exactly how I old I was at the time, maybe somewhere around fourteen years of age.  But I remember my father sitting me down in the living room.  He didn’t really go into too much detail; he just explained that there was a sort of energy inside us and that we could learn to use it with practice.  He told me to hold out my hand, which I did.  Then he held his own up around mine without touching it and asked what I felt.  I remember feeling a sort of warm energy when he did this.  That’s chi, he said.

So ended the lesson.  It wasn’t much of anything, really.  All I had to go by was that experience, that feeling, and a vague idea that it had something to do with breathing.  But fortunately, that was enough to get me started.

It’s truly a revelatory experience your first time.  I remember my eyes went wide when I first felt it.  Over the years, I had to figure a lot of stuff out for myself and my progress was very slow.  Having someone there to guide you through your exploration of internal energy is a very beneficial thing.  Joining a Tai Chi or Chi Kung or Yoga class, or even just working with a partner who knows something about it, is a lot better than trying to figure it all out all on your own.

“To train the mind, one must first train the body.” ~ Izumi Curtis, Full Metal Alchemist

In my house, we have a lot of old Shaw Brothers kung fu films.  The first one I ever saw was The 36th Chamber of Shaolin.  It’s the story of a young man named San Te who enters Shaolin Temple and learns kung fu.  At first, San Te’s eager to the point of foolishness and wants to start with the highest art, so he’s taken to the 35th Chamber where a bunch of old and senior monks are reciting Buddhist sutras.  The master of the chamber tells the San Te to leave because San Te clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing.  When he refuses, the master raises his arms and the man falls back on his ass.

The monk never touched him, but was sitting at least ten feet away.  You can imagine the look on San Te’s face and how afraid and confused he was.  That was his first experience with chi.

While that may have been a movie, the idea of chi has basis in reality.  The other day, I was watching Stan Lee’s Superhumans, which is a documentary series about real life superhuman abilities.  Among the ones I saw in the episode was a Shaolin monk named Shi Yan Ming who used chi in martial arts.  The premise of the show is to try and determine the scientific basis of such superhuman feats.  A collision scientist was brought in with equipment that revealed results unlike anything the woman had ever seen before.  Shi Yan Ming’s punches delivered damage greater than that of a 30 MPH car crash.  That was just one of several feats performed that would appear impossible given his size and muscular build, so clearly chi has an affect here.

Many martial artists have spent years developing their chi power through training of the body and getting a feel for their own energy.  Unfortunately, few of them spend as much time studying the nature of reality, science, healing, philosophy, and metaphysics, so their ability to use chi is limited mostly to its connection with their physical bodies.

“Teacher, what is this?  This isn’t kung fu!”

“That’s the highest form you’ll ever see, the final form.  You don’t understand.” ~ 36th Chamber of Shaolin.

So what exactly is chi?

In its most basic sense, chi is a type of energy that exists within your body.  It originates from your soul and is the essential life force that powers your mind and body like electricity flowing through your computer.

Your body has many different systems of organs, such as the nervous system, the circulatory system, the skeletal system, the digestive system, etc.  There is also an energy system.  You may have seen diagrams of energy meridians which map out the locations of this system for use in acupuncture, reiki, and other healing arts.  If the meridians are the blood vessels, the chi is the blood that flows through them.

Through mental training and practice, you can learn how to use and manipulate your own chi for a variety of purposes.  If you’ve never worked with it before, it’s essential that you experience it for yourself.  I can’t think of a better way to start you off than to say find someone who knows about it and get them to show you, just like how my dad first showed me.  It will jump start your awareness.

The nearest I can describe it in words is that it’s like an electromagnetic effect.  If you were to hold two magnets of the same polarity in your hands and try to bring them together, you’ll feel a well of magnetism between your hands as if there were an invisible ball there.  That’s basically the same effect that you are creating here.

It’s likely that chi is electromagnetic energy, but I us the word “chi” out of tradition and because it just sounds cooler.  Recall that everything in the universe is made of energy, most of which, if not all of which, is electromagnetic in nature.

The human body is indeed capable of generating electrical charge, which creates magnetism.  The effect of putting your hands out acts like two opposing capacitor plates.  Through focus, you can turn the current on or off and control the flow of electromagnetism between your hands.  I’ve heard of people that can actually shoot sparks across their fingertips like a van de graaff generator.  That’s probably what allows the Sith and Firebenders to manipulate lightning, at least in theory.

Over the years, I’ve been able to do a lot of things with my chi.  I can generate it, manipulate it into different shapes, alter its “mass,” and use it for healing purposes.  I haven’t been able to use it for telekinesis yet, bu

Realistically, I’ve found that, for the amount of time and focus you’d need to gather the energy necessary to flip off a light switch from across the room, it’d be a hell of a lot easier to just summon the discipline and energy to get up and turn it off manually.  So that scene with Anakin Skywalker feeding Padme with the Force … not likely to happen.