The fountain in the desert

The underlying thought is I’ve been guilty in the past thinking about others and judging their technical Aikido that I now regret, it takes time to see and much longer to admit it? 

Explaining in story form what came on a journey back from an Aikido seminar, you may have to search for the deeper meanings, it is intentional.

Long ago those who decided to travel across deserts without knowing if water could be found on their journey; they would take as much as they could, but never enough the stories tell.

Those brave (some might say stupid), had a driving passion to go forward finding out if it was possible to travel the length of this vast enduring plain in hopes to cross and conquer. They all had a plan, and I’m sure there were many differences as they’re still are today, sadly many paths are never completed.

One thing in common was the hope of finding water on the way. Early travelers risked much by their journey but in doing so gained knowledge of the location of the desert fountains, they shared their find and drew maps for others. For many would-be travelers, this was the start of following in the footsteps of those who had shown the way.

Looking at my difficult time in 2020 and beyond, having to decide the testing of others who wish to see if their advancement has reached the next level, lots of thought must go into giving a fair balance to each and everyone, rewarding or ask if they would walk some more in search of, the missing fountain within them.

‘Who knows the answer to this?’ After pondering on this subject for some time, I have concluded that this is how I will view and make my final decision, writing this with all these points being in my mind. 

Aikido means so much to me, as I’m sure it does with others that have decided to follow the art. We all embarked on a simple journey, or so it seemed at the outset, we soon realise it is far from this.

For many, the journey is far too hard to reach the other side and only the few will see the true benefit, others stop on the way and may go on to other levels of searching or just give up and become perhaps sheep-like and walk without thinking where their own life could belong, as long as life has its material rewards perhaps this life was all that they had hoped for.

The rest struggle and know that this opportunity was given to them, to find the purpose of why they are here, they know they must take this journey to the end of the desert.

The fountain in the desert was there for those who wanted to travel this way and enabled them to find replenishment just when they needed it most. Finally, maps were drawn up and others did not need to worry because others had done the hard work for them. Did those fortunate enough to follow after the brave first ones, realise just what sacrifices had been made in their search for knowledge; did they realise how invaluable were the notes the first travelers left, that make for a safe and successful crossing of the vast desert?

Nowadays everyone takes for granted just buy a map and take the easy road, a little harsh as even the new explorers think their journey hard even with the map. If they only listen; it would be much easier, they could save time not looking at worthless points wasting time, as others had already experienced in the past, that held no value to the ultimate goal.

I have seen many giving words of wisdom to be looked upon as old fossils that could talk but did not show it with the body. New explorers knew they were far smoother and looked more advanced in their preparations. Sadly their eyes could only see through a small passage what they thought was of value, so they progressed with this the first thought that came. To them the passage was clear and all they needed was lots of data from a chosen few. Were the few wise, or just good at showing clear form? A straight line is not always the quickest route. No? Think about it.

For many, it looked like a lot of sand before one’s eyes, to others fascinating the curious ones just needed to see what was over the high waves of sand, as most believed that to see the other side of the wave or dune one would hold the key, the knowledge that some others had not attained, put off by the hard work and physical torture involved, some travellers the physical cost was not a punishment but a pleasure, as they thought the reward worth the pain.

The first few I bet the fountain was a lifesaver and surely once the maps were drawn a few following may have said in passing how they thank those who found the fountain. Perhaps some just drank from the fountain because it was there their main thought was to get the journey over to reach the ultimate goal and reap a reward of acknowledgment from others.

Those who worked at finding the fountain in the first place, perhaps they realised it was a wonderful journey, taking it had continued to give them many other rewards.

The rewards may be more important than finishing the journey; because to tell others of what not to do was more important than to see others make the same mistakes as they had done.

You may say; ‘why do they still make mistakes if they found the fountain?’ they may reply; ‘if we had such knowledge at the start; we may have found it easier ourselves’.

As modern-day passes heroes of today have the challenges, also gifts you cannot buy, friends that have seen the pitfalls, the easy paths to take but did not themselves, through blindness or just not seeing the clear path, always there.

The modern-day hero takes the gifts; the warrior from the past takes the credit, but from who?

I believe the responsibility to attribute the credit falls on me, I look at each person I have to think what has this person done to pinpoint the details of the fountain did they help those in need?

Have they given to others freely the gifts to be seen by all, should they be rewarded?

However, If I think they have only done this journey for themselves, perhaps they need to walk another desert to find their first real fountain, then we will see if they wish to tell others of their find or not, this is the test for us all.

I look at all the angles of what is before me, I see the ones that walked the path much longer than most and are still here today. Why have they walked so long without climbing to the heights of what others have been able in a shorter time frame, what did they give, as they walked longer than many others do they deserve rewarding? Did what they give help others to surpass even themselves?

Will my decision help them find the impetus to start the walk all over and find another desert looking for the fountain of knowledge the vast inner fountains that we all still need to tap?

I’d like to end this on a thought.

The fountain may not be as good as those who drink from it, but without it, no one would survive the journey, therefore like bricks in a house we must all thank each other for being part of something that holds others together and makes their life a pleasurable experience.

In the time I finished this piece I realised it is the same challenge not just for me but all teachers having to decide on giving awards to others, we all have to search our mind on what to look for in another.

In my opinion, those who put in the extra training time months before such an event truly deserves the respect and rewards that the teachers can offer back.

It is not all about passing; but passing well, to be at one’s best, if this is not the time for them to go forward at least they cannot criticise themselves for not trying.

Saito Sensei testing students around the world would ask the teachers who put forward their students.

  1. Are they a good person?
  2. Do they support the dojo?

Not interested in how they would show the technical side, he knew that if they had been put forward they must be ready in the eyes of the teacher.

If these two questions were not answered to his satisfaction he would want to know why they were not fulfilling 1 & 2.

Tony Sargeant