Monthly Archives: October 2007

I'm Up

Yes, I’m up again. Not even, but up.

I think it’s pret­ty obvi­ous that I don’t think straight when lack­ing sleep. I get very grumpy, and Bronwen knows not to get in my way when that hap­pens (and not to call me “Mr. Grumpykins”). Still, even with enough sleep, I don’t think it would have changed how I was feel­ing.

So I picked myself up by read­ing the para­bles of Chuang Tzŭ1. Though it’s still well beyond my grasp, I’m slow­ly learn­ing how to achieve utter empti­ness and sin­gle-mind­ed still­ness.

I like to think that I’m aware enough to know that I’m not delud­ing myself into this state-of-mind.

Sometimes I won­der if I sound like a born-again Christian, only with Taoism. One of those peo­ple who gets preachy, where every­thing they say relates to their new-found faith. It’s as if my brain process­es every­thing through a Tao fil­ter, and I see every­thing in a dif­fer­ent way. I try to be con­scious of it in con­ver­sa­tion, to avoid bor­ing some­one who would­n’t real­ly under­stand any­way, but I can’t help but write about it here.

Nevertheless, I feel enlight­ened, though still human2; I’m not sure if I’ll get the rug pulled out from under me again. It’s a strange feel­ing. In this mind­set, it’s as if noth­ing can stop you. Until some­thing hap­pens.

Part of me wish­es I was­n’t feel­ing this high. That I was more even, like Pat. It’s a bal­ance of emo­tion that I seek, not the dra­mat­ic ups and downs. I’ll be con­tent when I can achieve that.

Hence it is para­dox­i­cal­ly said, “Perfect hap­pi­ness is to be with­out hap­pi­ness; the high­est praise is to be with­out praise”.

  1. Dave helped talk some sense into me as well. I think part of my recov­ery was that our dis­cus­sion led me to feel as if he’s a kin­dred spir­it. []
  2. When look­ing back on this entry, I real­ized that I wrote about pick­ing myself up twice in one month. I don’t even remem­ber writ­ing it the first time. []

A Feint Within A Feint Within A Feint

Knowing where the trap is — that’s the first step in evad­ing it. This is like sin­gle com­bat, Son, only on a larg­er scale — a feint with­in a feint with­in a feint…seemingly with­out end. The task is to unrav­el it.

—Duke Leto Atreides, Dune

A feint can be used as a test, to gath­er infor­ma­tion, or a trap, to get some­one to do what you want them to do, or both.

The most impor­tant part to under­stand is that the oppo­nent is inher­ent­ly involved in the sit­u­a­tion. You can only gain advan­tage from a feint depend­ing on the way he or she (re)acts.

A savvy per­son will react with exact­ly the right amount of effort, espe­cial­ly impor­tant because a feint is only a mock attack. In Tai Chi terms, they bal­ance an oppo­nen­t’s yin (expan­sion) with yang (com­pres­sion), and vice-ver­sa1. In Taoist terms, they act like a mir­ror, reflect­ing only that which is in front of them, noth­ing more and noth­ing less. With a savvy per­son, the feint fails, and noth­ing is gained.

An igno­rant per­son will fall for the trick. They over­re­act and unbal­ance them­selves2, expos­ing their vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties. Without under­stand­ing true inten­tion, with­out see­ing the big pic­ture, they get played like a suck­er.

And the more they react, the more ridicu­lous they look.

  1. Hence the empha­sis placed on stick­ing and yield­ing; a phys­i­cal con­nec­tion is need­ed to know where the cen­ter of an oppo­nent is at all times []
  2. In Tai Chi terms, this is con­sid­ered overex­tend­ing or col­laps­ing the struc­ture of the body or limbs []

Cat-Sitting Sprocket

While Joel and his fam­i­ly were on extend­ed vaca­tion, I took care of their cat, Sprocket.

He used to be 25 pounds (from the pre­vi­ous own­er who overfed him) but slimmed down to around 14 or 15, I’d say. You can tell he used to be much big­ger; if you run your hand down the length of his body, you can feel the bones on his frame stick­ing out promi­nent­ly, and there’s a fair amount of extra skin hang­ing from the bel­ly.

Thumbnail: Sprocket the cat lounges
Thumbnail: Sprocket the cat yawns
Thumbnail: Sprocket the cat
Thumbnail: Sprocket stalks Dolly

He nev­er got along with Dolly. For the entire time he was with me, which was just under two months, they got in about two dozen fights. Every now and then, there would be a tremen­dous cacoph­o­ny of hiss­ing, growl­ing, meow­ing, and run­ning from one end of the house to the oth­er. I’d say that Sprocket was more often the aggres­sor, but Dolly start­ed her share of fights. Even though she still has her back claws (Sprocket is com­plete­ly de-clawed), he had a large weight and size advan­tage. His bite is also very strong (which I found out from feed­ing him treats1), I’m guess­ing from all the prac­tice he got from eat­ing.

It made me re-think get­ting a sec­ond cat while Dolly’s still alive. Two cats can fill a house nice­ly, but she did­n’t get along with him at all. Since they don’t know how old Sprocket is, the aggres­sive­ness may sim­ply be due to his age, but I’m not sure I want to take the chance.

In any case, I can tell he enjoyed the change of pace, which was liv­ing in a house with two par­ents, two kids, and two dogs, to just me and a cat. He’s a suck­er for treats, meow­ing qui­et­ly as a “reminder” to give him one. One fun­ny thing I noticed is that he seemed to have hard­er-than-aver­age paws. When pac­ing around on the kitchen tiles before being fed, it would sound like a horse trot.

Sprocket also loves atten­tion. No mat­ter what I was doing — cook­ing break­fast, play­ing games upstairs, writ­ing down­stairs — he would fol­low me around. It did make my Tai Chi prac­tice more dif­fi­cult, as he’d spread out on the open car­pet and roll around under my feet.

He loves to sleep on blan­kets, and would always fall asleep on my sheets when I was under them, most com­mon­ly near the feet. He got along espe­cial­ly well with Bronwen. When she stayed the night, he would keep her up by con­stant­ly walk­ing over her body, look­ing for a warm place to nes­tle.

I’ll cer­tain­ly miss him. Hopefully, he’ll remem­ber me the next time I go over to Joel’s house.

  1. I don’t think he was ever fed by hand; he would always nip my fin­gers when giv­ing him a treat. Dolly is the oppo­site. She very del­i­cate­ly moves towards the treat with her mouth, and snatch­es the treat with her tongue. []