Thoughts for Myself

The art of doing nothing special

Yesterday was the day to celebrate the life of the founder of a traditional art form I used to take lessons. I have scribbled already about how I got into it and what it has brought me. Today, I want to share with you the teachings of this founder that has stayed with me.

 

There is a famous story about the conversation he had with one of his students that goes like this:

When the student asked him how he could master the art, he gave him a few simple codes of conduct to follow. But because they were nothing special, the student told him that he knew them already. To that he replied, “I would happily become your student if you could perform exactly as the codes tell you.” [my translation]

 

I will not go into the details of the codes of conduct, but in short they tell you to put your whole heart into what you do and feel with your heart the essence of things, take things as they are and appreciate their existence, allow time for things to develop and be prepared for the unexpected, and be thoughtful and caring to others around you. See, nothing special.

 

So why did he give them as the codes of conduct to follow?

Maybe because it requires special effort to open up your heart to see and be seen.

Maybe because it requires special effort to admire and accept things the way they are.

Maybe because it requires special effort to be patient and stay calm through ups and downs.

Maybe because it requires special effort to be with others without being tainted with preconceptions and presumptions.

 

He established this art form in a time when my country of origin was going through an era of warring states. It called for people to drop all weapons and come together to enjoy the same occasion, the same experience, the same time and space, even if it was just for a little while. In the world he created with his art form, there were only harmony, respect, tranquility, and purity – peace.

 

Maybe it is an art form that will take a lifetime to master… the conversation the founder had with his student suggests not even he was able to master it. But I am glad I took it up, and it is something I would like to keep practicing, even if I no longer take lessons – it is a good reminder that although special efforts are required, there is nothing more special than doing nothing special.

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