Friday, July 23, 2010


When Ki has been described to me it has always been in large grandiose terms that speak to the magical thinking that tends to go along with it. This has always given it a certain unattainability which seemed to suggest that it wasn't something you should fully try to understand, but rather something you should accept as being mysterious and ill defined, like God or the government or the basic functions of a home computer. There is an idea I have been trying to get at for months now, and in the process I think I may have inadvertently stumbled upon Ki.

This came as a convalescence of thoughts so I have no idea where exactly this starts. I think the foundation of this may have to do with knowing ones self by ones actions. This is an idea of mine that goes back many months. It started as a purely behavioral way of examining myself. As an example I could say I wanted to lose weight all I wanted, but if a behaviorist observed me going to McDonalds every Saturday they would conclude that I was motivated by a desire for McDonalds. They would have no idea about my desire to lose weight. This gives me the first principle of this discussion.

We can measure of ourselves, and come to know ourselves, by examining our actions.

The next principle builds on the one before, but before I give it I need to take a brief detour to resolve the entire debate about free will versus predestination. Since I'm doing this as a detour I'm going to cheat and just assert that ones perceptions define ones reality. If you accept that then I would pose a simple question to you. Have you ever perceived yourself making a choice? We perceive ourselves to be making choices, hence we have the free will to choose because perception defines our reality. This leads me to my second principle.

We have the ability to choose our actions.

If you've been paying attention to the human condition, and I'm going to assume you have, then you know it's not nearly that simple. Lets return to that fast food example from before. It's easy to say that I could just choose not to eat there, but the reality of the situation involves a competition of motivations. I can choose not to eat fast food but it's going to take a certain amount of willpower, and this is where the discussion gets back to Ki.

If you observe and define yourself by your actions, and you believe that you have the ability to control your own actions, then the next logical step is to think that you can redefine yourself by controlling your actions. This makes the mechanisms of control very important. There are many different ways we express this idea of the energy that allows us to take control of our actions. This can be a matter of effort, it can be a matter of willpower, it can be focus, or intent, or meaning, or spirit, or enthusiasm, or dedication. What we are talking about here is the ability to express free will, quantized. What is this quintessence that instills in us the ability to choose, and in choosing adds meaning, personal significance and more often then not quality to our actions? I think it's Ki.

At the very least I'm going to call it Ki. What you call it isn't actually all that important, what is important is the source of it. A great deal of it comes from within ourselves. The rest comes from the world around us, and how we interact with it, which I believe to also be a function of ourselves. If you think that's a bit to obscure of an assertion I would refer you back to my previous statements on perception defining reality. So in this way I would say that the place we occupy in the world is better described as the place we make for ourselves in the world. Making this place is an action, and so we're lead back on a logical route to an idea that I connect to more intuitively then logically, namely that the the world beyond ourselves comes from within ourselves. I'm not sure if this is a quote or not but the phrase that comes to my mind is "I am in all things and all things are in me."

In this idea we have a concept of self which extends to the bounds of ones conceived universe. It flows out from the self into the world around you, defining it by the self, and the world in turn further defines the self. It's a loop of self and world recreating each other, but at this point we don't yet have an active influence on it. This vision of the universe as self is what I'm going to call the Yin form of self. What really interests me though is the Yang form of self. It's the active principle of yang that not only defines, but redefines. When you make a choice, alter your actions, alter your self and hence alter the world the you which is doing that is your Yang aspect. The Yang self is the one that's making those choices.

Now we can't have a discussion about Yin and Yang without having some bullshit about balance and interdependence, and this is where I'm going to tie everything together. Remember Ki? I'm supposed to be writing about Ki. If there's one thing I learned from Aikido it's that the essential lesson of Ki is flow*. When directing Ki in ones body you never say that you're pointing your Ki in a given direction, but rather that Ki is flowing in that direction. It's a moving active thing that moves through us, directed by us, but never starting or ending with us. Ki is the quanta of choice, and the essential connection between the Yin and Yang forms of self. We draw energy from ourselves, and the world we make for ourselves and this gives us the power to redefine and direct ourselves. When you redefine yourself such that you are more in tune with your Ki, or perhaps simply that you are more in tune with Ki, you gain a great ability to control yourself and redefine yourself further. If you want to be the master of your world you need only to sit at the center of this wheel and turn it always in your favor.

The trick, in the end, is going to be knowing what it is about yourself that you need to redefine. I have thoughts on that, but that's going to be something for another time.

*The other thing I learned from Aikido was how to roll when I get knocked over, but I pretty much never get knocked over so that's not nearly as important.


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