Here it is again. Valid at the time of writing, this article was originally published on Aikido Journal Online in four part installments during June and July of 2007. Since that time further advances have been made in the relevant fields of study.
Part 1 – Taming The Reptilian (Introduction)
There is a passage that goes: “Behold how wondrously thou art made…” I can’t recall where it’s from and couldn’t find it. If somebody recognizes it, I would appreciate if you would help refresh my memory.
That ideal condition we tend to blithely throw about, wrapped in the word ‘peace’, takes courage and maintenance to bring about and is often, especially under provocation, more hard work than simply joining the fray and letting vent to anger or running away and hiding somewhere at the expense of other victims. Dressing failure up in justifiable sounding platitudes, talking incessantly about ‘peace’ but being unable to stop war, is nothing more than voluble soliloquy, not conversation. Maintaining real and lasting conditions for inner peace and outer harmony requires sincere and skilled work. As with anything, that’s the price we pay for the gain. In the long term, it is obviously a more rewarding path than the chaos of either violence or cowardice.
But where does it all begin? Does violence mysteriously drop on us from outer space? Can we really relegate blame on a mythical devil? Or is it all in the way we are made?
Without a doubt the ‘old software’ of the reptilian ‘R’ Complex served our survival well for millions of years where daily life was a life and death struggle. But to get stuck in primitive behaviours whilst simultaneously having access to advanced technology can easily bring about our extinction as a species, by our own hand.
Would that be a waste? If we consider the sacrifice of the immense value of long ages of art, science and all that constitutes genuinely human experience and vast potential, yes! If on the other hand we choose to cling to reptilian ways, then we merely judge ourselves as we foist ourselves on our own petard. The petard of the retard and the laggard. Aggression.
Aikido is nothing new. All nature and natural processes have an aiki of their own. It is an inevitable conclusion of sustaining any existence through reconciliation of force. The converse is annihilation. For the human being, Aikido training finds the links in the jigsaw between physics and metaphysics, heaven and earth, to transmute the energy of friction and perceived conflict into harmonious action by bridging the gap between harmony and chaos and clarifying understanding.
Proper lifestyle, training and contemplative disciplines can contribute to this result. Whilst there is no guarantee, as it depends on the individual, it is preferable to at least try to research and develop methodologies and practical mental and material sciences in this direction.
Before we can come to terms with our own unresolved violent tendencies, we first have to acknowledge that they exist and that we are an imperfect species still evolving. A work in progress. We need to understand that it is indeed possible to reconcile ourselves and find internal peace. Once that is a achieved we will then become capable of manifesting it externally instead of the greed based delusional, self obsessive destructivity we see all around us, on a scale that no other species will even consider.
Whether you like it or not, on the dissecting table we are all alike and contain the same parts. This includes the brainstem. The ‘R’ Complex. The Reptilian Brain.
Most people live with secret fears, but act happy. Some are so much in denial of this that they believe they are not suffering. But this is given the lie by the fact they can be readily manipulated through their fears, as cheap, dirty politics have repeatedly shown. The extreme cases of chronic worry sometimes become psychotically paranoid that they seek to manipulate the fears of others. So-called “power”, in fact power over others, arises from this disease. It is a reptilian predisposition.
Living in denial and repeating pseudo-religious platitudes is mere veneer and can be more dangerous than helpful. It is one form of temporary escape. It can be used for deceit as well. Then, when one day a severe situation succeeds in pressing your buttons, how will you respond? Will you then respond in a responsible manner or will you then react irrationally, superstitiously, angrily and destructively? I guarantee you will not recite scripture.
Response behaviour in emergency depends on many things: upbringing, education, personal predisposition, belief systems, genetically inherited tendencies, lifestyle, practice and more. Notwithstanding, all outcomes rely on the attitudes we hold and which motivate our actions.
Personally motivated training can make a considerable difference over time. (For those in a hurry, try running.) Usually people who talk peace do not mean peace at all. They usually have an agenda. Those busy doing peace have little time to talk. Neither ‘terror’ nor ‘peace’ can be found externally. They are subjective, mental, emotional and psychic conditions.
Harmonious conditions are not brought about by hot air, rather by RIGHT ACTION, harmonious activity. Often this requires immense courage and sometimes even the risk of death. Look at the lives of all social reformers, from Buddha, to Jesus, Muhammad, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Erin Brokovitch, The French resistance, Joe-Blo, yourself perhaps, whoever you know who has stood up and straightened their backbone to try to make some difference. And any other you may think of. They all had a constructive warrior attitude.
Making lasting changes takes guts not platitudes of peace and kindness. Sometimes it may even take risk and sacrifice. If your footsteps do not match the rhetoric what are your motives for making such noises?
As for the nature of material existence, there is nowhere in the world of matter which is at rest. It’s an impossibility. Matter must be in motion in some way, simply to exist. Indeed it arises from the motion and friction of electrons, atoms and molecules. Not even in stagnation such as found in the most immobile deep-sea water can true stillness exist. Interestingly when movement significantly ceases, life cannot exist. Matter cannot be at peace. It requires movement and friction to generate heat, motion, condensation, dispersal and all those attributes, which make the primary conditions suitable for life.
Peace, because it is a state of mind, irrespective of external circumstances, cannot be found other than in creative action, and this exists only in the mind. Behaviour may reflect such peace. Or otherwise. An animal which is chasing is not at peace. An animal striving to escape is even less at peace. This includes the ‘human’ animal. Fight and flight are not what peace is made of. No matter how it is otherwise described or spun or manipulated by the use of sophisticated technology, it’s the same behaviour.
How can we achieve a clear, conscious and calm mind, irrespective of what life is throwing up? And how can we use this to propel harmonious behaviours? How can we respond constructively and creatively instead of going apeshit or becoming vindictive and destructive?
It goes without saying, that if there is a “god” which created everything, such would not favour one aspect of creation and persecute another. You would not chop off your right arm in favour of your left. An old Sufi song goes: “There is only one God. He created all. When you look down upon another of His creation, you blaspheme.” If such a Being did exist I think He would most deeply grieve at the destruction of his beloved handiwork in all its forms by some other parts. And also, He-She-It would carefully note the virus in the program of Creation with a secure plan to correct the problem. Watch out for cosmic defrag. It may affect the weather.
Anger resides in the disturbed mind. Nowhere else. We have to own it, admit it, before we can change it. Why do we experience anger? Could it be that it is a natural part of us which when properly channeled is just another reservoir of energy. True, when anger goes to the extreme and gets stuck with an uncontrollably blocked valve, it becomes habituated and much like a cancer, it forms into hatred and leads to inappropriate and criminal behaviours and eventually either implodes or explodes or both.
In imminent survival you need the rage, the emotional content, intensity. In extreme emergencies unbelievable energy is unleashed. But once this intensity has served to save life in an extreme situation, it must then be led back to its stable. Where does this intense potential come from? In Budo training we strive to simulate such intensity, learn from it and stay in charge of it.
During intense bursts of survival energy, both attributes of the universe’s polarities are tapped to generate the power required to survive. Call these Yin and Yang, Heaven and Earth, positively charged electrons and negative; it’s all the same stuff. When the two unite, power is unleashed.
Through regular activity this energy can be formatted to serve numerous purposes.
But this fiery energy, whilst a life giver, must, like any fire, be contained. Uncontained fire can be dangerous and have the opposite effect. Much like riding a fast horse, it is preferred if a constructive relationship exists, otherwise it bolts, often with disastrous results.
Going through the motions without emotions, without feelings of intensity, is not true Budo. Even dance has fire. Controlled fire. Kiai is but one example of tempered full expression. When properly executed, it taps that source energy and lets it return again.
In the animal kingdoms intensity serves a purpose. Survival. Animals communicate. We only have words, but most animals have a vast range of nuances at their disposal. An awareness spectrum which most of today’s people are unconscious of. Lack of use has made dormant many of our other communication abilities. The way you feel, if indeed you allow yourself to feel, is part of that communication. It serves a purpose, having evolved over millions of years of necessity.
Suddenly that necessity, much of it, was removed and we focussed on other faculties, also valid, but rather different. We’ll come to those later.
When a beast raises its hackles, it is communicating a warning. Something like this: “If you leave now I won’t have to cross the line because once I do anything is possible. If either of us cross the line you may die.”
Once the line from rational behaviour is crossed and the irrational is activated, there is no telling. Violence is not predictable. Not in full. Real combat is dangerous and can be deadly. There are no rules. Don’t expect to win unscathed.
Posturing is another story. Play fighting seldom results in death. There are degrees of destructivity. As humans, some of those domains of expression are no longer appropriate or useful. Most people no longer hunt to eat. We gather, but only from supermarkets.
However, it was not that long ago that our close ancestors lived a life sometimes more intense and more violent than many of us now experience in today’s world. We all like to imagine we are “nice people”; but under the surface is an entirely different story. Some would deny this because, with fear, they worry what their version of a god may think of them. We forget that, if there is such a figure, and it created all things, it knows exactly how you are made and can see through all pretenses. All the components are known. Our scientists too, are slowly discovering how we are made.
An ancient wise one made this suggestion: “Know thyself.” He meant in all your parts, not just the nice clothes.
When “training” “wild” animals the best way is to get in early and make friends then demonstrate that you can be trusted, bond; and most beasts will be willing to please; then, if their understanding is that you are more alpha than they and will not abuse the position, they find their place. (You have to prove this with fairness and wisdom, not merely by bullying.) Notwithstanding, there is no democracy in the animal kingdom. Nor for that matter in the human world either really, despite the label misused to pretend it exists where the ‘more equal’ generally bully those who choose complacency of mind as way of life. Hierarchy is part of nature. Properly used, as healthy chain of command, it serves to maximise efficiency through organised teamwork. Misused it merely collapses into the anarchy of bullies and victims. The dark side of existence.
Late communication is dangerous. Suspicion has had time to grow. Fear arises and you have a fight on your hands. A bolting horse is no place for the unskilled to sit, but no horse will ever bolt with a skilled rider. Same with the dragon. This principle is pretty much the same in human relations. Making enemies is not a smart move. Making friends is always helpful and even more so when they started off as enemies.
When it comes to violence, whether in physically overt violence or a lifetime of subjugation, post traumatic symptoms will result whether we ‘won’ or ‘lost’. The self-fulfilling engine which drives conflict is fear, fear that if we don’t ‘get’ ‘them’ first they will get us. When any two or more ‘sides’ fixate their belief in this paradigm, it becomes so and they lock into a downward spiral with only one inevitable conclusion. Eventual mutual destruction.. This is the basis of all war, dysfunction and interpersonal conflict. Conversely, another paradigm, that of: When we help others sustain, enhance, develop, rise and improve, we insure our own sustainability, enhancement, development, ascension, and improvement, is the basis of all fruitful exchanges whether cultural, trade or interpersonal. The engine that drives this view is love, respect, compassion, whatever you want to call it. When all parties embrace this paradigm all things become possible. Even what was previously considered impossible. Globally we currently seem to be caught somewhere between the two. It is a delicate and dangerous balance of power. Are we now teetering on the edge?
Resolving and preventing violent possibilities begins with ourselves and for it to begin, we must first MAKE FRIENDS WITH OURSELVES and get know who we are. It includes reconciling our own reptilian tendencies. This has many ramifications.
The paths of Budo serve the purpose of waking us up internally, and thereby enable creative and harmonized relationships through courtesy, respect and co-creativity in the recognition of possible outcomes of behaviours and actions. Not stagnant ideas about an impossible “peace”, but living, moving harmony through authentic and sincere human relations. It also provides a backup in the event that imminent defence becomes necessary.
Part 2 – How It All Works – The Three Layers; Mechanisms of Biology and Violence
(How the mechanisms of our biology of violence works)
A vital part of human violence research relates to The Triune Brain. The triune brain model of the brain proposes to explain the function of traces of evolution existing in the structure of the human brain. In this model, the brain is identified in three interactive parts, each having their own special intelligence, subjectivity, sense of time and space, memory and function. The triune brain consists of: The ‘R’ Complex (or Reptilian Brain); the Midbrain incorporating the Limbic System; and the Neocortex (or forebrain as distinct in humans). These ‘layers’ of the brain as researched in Neuroscience, Embryology and Anthropology are worthwhile studies which may add to understanding of Budo and all that appertains to Budo. Some of the information may provide insights that could assist in identifying and understanding various modes of behaviour and motivation for those working in services offering a protective, security capacity.
To delve briefly into the mechanisms of our make-up, should give us some small degree of insight into aggression in relation to the “why” we are the way we are as a species, and at least to some extent, why we behave in the strange ways we do.
The body, brain and nervous system have evolved over many millions of years to contain those inbuilt survival mechanisms that served us best when faced with the sometimes extreme and intense necessities of the past. The rest we are still no doubt adapting to, and, it is extremely apparent, we are an unfinished evolution.
The Human Brain generally weighs just over 3 lbs or about 1.5 kilos). The entire brain is enveloped in three protective sheets known as the meninges, continuations of the membranes that wrap the spinal cord. The two inner sheets enclose a shock-absorbing cushion of cerebrospinal fluid. Nerve fibers in the brain are covered in a near-white substance called myelin and form the white matter of the brain. Nerve cell bodies, which are not covered by myelin sheaths, form the gray matter.
The brain is divided into three major parts; the Ancient Reptilian Brain (Also known as the ‘R’ Complex or simplistically as Brain Stem or Hindbrain which includes the Cerebellum); The Old Mammalian Brain (Visceral, Midbrain or Paleomamalian Brain) which incorporates the Limbic System; and the Forebrain which is the Neo-Cortex (Also referred to New Mammalian Brain or Neomammalian Brain and which includes the diencephalon and the cerebrum).
The Neo-Cortex (Also referred to as: New Mammalian Brain or Neomammalian Brain)
A simplified cross section of the human brain should illustrate the Neo-Cortex which is unique to the human being and this part of the brain relates to many things among which are the arts, the sciences, humanities, appreciation of beauty, refinement and so on. Some neo-cortex functions are: reading, writing, numerical skills, discrimination, discernment, judgment, selection, choice, initiation, innovation, self assessment, gratitude, gift-giving, memory, imagination, intuition, tool making, strategy and so forth. The Neocortex also contains all our memories. This is the part of our brain that notices complex patterns, perceives and interprets reality, and remembers the past. Its job is to build an operational model of the world geared towards optimal navigation. This part of the brain functions as an active, adaptive, pattern matching memory mechanism. It is consulted for behavior, but it doesn’t drive it.
Generally speaking, the left hemisphere is said to refer to task orientation and cataloguing information whilst right is said to pertain to intuition, imagination and empathy. Balance between the hemispheres of the brain (which refer to the opposite side of the body) is said to reflect a more empowered individual, although this is oversimplified and not the whole story.
The Old Mammalian Brain. Also referred to as: (The Visceral or Midbrain or Paleomamalian Brain which incorporates the Limbic System)
The Old Mammalian Brain incorporates the Limbic System – this is the bridge between the outer personality and ancient instincts. Its responses, and those of the cerebellum are our main concern here. Identified in the ‘Limbic System’ of the brain are what scientists have nicknamed the four “f’s” mechanism. This refers to the functions of “fighting”, “fleeing”, “feeding” and “procreation” or mating; all essential for a species’ sustained survival. The Limbic System directs the overall behavior of our body when we are awake. It makes us crave food when our blood sugar is low. And it drives sexual behaviours, familial bonding, protection of children, posture, balance and the impulse to defend ourselves. The Midbrain has certain survival responses hard wired into it, resulting from millions of years of evolutionary genetic experience. Our ancestors who successfully survived and managed to breed, continued the genetic line. The ones who did not survive failed to exercise the equipment to do so and did not live to breed. You are here because of the successful ones.
Through regular training you begin to tap these mechanisms and enhance your personal protection potentials. But there is a caveat, we are no longer deemed to be ‘primitive’ and there are certain constraints, ideals and standards we aspire to.
Some attributes and functions of the Old Mammalian Brain-Limbic System are: Coordination of sensory input with emotions, emotional responses to pain, regulation of aggressive behavior, fuller more productive life, religiosity due to instability, sharing to some degree with other mammals, bonding, tribal instincts, family and social attachments, play and joy, creativeness, ambivalence, change, nurturing impulse, helping to take care of, need to cling, avoidance, dependence on others, all relationships, and so on.
The Limbic System, a remarkable and still incomplete study, is found within the Midbrain.
The Limbic System contained within The Old Mammalian Midbrain Brain, comprises, among other parts the Thalamus, Amygdala, Hypothalamus, Cingulate, Anterior Cingulae, Cingulate Gyrus; and includes the endocrine gland known as the Pineal Gland,(also known as Epiphysis Cerebri, or Epiphysis) shaped like a tiny pine cone which is located near the centre of the brain.
The Hypothalamus controls essential hormone release and balance. It also synthesises Vasopressin, a vasopressor and antidiuretic peptide hormone released from the axonal terminals of magnocellular neurons in the hypothalamus. It is of interest here because it is associated with the regulation of water balance, blood pressure, body temperature, intense focus, reflexes, self-image, short and long-term memory, and aggression. Vasopressin is also associated with social behavior such as pair-bonding between the sexual partners and induces males to behave aggressively towards other males.
The Amygdala processes physical fear responses, such as faster heart rate, sweating, increased breathing and behaviors, like trying to escape the situation that is causing the fear.
Adjacent to the Amygdala is the all important Hippocampus, a horseshoe shaped sheet of neurons located within the temporal lobes and which importantly, functions to deal with memory learning and emotion as well as spatial orientation, navigation and consolidation of new memories. Emotion and memory being very closely related, the Midbrain also contains the Cingulate, Anterior Cingulae, Cingulate Gyrus. In brief, a Gyrus describes a fold or “bump” in the brain serving special functions and purposes. The Cingulate Gyrus is situated above the Corpus Callosum (A thick band of nerve fiber/connecting tissues which connects the right and left hemispheres of the brain), located between the Cingulate Sulcus and the Sulcus (groove or indentation) of the Corpus Callosum. These deal with higher cognition, multitasking and functional connectivity. The anterior Cingulate Gyrus is a pivotal component of brain networks directing affective and cognitive functions. As part of the Rostral Limbic System, the Anterior Cingulate Gyrus modulates internal emotional responses. Cognitively, the Anterior Cingulate Gyrus is considered to be an integral component of a variety of executive functions such as motivation, attention, working memory, learning, especially in novel situations and when overcoming habitual responses and includes decision making, awareness and insight. This brain activity may represent immediate emotional reaction to outcomes and spontaneous decision-making. All attributes essential for progress in Budo as well and living in natural environments.
At the very centre of all this is the Epiphysis or Pineal Gland. The Pineal Gland is a small organ shaped like a pine cone, hence its name. It is located on the midline, attached to the posterior end of the roof of the third ventricle in the brain. The Pineal varies in size among species; in humans it is roughly one centimetre in length, less than half an inch.
The retina of the eyes transmits information about light-dark exposure to the Pineal Gland. Light exposure to the retina is first relayed to the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the Hypothalamus, an area of the brain well known to coordinate biological clock signals. Fibres from the Hypothalamus descend to the spinal cord and ultimately project to the Superior Cervical Ganglia, from which post-ganglionic neurons ascend back to the Pineal Gland. Thus, the Pineal is similar to the Adrenal Medulla in the sense that it transduces signals from the sympathetic nervous system into a hormonal signal. The Pineal Gland synthesises Melatonin from Seratonin. It contains a number of peptides, including GnRH, TRH, and Vasotocin, along with a number of important neurotransmitters such as Somatostatin, Norepinephrine, Serotonin, and Histamine. The major pineal hormone, however, is Melatonin, a derivative of the amino acid Tryptophan. Secretion of Melatonin is enhanced whenever the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated. Secretion increases soon after an animal is in the dark; the opposite effect takes place immediately upon exposure to light. Its major action is to block the secretion of GnRH by the Hypothalamus and of Gonadotropins by the Pituitary. It is possible that the Pineal contains an as yet unidentified hormone that serves as yet unknown functions. Melatonin is the only hormone now known to be secreted by the Pineal Gland.
Melatonin also plays an important role in regulating sleeping cycles. With dawn the Pineal Gland stops producing melatonin, and wakefulness and alertness return. The high level of melatonin production in young children may explain their tendency to sleep longer than adults.
In mammals other than humans Melatonin acts as a breeding and mating cue. It is produced in greater amounts in response to the longer nights of winter and less so during summer. Animals who time their mating or breeding to coincide with favorable seasons, such as spring, may depend on melatonin production as a kind of biological clock which contributes to regulate their reproductive cycles following the length of the solar day.
Limbic System and Pineal Gland functions are also associated with experiences of precognition, vivid dreaming, déjàvu, sense of illumination or enlightenment, serendipity, influx of light, a sense of bonding with the universe, greater concerns for others, benevolent intent, compassion etc., as well as experiences recognized by meditators.
The Old Mammalian Midbrain with the Limbic System is a remarkable area of study. Whilst still incomplete and not thoroughly understood, it is a key component associated with life experience and behaviour.
The Ancient Reptilian Brain (Also known as the ‘R’ Complex or simplistically as Brain Stem or Hindbrain which includes the cerebellum)
The Ancient Reptilian Brain or ‘R’ Complex is the most ancient layer and relates to predatorial, action-reaction, direct action, primal behaviours, violent mechanisms. It is located at the juncture of the cerebrum and the spinal column. It inserts into the Midbrain and consists of the Medulla Oblongata, and the Pons which is part of the Brainstem, the continuation of the Reptilian Brain which is conjoined by the Thalamus.
Some attributes of the Reptilian Brain are: territorial, personal space, demand, hoarding, prejudice, fixed daily routines of self care, preening, aggression, repetitive sharp moves to make a point, tactics to give the impression of power, ritualistic staying with routines – even self defeating ones; obsessive-compulsive behaviour, jealousy, envy, greed, possessiveness, hatred, stalking and capture, whether real or imaginary. Also ritualistic courtship, military encouragement of automatic behaviour, i.e. threat and responses, imitation of group responses, mob behaviour, rejection of people for not conforming, rigidity, armoring, etc.
The Reptilian Brain keeps the body alive. It decides when we wake up and when we go to sleep and keeps us breathing. The Brainstem contains most of the crainal nerves and supports the functions of alertness, arousal, breathing, blood-pressure, digestion, heart rate and other autonomic functions (those not under our conscious control). It also relays information between the peripheral nerves and spinal cord to the upper parts of the brain.
The Brainstem produces a wide range of simple movements and behaviors such as walking, running, eating, copulating, grooming, attacking etc. Whilst it does direct those behaviors and energizes the mechanism for them to take place, it only reacts to immediate stimuli. The other, higher parts of the brain are necessary to produce goal-oriented and more intricate behaviors. The Brainstem, per se, is the lower part of the brain, adjoining and structurally continuous with the spinal cord.
Part 3 – Vital Biology
(More aspects of our biological response mechanisms)
“The Brainstem is the lower part of the Reptillian Brain, adjoining and structurally continuous with the spinal cord. Most sources consider the pons, medulla oblongata, and midbrain all to be part of the brainstem and forming the Central Nervous System. The Cerebral Cortex sends connections (efferents) and receives connections (afferents) from many subcortical structures like the Thalamus and Basal Ganglia. Most of the sensory stimulation arrives at the Cerebral Cortex indirectly through different Thalamic Nuclei. This is the case of touch, vision and sound, but not of olfactory stimulation, which passes to the olfactory bulb and then to the olfactory (pyriform) cortex. The largest part of the connections arriving at the cerebral cortex do not come from subcortical structures however. The main source of cortical stimulation is the cerebral cortex itself: maybe 99% of the total connections..” (Braitenberg and Schüz, 1991).
Other areas receive impulses from the primary sensory areas and integrate the information coming in from different types of receptors (i.e., modalities). These are often called association areas and make up a great deal of the cortex in all primates, humans included. Thus, the cortex is commonly described as comprised of the primary sensory areas, the motor areas and the association area.
The Thalamus is located near the center of the brain, beneath the cerebral hemispheres and next to the third ventricle forebrain structure, part of the limbic system, that sorts incoming information. It is formed of grey matter and can be thought of as a relay station for nerve impulses throughout brain, connecting and communicating the three layers. In the forebrain it is responsible for the recognition of sensory stimuli and the relay of sensory impulses to the cerebral cortex. Located in the middle of the brain above the brainstem, it receives all sensory stimuli except olfactory, which are then associated, synthesized and relayed to specific areas of the Cerebrum. Impulses are also received from the Cerebrum, Hypothalamus, and Corpus Striatum and relayed to body’s muscles and coordinates body movements and sensations; it is the center for appreciation of primitive, uncritical sensations of pain, crude touch and temperature. The Thalamus is that subdivision of the brain which serves as a vital relay station between the sensory nerves and the Cerebral Cortex, processing messages to and from the Cerebral Cortex. It functions in arousal and the integration of sensory information. It helps process information from the senses and transmit it to other parts of the brain. It is the key relay station for sensory information flowing into the brain, filtering out important messages from the mass of signals entering the sensory nerves enable people to feel objects that they touch, and they allow people to feel pain.
Central Nervous System
The Central Nervous System is divided into two parts: the Brain and the Spinal Cord. The average adult human brain weighs 1.3 to 1.5 kg (approximately 3 pounds). The brain contains about 100 billion nerve cells (neurons) and trillions of “support cells” called glia. The spinal cord is about 43 cm long in adult women and 45 cm long in adult men and weighs about 35 to 40 grams. The vertebral, spinal or dorsal column, the collection of bones forming the backbone, houses the spinal cord. It is about 70 cm long. The spinal cord is much shorter than the vertebral column.
The Central Nervous System consists mainly of the brain and spinal cord it serves, and which functions to process feedback from the outer world, the immediate environment and adaptive responses to environmental demands as follows:
Receptors – receive information via environment.
Effectors – alter the body with respect to feedback by way of endocrinal, glandular & bio-chemical and other changes e.g. preparation for action such as adrenaline etc.
In brief, we have:
a) Sensory functions
b) Associative functions
c) Motor functions
Sensory: are the receptors such as feeling, tasting, smelling, seeing and hearing and other subtle signals such as pheromones, electro-magnetic, thought signals etc. not consciously identifiable by the average untrained person.
Associative: are the various unconscious mental survival drives which process and adapt the whole body to information as it is received and develops neural pathways, habits, free association etc. in preparation for future similar necessities.
Motor Responses: are the active responses which the body takes to survive or thrive such as focus of attention, acting on intention, preconditioned responses and spontaneous necessity
Each serves a purpose.
there are …. alpha, beta, theta and delta.
Our main concern here is with the Beta Brain Waves. Related to the Beta Waves are: focussed attention, active concentration, orientation, anxiety, processing visual information, attention to active visual stimuli, learning, problem solving, high arousal levels in metabolism, orienting and response mechanisms requiring a high level of vigilance etc.
The Fight or flight mechanism and regular self-defence practice and other such functions which improve with use, recruit Beta brain wave response.
The three layers of embryology forming the human body whilst a specialised study, provide some remarkable insights in how the human being works. These refer to the three layers of: Ectoderm, Mesoderm and Endoderm. These interact with the various other anatomical attributes to provide function.
Extreme and unusual situations cause excessive Sympathetic Nervous System arousal which can be so profound that it causes parasympathetic backlash of enormous magnitude as survival response. But in the aftermath, this reduces to Post Traumatic Stress symptoms and these in turn often give rise to trauma, shame, the compulsions to lie, steal, cheat and cause harm. Or in a lesser way embarrassment, enervation, exhaustion and so on.
Sustainable healing processes for these symptoms are little understood.
Understanding that we are all subject to these responses, and that they can happen to anyone, helps develop psychological recovery strategies. Being open to discussion, being honest and truthful in a safe environment, accessing skilled counseling and not holding things in, may also be of assistance.
In violent emergencies particularly those requiring interpersonal combat, the heartbeat can spike to 300 beats per minute. This is a huge change from ordinary day-to-day lifestyle of most people. Immense biochemical changes take place. Research reveals that interpersonal human aggression evokes a greater response than natural disaster. Sustained heart rates of 200 to 300 beats per minute in interpersonal aggression can be up to 3 to 4 times the normal heartbeat.
At double the normal heart rate, fine motor skills begin to deteriorate. At higher levels, vasoconstriction occurs i.e.. veins begin to shut down, arteries opening wide open.
Hyperventilation kicks in, taking large quantities of oxygenated blood and pumping it into the major muscle masses. This makes you capable of extreme feats of strength for a brief period of time. The tradeoff is that you begin to lose fine motor skills. Also vasoconstriction makes it possible to take significantly serious wounds to the perimeter; however arterial bleeding will kill you quickly because the arteries are fully dilated. Signs of such stress are cold and clammy hands, the beginning of vasoconstriction. As stated vasoconstriction also contributes to causing fine motor skills to begin to deteriorate, particularly in the untrained, who may experience, almost catatonic stalling or freezing of action capabilities.
Optimal survival skills for combat performance operate between 115 and 145 beats per minute because:
* complete motor skills
* visual reaction time
* cognitive reaction time
…are all at their highest
Once you get beyond 145 beats per minute things begin to break down. These are crude benchmarks and may vary with different individuals. In any event, at about 145 bpm to about 175bpm complex motor skills drop out i.e. the body cannot do things requiring fine coordination. In catastrophic emergencies or violence, the processes of the forebrain shuts down.
Whilst the frontal brain that makes you a human being is an advantageous, edge-giving weapon in that it enables the making of complex decisions, tools and strategy, it is also very delicate and has specific limits. When at 175 or so beats per minute, the forebrain shuts down it is sometimes called backdraft but in computer language could constitute a type of crash.
At that point…
The Mid Brain – the Mammalian Brain…
… takes over. Your intelligence level then becomes the same as that of a dog or any other mammal.
On this basis it is impossible to have a rational discussion with a frightened or angry human being. Why? The Mammalian Brain has taken over. Fear of interpersonal human aggression has created a set of dynamics which is the beginning of violent and irrational behaviours.
The extreme processes that caused the forebrain to shut down now evokes hard wired processes to take over:
* cognitive processing begins to deteriorate
* you can lose peripheral vision
* you can lose depth perception
* you can lose near vision
…. under such circumstances.
Generally speaking, properly trained individuals sometimes sustain and to some degree may expand that margin and can remain functional and skilled for longer periods, and under greater duress than that of untrained individuals.
Under severe stress, profound physiological effects also happen within the eyeballs, affecting sight. A mix of psychological and physiological factors. The same happens to the sense of hearing.
In an intense survival situation, the mind will cut out everything that appears to be unnecessary, leaving the one sense that’s most needed under the circumstances. Generally the mind cuts out all senses except for one. Hence the training to improve skill under duress making good preconditioned responses increases survivability and capability under such extremes.
In post-combat interviews, nine out of ten persons reported experiencing auditory exclusion and tunnel vision.
Good training causes preconditioned response to go into automatic pilot, as it were, and these conditioned reflexes, if the result of correct training, are a good thing in maintaining high-level performance under duress.
After successful combat, many reactions occur. The first reaction of the mid-brain is relief and if other humans were harmed, the normal person then experiences guilt and remorse.
Psychological Factors – Neurobiology
The adrenal responses for fight or flight overrules colenergic (the making of acetylcholine) response to relax. This is determined by neurons that employ acetylcholine as their neurotransmitter. This serves to modulate the excitors/ inhibitors to prepre for action. Action potential can be improved by frequency of response, in other words; regular practice.
Balancing and recovering from intense action is essential otherwise breakdown begins to take place over time. When sustained stress without recuperation takes place it becomes detrimental. Among other symptoms, adrenal fatigue (hypoadrenia) may result. The Adrenal glands are part of the body’s mechanism for short term stress response and management, they are involved in the production of the hormone Adrenaline, also known as Epinephrine, part of the fight or flight chemical released in stressful situations. This increases the body’s metabolic rate and muscular contraction strength. Along with the thyroid gland this is also part of the body’s metabolic energy regulation and control system, and thus Adrenals control the energy available to body systems to some extent. Under conditions of long term stress, it is believed that the Adrenal glands can become less responsive to circumstance, or maladapted, and cease to function optimally, leading to a wide range of fatigue and stress related conditions including a greater likelihood of psychological conditions such as depression and possibly certain other mood disorders. Domestically, adrenal fatigue is commonly referred to as “burnout” and its potential influence on career, health, lifestyle, and marriage can be devastating. The more intensive symptoms such as war zones, are referred to as “shellshock” or “combat fatigue”, but this is a simplistic rendition as many and varied factors may be involved.
Neurons are the basic nerve cells which make up the central nervous system and which receive and send information by way of synaptic connections. They consist of a cell body containing a nucleus, a single axon which conveys electrical signals to other neurons and a host of dendrites which deliver incoming signals. Neurons react to stimuli and transmit impulses and information within the central nervous system. In vertebrates neurons are found in the brain, the spinal cord and in the nerves and ganglia of the peripheral nervous system. Neurons constitute the basic working unit of the nervous system and control the actions of other cells in the body, such as other nerve cells and muscle cells.
A synapse is a small gap that physically separates neurons, in other words, the site or space where neurons communicate with each other or the junction between neurons across which communications flow, usually in the form of neurotransmitter molecules secreted by the presynaptic axon terminal that diffuse a short distance across the synaptic cleft to the postsynaptic neuron, on whose membrane are some receptor molecules to which the neurotransmitter molecules reversibly bind.
Axon terminals of a neuron sending a message (the presynaptic neuron) release neurotransmitters into the synapse. The neurotransmitters diffuse to the other side (the postsynaptic side where they bind to receptors on the postsynaptic neurons, thereby relaying the message.
The firing potential of a neuron is 4 milliseconds and can release 2500 fires per second. The messages can travel down the axon at speeds of up to 130 metres per second and is a function of the diameter of the duct and mylean sheath which is determined by many factors and modulated by nutrition, regular use and rest. This is called synaptic impulse propagation.
Your unconscious processes will process danger signals long before your conscious mind will have had a chance to catch up. Nature has correctly determined that it should be so and needs to be this way for very good reasons.
Unless properly trained, these natural responses can be confronting and lead to further anxiety and counterproductive reactivity such as freezing or running into the line of fire or heroic suicide against impossible odds and so on. In unstable individuals it may be a factor in habituation to violent tendencies.
Synaptic fatigue also contributes to a loss of fine motor coordination in a very brief period during extreme excitation such as a fight/flight situation and the body then refers to the gross motor co-ordination.
This becomes very relevant in a survival situation where lactic acid build up in the blood contributes to anxiety very quickly. Fine motor co-ordination tires first and then gross motor co-ordination takes over. When imminent danger becomes evident, the Limbic (or Visceral System, The Old Mammalian Brain, also triggers responses causing neurons to fire messages to activate the various functions such as the Adrenal Glands, connected responses and various hormonal/biochemical, muscular and other responses in preparation for intense and sudden action.
Part 4 – What Has Budo Got To Do With It?
(What has Budo got to do with biology or becoming a better human being and contributing to making a difference in the world?)
Descriptions about mechanisms well and good. Whilst these may be helpful, the other side, necessarily is personal experience, to dwell in a human body and express, experience and fine-tune it in practice. Actual function. Knowing how a car works may help a racing driver but much more helpful is lots of practice at driving.
Immediacy, function and the long term being interwoven, they are equally relevant. Understanding them serves to maximise potential and survival. Of what use would it be to survive a local brawl only to be wiped out in a nuclear blast following flawed foreign policies a week later? Or a simple illness, natural disaster, or a car accident?
As briefly iterated, all human responses are natural and valid survival mechanisms, and yet, whilst we like to imagine that we are an advanced species, when under stress, or prolonged anxiety in daily life, can it be that we allow ourselves to be overly influenced by the Ancient Reptilian Brain or “R” Complex, because we misread its signals?
With all its predatorial, action-reaction, aggression, primal behaviours, violent mechanisms, could it be that, as a result, we stimulate it beyond its specified purpose: that of imminent and intense survival?
If so, why? Could it be that many previously valid survival mechanisms are stuck? And that we have not successfully grown out of, or grown forward, having evolved sufficiently into truly human beings?
Perhaps it is simply nothing more than our current level of evolution, but our structure and composition would seem to suggest that we have more potentials to our credit than that of mindless contention. That we strive to justify violent means to cover up reactivity, greed and psychological insecurity; alternately complacent disregard, is not only no excuse, it is illogical, as violence solves less problems than it causes. We should know that by now. For the true human these conditions should be considered a diseased state.
The combative potentials which we indeed do have and contain, would suggest that they serve a far greater purpose than simply for conflict. Rather, that they exist to protect life. That of course gives rise to the questions: “What is the value of life?”, “What is life?” and “What is the source of life?” The great mystery. And the potentials of that mystery, it would seem, is not only upon us and with us but also exists within us. The Hito Jinja, or Temple of The Living God, it would seem, then, is no myth, but a reality. Perhaps, one somewhat different from wishful fantasies, but nevertheless, one just the same. Why then make of it a hovel as a result of abuse and neglect?
The remainder of the anatomy, not detailed here, comprises an inclusive totality that is wondrous indeed. That a handful of carbon based dust, mineral matter, infused with water and air can become a warm, living, thinking and feeling, sentient, conscious, capable and mobile being, is rather remarkable, if not miraculous. That there are so many of us, is even more spectacular. The tragedy is that too many continue to look downwards, and, unaware of their true potentials, thereby fail to interact harmoniously. From the intricate, detailed and mostly unexplored attributes of ourselves, it would appear that inbuilt in our life navigation systems dwells an innate forward planning predisposition to become in accord with the great harmony that is the totality of the universe. Will we succeed in tapping the opportunity it provides, and catch the wave of universal life? Or will we, through our own misplaced focus, eject and discard ourselves?
Regular, appropriate training, enables the “lubrication” and fine tuning of adaptation response and increase our chances of correct and tempered, but no less intense, mid-brain response and therefore survival. But only if required, and this with balance and calm most of the time. Then, if authentic and immediate need for defence arises, you are able to do so that much better. Perhaps appropriate and regular training may constitute a conscious contribution towards personal forward evolution to some degree. If this is the case, no matter how small, it would constitute an asset indeed.
In the science fiction series: Dr. Who, when saving the planet for the umpteenth time, he made a very salient point. “…That’s what you do… you humans… you make sense of the chaos..” And when in yet another emergency the character was asked for counsel: “What shall we do now?” he replied ironically, almost as if he knew the formula of no formula: “Just make it up as you go along…”
Through millennia of such trial and error, we’ve learned enough to survive many odds till now. Indeed, I would go as far as to say that for an animal such as us, with the forebrain the size it is, making sense of the chaos should constitute our primary mission and duty using all available means at out disposal. And that a flexibly coordinated mind and body, fine tuned in regular training; and working fluidly in unison, ready and able to move on to the next available possibility, will ensure the increased potential of successful survival, generally improving day to day, as well as long term life navigation, because the outlook on life will be a healthy one.
The unthinking take infrastructure for granted. The wise contribute to improving it. A simple fan belt, access to a hospital, running water, information technology… All these and more take protracted work and forethought to bring about. Not so long ago our recent ancestors did not have so much. But even today most of humanity are bereft of basic requirements. Internal malaise can become an epidemic as well as any virus, and in wiping out affluence, send us all backwards in a relatively short time.
Whether moving ahead or backwards, it is reliant on attitudes and behaviours.
This harmonizing and fine-tuning of the whole person in a balanced way, should be the current main purpose of Aikido and domestic Budo training. This along with the pursuit of worthwhile goals, the availability of opportunities to exercise multiple creative skills, would go a long way in transforming the global situation for mankind, to an extent that the gratuitously aggressive would become extinct by becoming anachronistic. But this condition will not come about by waiting, nor by adding conflict to conflict. Rather by genuine engagement in constructive relationships of all kind.
To summarize: When you defeat the enemy’s mind well in advance, there is usually no need to engage in physical combat because you are well ahead of the game. To develop such skill we need to be actively practicing to know ourselves and defeat our own mind of contention. Also we need to understand the dynamics involved. The first step is to recognize the processes at more than just an intellectual level, such as the elements presented in this modest four part article; but also as a result of much regular personally motivated training; and perhaps meditative practices as well. This then empowers the different nuances of appropriate action.
Interpersonal human aggression is a universal and ancient phobia. It evokes threat responses and also phobic scale responses as described. It is a demonstrated fact that association with other human beings who strongly hold reasonable expectations, tends give rise to increased accountable behaviour. However, extended periods of continuous violence, privation and unhealthy stress levels, causes most individuals to develop psychiatric conditions. Those that do not, are generally sociopaths and were damaged from the start.
Conditions of daily violence, dysfunction, aberrant behaviours and harm, are found as much in dysfunctional and violent families as any battlefield. It socializes and habituates growing children, fragmenting human relations. This spills out into all strata of society as eventual crime. The healing needs to begin at home.
Fear gives rise to intense physiological arousal of sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system mobilizes the body in an instantaneous preparation for action.
Anxiety – In Post Traumatic Stress Disorders, the midbrain and its attendant and now heightened ‘R’ complex responses, become locked-in to the forebrain, with survival mechanisms on the ready to respond instantaneously and without allowing time to think to transpire. In valid circumstances any delay may otherwise mean death, if stopping to analyze; and could compromise safety by leading to a freeze response. However, when no real emergency exists, such mental imbalances can lead to unwarranted aggression. In this state, appropriate, calm, relaxed, affable and empathic social behaviours tend to drop out. This results in various social dysfunctions.
Therapeutic breathing exercises, specific mediation techniques and skilled counseling may also serve to add in normalizing and relieving forebrain tension, as may simply to be allowed to cry or occasionally “spit–the-dummy” with non-reactive acceptance and mature minded loving allowance.
Intense and controlled activities which recruit the whole person and all our inbuilt attributes, such as regular intense Budo training, have been shown to serve to better reconnect us to ourselves. A balanced person will tend to respond more harmoniously when relating to others, thereby reviving the original root of true and sustainable wealth, social capital.
Such individual and social healing is not a trite matter, such as popping a pill or a “magic bullet.” This is a subject which needs to be addressed as an in-depth science, where actual healing restoration in producing a well adjusted individual, is given precedence over trading integrity for a mere idea of profits and pretense.
In nature, minor cyclic constraint breakdowns in systems allow for stress release which permits reorganization that can then be followed by adaptation. This allows reconstruction processes to take place. These safety valve mechanisms serve to prevent synchronous failure. Continuous build-ups of stress, on the other hand, lead to real volatility and crises, system failures and in biological species; violence, where creativity cannot function, adding to the risk of collapse. Small, limited breakdowns can prevent larger ones, build resilience and enable the larger system to withstand shock. Think of the safety valve of a spillwater on a dam, for example. This principle is reflected equally in societies, ecologies and economies, as it is with ourselves. A well managed system consisting of healthy parts is less likely to crash.
An important part of such management resides within the regular practices of the Budo Arts and the overall context of understanding they resultantly provide. Regular training enables and multiplies capability in this way, because it exposes the individual to manageable installments of conditions, where under duress, problem solving capacities can be exercised proactively and deliberately. This serves to produce well balanced, self-motivated, disciplined and well trained individuals who are superior members of society because they are less likely to unlawfully use violence, less likely to experience “accidents,” are more aware, more coordinated and generally think more clearly, calmly and contextually. Individuals who can consciously respond to stimuli with clarity instead of reacting with relative degrees of bewilderment.
On this basis Aikido training is a positive investment that adds value to human life. If you are well trained and psychologically well adjusted, you have numerous advantages. It is quite evident to me that the mystical poetry and “ramblings” of the Founder of Aikido are firmly backed up by science, and more so by the day with each successive new discovery about ourselves.
Budo training, of necessity, albeit even if by comparison much lighter than a real encounter, notwithstandingly serves to exercise and vivify all our attributes because the process of such training touches multiple aspects of the primitive, hard wired survival biomechanisms as described. But, of necessity, it also activates the higher brain because of the artistry and new discovery into the realms of body-mind coordination. These include natural physics, efficiency, function and various aspects of physical-mental connection, a panoply of skillsets related to hand to eye coordination and more. But just as much, if not more so, our higher attributes, those some would call “spiritual.” The relationship enabled see conflict in a different way to the unprepared. Rather than a magnified threat; as another exchange of energy to be harmonized.
Importantly, most importantly, properly conducted, live Budo training, unlike video games, provides an exchange of living ki-intention, thereby giving life to empathy, or what it feels like to be on the receiving end as well as dishing it out. It reveals the real limitations of the limited power we are entrusted with. Unlike violent computer games, it serves to balance the natural impulses of survival because of the real, live, limitations we are all endowed with. Mortality. We come to the realisation that in a live “game,” players are not reconstituted when it ends badly. When it ends in real life, it ends. There are no immortals, except in fantasy. With the recognition that there is a human being at the other end; and that it could just as easily be you, it gives rise to human empathy and all that comes with it. We discover the nuances of appropriate self-restraint limitations. Perhaps one day computer games will reflect this higher paradigm.
Sensitivity precedes true power, the ai precedes the ki to make aiki, awareness comes before action, zanshin and kokoro working together. Regular live Budo training, such as Aikido, serves to stimulate and exercise the limbic system, forming a personal psychic bridge, reconciling the midbrain with the neocortex thereby subduing the primitive reptilian brain. This adaptation response brings context into human life in accord with uncolored environmental stimuli as they are; not as we may imagine them or fear them to be. This realisation, the essence of Satori, gives rise to awareness of a higher dimension of existence which was always there waiting to be discovered.
All three attributes of the brain are necessary. As the currents of existence, Kannagara no Michi, inevitably impel us forward, we inevitably must enter into a dimension of more refined human development or become extinct. To survive, we are required, as human-beings, to navigate no longer crudely and bluntly, but in more appropriate ways. But this without losing the foundations of our survival abilities.
Without such foundations we would end up like the compliant drones in movies such as “Demolition Man.” The living, thinking ones, of course, would constitute the “rebels.”
The movie, “Demolition Man” with Sylvester Stallone as Sergeant John Spartan, Wesley Snipes as Simon Phoenix, Sandra Bullock as Lenina Huxley, Nigel Hawthorne as Dr. Raymond Cocteau, Benjamin Bratt as Alfredo Garcia and more. The plot of this action film begins in Los Angeles in a violence-crazed conflagration. One of the LAPD’s most notorious cops, John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone), known as “the demolition man,” is in hot pursuit of a psychopath. Set in the future, the film satirises a politically correct utopia where Taco Bell rules all and government machines issue fines to citizens who curse and other relatively harmless human behaviours whilst a more insidiously dangerous tyranny holds a pernicious sway. Real action follows but is deemed too confronting. I won’t spoil the story. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. It’s a light-hearted romp into various modes of violence, but with a message.
We need those ancient foundations, but not if they are allowed to get out of control and their otherwise valid functions are permitted to become counterproductive through inappropriate and unwarranted escalations. From the evidence, it would appear reasonably self-evident that our inevitable reliance on these ancient foundational, root support-systems is for the purpose of enabling survival and the building of newer and more refined superstructures. This means creative skill using the forebrain. In nature, practice makes perfect. If we don’t use it, we lose it.
It is of note that truly professional warriors since time immemorial, not only had available to them methods to recuperate the psyche from real battle, but also embraced all other means of personal balance in pursuit of the sciences, arts, humanities as well as contemplative practices.
Their paramount charter was not just war and fighting. That was the dead-end, last resort backup. For the most part, at least during the ascent of civilizations, they served life and they knew the difference. The main and proper function of the true warrior has always been deemed by civilised cultures to be one of moral integrity in the maintenance of healthy social function, care and protection of all life and true values, propagating creativity and fostering a society comprising dynamic harmony. Maintaining a truly healthy state of affairs.
Whilst we may be a long way from getting this just right at the moment, I believe that it is achievable and that the availability of Aikido training and other Budo, as part of a balanced Way of Life, will contribute to giving birth to this new paradigm. This is not a “utopian fantasy” because no such thing as utopia can be. It would be stagnant and dead, or devious. Nor will Budo training alone achieve a complete result, but rather add to the rounding off of a complete and balanced personality. All human skills, however, are complemented, enhanced and balanced as a result of regular Aikido or self-correction oriented Budo training.
There are many further areas that require our attention, however, which if addressed, could make immense differences to outcomes. To name but a few: We could learn to better deal with our personal pain. We could learn to better understand each other and those small differences we make so big in our minds. We could learn to be a little flexible around unfounded fears and prejudices. We could learn to misread and miscue each other less. We could be inclusive of the human family to embrace, if even from a distance, those dreaded “others.” We could love ourselves more and by extension have less dysfunction in our own homes and families. Out of small things, big things grow. The possibilities are endless and no doubt such loving kindness may well serve to destroy “the economy” as we now know it.
But in so doing, we may discover a far greater economy of such vast magnitude as to satiate even the most greedy, and then some. Indeed, then our collective psyche would no longer manifest as people who are homeless, the underdogs and the disenfranchised, whom we now look down upon with fear. Because they exist, we know them to be a reflection of our own inner lacks and insecurities.
But would that be such a bad thing? We may feel less threatened by change… we may feel less threatened by the proper and equitable distribution of abundant resources…. We may feel less threatened… period! We may finally notice that there is more to life than our own self-indulgent paranoias. We may finally look up!
Such awakening has the power to alter relationships and by extension, our world.
By enabling a more complete and fulfilled individual potential and slightly higher standards of human behaviour than we now witness, it may just become possible that we can perhaps better a thing or two for more living beings than now; and in so doing make our own lot better and safer as well.
What is it that will determine our fate as a species? The feature that most particularly distinguishes human beings is not so much the upright stance, as it is that we have the power to best unlock our maximum potentials; not when contending or kicking those who are down; not when compelled by those toxic impostors; the back seat drivers – thoughts of fear – that have little, if any, basis in present fact; but rather when driven by heart and creativity in exercising our common bond in mutually elevating, co-creative projects. If we have no other power given to us, we have the power to make that choice.
Wild animals are wild because they are hungry, hunted and hunting and therefore angry. They need to eat, escape, defend. They feel pressed to the limit. Domesticated ones are usually content to work for a feed, then eat, sleep and play. People are no different, hence most of crime.
Fear of lack drives most violence. On a planet such as ours where abundance is so excessive that valuable resources are deliberately destroyed in order to conform to an idea that this will somehow increase their “value,” it would seem to me that such activity is criminal activity. With numerous species in our natural life support systems daily becoming extinct as a result, and many more endangered, perhaps such approaches may be overdue for re-evaluation. When there’s nothing left to destroy, where will we be left standing?
As an integrated part of the web of life, it falls upon us, with the larger forebrain, to gain a proper education of limits and their value. With dissemination of such understanding it should add to increased potential for proper management. Because we do have some measure of influence, we are indeed capable leading to augmentation of human and global harmony, in at least equal proportion to, if not more, than we thus far have its destruction.
Since time immemorial we have shown that notwithstanding adversity in many forms, we as a species prefer to, and can, create much great value, beauty and worthwhile enterprise. Indeed all that sustains our social infrastructures comes from such efforts. When observing our living structure, the passage: “Behold how wondrously thou art made…” readily comes to mind. Perhaps the way we are made indeed reflects the universe and contains within it, the keys to vast, and as yet untapped potential.
We have haltingly arrived thus far. It has not always been a smooth trip. Where we go to from here will depend upon where our focus lies. Individually and collectively all things are possible. One thing is guaranteed, we cannot stand still. Whether we like it or not, we will travel the path to whatever direction we choose.
Unless we try every way possible to raise the bar in the long-term standard and maintenance of our humanity, even if only slightly and in small increments, we may never know. But worse, we may decline into such a state of dumb acceptance of increase in unwarranted violence at many levels, that this may set into motion chain-reaction events that will see us no longer able to continue existing here as a species, whereby we may find out how it could have all turned out.
Today, there is so much work to be done requiring simultaneously, constructive talent, compassion, human empathy and warrior backbone. We should never cease defending and protecting all those things which make us better, noble and true. Nor should we cease generating values worth protecting. But let us all be cautious and vigilant of any tendencies which will cause us to descend back into more dark ages, only this time with advanced technology to aid and abet the worst disease of the mind, unfounded fear.
Human beings are not human beings’ real enemies. Far greater and more testing adversities are on the way than those we may manufacture, much as bored chimps do. These will test our resolve and the quality of our fibre. Project humanity is somewhat kindred to soldiers in the field, amidst a battle of terrible odds. If they are to be successful, they put their personal differences aside, in favour of working together, cooperating towards the ultimate objective, to survive. Indeed to thrive.
We may take heart in the knowledge that before a hatchling emerges from the egg, the moments preceding birth into a freer, greater and newer dimension, are fraught with the highest risk, doubt and great change. Winter precedes the blossoms.
Perhaps as a humanity we are now at such a crossroad. Let us not lay waste to that wondrous making which is us and the world in which we live!
© Copyright Nev Sagiba June 2007
“Now an e-book:
by Nev Sagiba
The ability to adjust seamlessly between techniques defines mastery. In most cases, this essential attribute of Aikido has been either ignored or guessed at. This book not only reveals the innate simplicity behind the apparent complexity of Aikido Transitions and Counters, but it provides a full spectrum of possibilities for practicing. Here it is, simplified in drills of two techniques. When you can do these drills easily, you will be able to effect spontaneous responses to any attack. If you know your basic techniques this book is recommended and will enrich your Aikido. FOUR DIAMONDS 1024, provides complete sets of exercise drill guidelines to enable exploration of the available range of basic transitions and counters and unlock their potentials.