Thursday, July 01, 2010

Tempests in Teapots - A Lesson from the Silat Wars

Got an email the other day from somebody who arrived late to the online silat wars of years back. He'd heard some things, and had a question.

What was all that about between you and so-and-so? he wondered. ("So-and-so" being a fairly well-known fellow in the field regarding matters mayhem.)

Ancient history, and not worth pursuing, I said. We had a difference of opinion, agreed to disagree, and went our separate ways, no big deal. I dunno what he's got to say about me, but I'm not bad-mouthing him -- he knows what he knows, I know what I know -- such that it is -- and the world is big enough for both of us to stretch out without smacking into each other.

Yes, yes, he understood that, but he had heard the story from someone in the other camp, and I came off as something of a, well -- not to put too fine a point on it -- obnoxious asshole.

That's worth a big grin. I been called worse, and welcome to my world ...

C'mon, you can tell me, he said.

Memory sometimes plays tricks, so I dug through my old emails -- re-read what I said, what so-and-so said, and what some others involved the discussion added, and -- aside from more typos than I remember making -- stand by my part in the debate. Why, I was the soul of reason ... well, okay, sometimes a bit hot-under-the-collar and cutting in my statements, but in retrospect, my position, speech, and action all still seem perfectly valid, vis a vis the substance of my argument.

Of course it would, wouldn't it? We mostly don't like to think of ourselves as obnoxious assholes.

The anger I felt then is long-gone, faded to a head-shake when I think about it these days, and I confess I hadn't thought about it in a while. Another of life's shrugs and "Ah, well, there you go." moments. Move along, not the droids for which I was looking ...

Kind of funny how earnest I was, in retrospect, all righteous and full of sound and fury, stirring the teapot tempest real good.

There's a lesson here, I realized. Life is too short to get all wound around your own axle about little things. I have spent too much time in that arena.

So I told him the story as I saw it, but with the it-really-doesn't-matter-worth-sour-owl-poot caveat. Live and learn.

(No, I'm not going to rehash it here in la blogita. If you know enough to know who so-and-so is in this, I'll be happy to shoot you an my email telling my side of the tale, but otherwise, nah. Part of the lesson I finally got: In holy wars, both sides consider themselves God's chosen, and when the party is over, the Devil collects his share of souls ...)


Justin said...

Sounds like looking back was a good exercise in trusting yourself and being confident in your assessments.

I hope your slight rehash to this new dude doesn't bite you in the butt.

Steve Perry said...

I don't expect it will cause me any grief -- this happened quite a while back, before I started this blog.

Always the chance that some of the people I've argued with since will think I'm talking about them, but I'm not.

Dan Moran said...

Hurricanes look like galaxies. Never noticed that before.

AF1 said...

As a bit of an aside, you have written before about how Paul de Thouars is the most senior teacher of the style in the US.

Where does brother Maurice in Holland fit into the lineage? Or would that question up another controversial kettle of fish too?

AF1 said...

*or would that question open up another controversial kettle of fish. That's what I meant to type!

Dan Gambiera said...

AF1, if a #10 can is marked Warning: Worms Under High Pressure a wise man will put the can opener down and back away slowly.

That said, I've only heard good things about Maurice de Thoaurs.

Steve Perry said...

Maurice is the oldest surviving brother, as I understand it, and he and Paul studied the art together as young men. I understand that Paul was given the lineage, but I don't think that matters much -- Maurice stayed in Holland and Paul moved to the U.S. and they've had limited contact since. I dunno if they are speaking to each other these days. Hard to tell who's talking to whom in Sera(k) circles at any given time.

The Dutch guys bang at it pretty hard -- the pukulan aspect is pretty strong. My teacher had a chance to meet some of them on one of his European teaching trips some years back, and he liked what he saw. We do a couple techniques he picked up there

Paul swapped stuff with Rudy ter Linden and Jimmy Woo and his version of the art moved in a somewhat different direction, the emphasis is not as much on the pukulan (hitting) aspect from what I can tell.

I expect that what they do now doesn't look an awful lot like what either of them did fifty years ago. They evolved to teach their own versions of the basic art.

wim said...

I only saw the silat wars from a distance and heard some second and third hand accounts but it was plenty already for me. It's good to hear things have settled a bit.

I've seen the same type of wars in pretty much every style of MAs though. Must be something in a MAist's genes that makes him prone to arguing. :-)


Steve Perry said...

Wim --

I don't think things have settled so much as that I and some of the other players have more or less left the field.

If you state something about your art over on, you can book it that somebody will be all over it like howls on a hyena.

Always somebody waiting to take a nip at your backside when you walk past. My last argument there started when somebody came into our little club house and interrupted a pleasant discussion we were having amongst ourselves by telling us we were all naught but shadows of Real Silat™ ...

One of the things one has to consider in any exchange of words is who is on the other side of the fence. If you debate with somebody who believes God is on his side, you can't change his beliefs.

Of course, most of the time when you are arguing in public forum, he's not who you are trying to convince anyhow, it's the lurkers who are overhearing. HIs camp and yours aren't likely to toss their opinions no matter who says what.

There was a period wherein I thought being reasonable and truthful as I saw it would be enough.

It isn't.

And as I pointed out to another player who has also spent too much time in these debates, when we are lying on our death-beds and wishing for a few more days, we'll wish we had all those wasted hours back ...

Stan said...

Interesting point, M. Perry!

I am now working with a Hospice agency and I've spent many evenings with patients and families who are waiting to "close the book."

Not a single person has ever said, "Gee, I really wish I had won the argument with that @$$hole!"

Life is short. It appears to get shorter as we move further along. Prioritization of our intents and efforts seems to become even more important!