"I don't believe in guns"
"What do you mean? They're not fucking leprechuans!"
-- Seven Psychopaths
I have determined that my liberal arts education is complete. It took too long, and I wasted too much time on it. But at least I have gotten to the part at which the appeals to to those pop and middlebrow entertainments that are the vast legacy of mass communications fail to inspire me. I am resolved, for the most part, to the high arts and they give me genuine pleasure. It took a surprisingly long time.
I'm not even sure that I was aware that I was in that pursuit. I was scooting along via inertia and aversion. The 'Noble Arena' I began seeking back at State, was more of an escape from Midnight Star in hopes that hiphop would get better, than anything more than a isolated fondness for Liszt and Debussy. It took me years to find the kind of industrial hiphop I truly loved as I suffered through Finitribe, Bad Brains, Barmy Army, and Skinny Puppy. It took me a decade to get past the Granta school of literature. It took me a very long time to settle on the sort of fashion I wish to use to convey my civilization in unspoken ways. All of this continues to evolve, but without the sense of urgency that kept telling me that I still didn't get it. I get it now. My Liberal Arts eduction is settled. I understand what to do with my frustrations when what is commonly out there insults my intelligence. Also importantly, I know what and what not to expect from a deep dive into Epictetus or Sophocles. I can appreciate trees as well as forest.
So now what I am missing is a Martial Education.
In parallel, all of my life I have thought at length about the fact that I did not have to go to Vietnam. And in my first full-time job I spent a lot of time with Vietnam vets. I remember how counter-intuitive it seemed to me that they were so level headed, honest and mellow as compared to that nacscent gangsta culture that marked the knuckleheads in my old neighborhood engaging the drug trade. But who was more deadly was never in question.
There were times I flirted with the idea of ROTC, but never quite seriously. I very much would have liked to have gone to the Coast Guart Academy, but I was a lousy long distance swimmer and I didn't want to cut my hair. The idea of overcoming such obstacles was not something I placed a lot of stock in. There have been three or four times in my life I was determined to take my body image into my own hands and each was only a partial success. I've always routed around the failure. I'm tough and scrappy. I never really wanted to be.. well it's more honest to say that I long, long ago gave up on being tall, heroic and commanding. I've never even slam dunked on a 9 foot hoop, nor bench pressed more than 180. I spent all of high school shorter than 5' 7" and under 150 pounds. I've always had an indomitable spirit, admittedly to the point of what was always interpreted as arrogance. But it was the sort of arrogance one does not assume of bigger, taller men. In them it's called 'natural leadership'. In my last days before fatherhood, embarked on my penultimate physical fitness project. It was called the 'huge project' in which my aim was to make myself look an order of magnitude more pugnacious and swaggery. I suppose exactly like LL Cool J without the tatoos.
I started eating like a pig, and I really haven't stopped since 1993, roughly 50 pounds ago. I had a short hiatus in '03 with a literal poverty diet and dropped down to 185 via cardio-kickboxing and unemployment. But all the flab is back, on top of my sturdy frame. And quite frankly it's all belly. From a rear view, I still look athletic, but the side view is an abomination. I need to crank off four inches of waist. The odd thing is that until about a year ago, I had a certain amount of confidence that one crash program, maybe six weeks of unemployment, was all I needed to get right back to where I was in '93. Now I realize what foolishness that is. I still had a decent beach volleyball game, but that was all skill and not athleticism.
I'm joing the geriatric gym this week. But that's only part of the story - what I'm really after is the martial mindset. What I'm coming to realize like a boot to the head that what I've been thinking about the martial world is all just theory, fiction and video games. OK that's a kind of triple redundant statement - but it has not been about getting in and kicking any physical ass. And so having purchased in my fever, some EDC and tactical folding blades, and taking shooting quite seriously, it has become quite plain to me that I need to just get out there and do. I have tools, but having the tools is meaningless. It's worse than meaningless, it's foolishness.
I don't expect that mastery will come soon or simply, but I know that competence will. And that amounts to putting in something every day. And so I've begun to stretch - without the preconceived notion that I'm going to get over some magic bubble and suddenly become what I once was, only smarter. This is to a new body. A new beginning. Because it's necessary. I am no longer satisfied with the comeraderie of first responders. It has got to be me.