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Non-Absolutism

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If anyone would ever deny absolutism, it would be the Devil. After all, the Devil refuses to acknowledge God's omnipresence and omnipotence, and considering the so-far unsuccessful battle of his "good" versus the Devil's "evil," evidence does suggest that the Devil has a point: there is room for the Devil's alternative and thus presumably other alternatives as well.

The Devil sides strongly with mankind: He considers all religion to be man-made, able to be shaped and formed according to man's desires and opinions. Like the divine idols of wood, clay, or metal, no god nor law is eternal; every statue and statute may be destroyed or reformed as is seen fit by the same hands that crafted them.

History proves the Devil right. Every religion and every ideal has either changed to keep up with human evolution or has died trying. No ideal has ever stood sure, and no ideal ever will. Every law, culture, and ideal was invented by humans and reached through human conflict and consensus, and has steadily adapted to always model contemporary human desires for a preferred social direction. What was once freedom and liberty may have become enslavement and subjection, and customs have continuously been banned, emerged, or rediscovered.

Even so-called "absolutes" have always been confined within time and reach; for example, "freedom of speech" is only allowed within the limits of the law, which is itself dynamic and always subject to corruption or remedy—depending on the point of view. To claim that freedom of speech, or any other principle, is absolute is to claim that freedom of speech is beyond human decision. It is a belief in divine power, and the Devil refuses such views.
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My Un-Analytical Mind

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I'm often described as an extremely analytical person. In my various jobs, managers who demanded linear, predictable, and otherwise uncreative progress have lamented what they considered my tendency to keep analyzing a subject before eventually producing a result. I excel in the technical and scientific areas. In the end, I produce work that seems immensely thought-through, rigidly analytical, carefully argued, and rigorously disciplined.

Forest PathBut that is neither how I think, nor how I work. Presen­ted with a problem, I see a land­s­cape in front of me with lush valleys, im­pas­s­able moun­tains and gorges, walls, streams, high­ways, build­ings, paths, caves, dark forests, and hidden pas­sages. The problem is an area in the dis­tance that is so­me­times clearly visible, at other times covered in a hazy mist that ob­s­cures the precise loc­a­tion, and so­me­times it falls en­tirely beneath the horizon, giving itself away only by a mag­net­ic at­trac­tion that guides the compass needle to point in its dir­ec­tion, or as distant rays re­veal­ing where the Sun is setting. It is a map for a West­ward chase for the es­cap­ing light.

I know the goal in advance: conclusions and results, and often side effects are known to me. Intermediate solutions are camp sites that may be planned; bad or imperfect solutions are directions leading away from the goal or which will cause detours. I see them immediately on the map when they are proposed. Only then begins analysis, which is packing for the trip and preparing for potential unknowns en route. It is usually completed in seconds or minutes, because the route is a glowing path through the landscape, and work may begin immediately.

But unlike a journey where you move progressively, my mental landscape is superimposed onto reality. I travel, as it were, in an alternate set of dimensions, which I mean in a very allegorical sense; I do not make astral travels or otherwise have out-of-reality experiences. It is a "travel" that allows me to pave any one point of the path towards the goal at any time, to enable those who need the solution to somehow get there. The path is paved with whatever material I currently have available, and wherever it is in most need. I am unable to begin paving from the beginning, moving slowly to the end, because I lose sight of the end by focusing on the beginning.

And so I cannot write a story beginning with chapter one. I write a passage here and a passage there. I leave large gaps of room in a document waiting to be filled, and I write statements that I cannot yet know in sections that depend on future events, trusting that they will make sense once their future becomes present. I am rarely forced to delete or redo any part; I only elaborate a little here, and a little there, adding details in the whole instead of detailing the already detailed. If I may for a moment abuse quantum physics beyond its province, I see the wave and alter its characteristics where everyone sees the particle and attempts to alter its course. The wave spans the landscape while the particle crosses it.

My approach and others' approaches may yield identical results, but I am not the analyst. What may seem like careful and skilled analysis where effects lead to causes, which in turn lead to other effects and causes, is to me a mere description of what I see, with no intent to analyze or understand the path directly ahead. Perhaps that is the secret of the analytical gift.

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Ghost Story

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GhostA ghost is a deceased person that haunts the living, because the deceased person has unfinished business or lost property that was highly important to him. In spite of what healthy skepticism might prompt me to believe, I believe in ghosts, because I have seen many of them.

As an atheist and a skeptic, however, I must insist that ghosts are tangible characters. So, when popular belief stipulates that ghosts are spirits, I must insist that this cannot be, and I also refuse to consider ghosts to be some kind of manifestation of a person's afterlife.

A ghost is a dead person in the sense that the person has lost his life. A person that was once productive, alive, giving, and present but has since lost the spark of life and no longer has initiative is dead. Such invididuals may become ghosts.

When a person “dies” and becomes a ghost, the death is often witnessed as a change in the person's life and friends wonder what happened to the once so pleasant person. The death occurs when a vital part of their life vanishes and takes the person's inner light with it, leaving a person who is eerily unreal and often unpleasant to meet.

This may require some explanation.

The person has been so closely attached to a “fetish”—a person, an idea, a cause, or an object—that it is inseparable from his life. Everything is understood and valued against the fetish that the person has attached himself to. Even if the individual might have had a realistic view on reality, his or her entire existence has been measured according to the fetish. A mother may thus enjoy life, but some mothers enjoy life as mothers, that is, not as independent individuals but through their relation to their child and the identity of being mothers. The child has become the mother's fetish.

The fetish is the glass through which the person views his entire existence. It does not prevent the person from seeing clearly; in fact, it is vital for the person's clarify. The person's contact with reality goes through the person's fetish, and instead of using his own root as a guideline to his existence directly, the person applies his fetish as a an intermediary between his root and reality.

This usually works well, but it is dangerous to be so dependent on an external factor. If you found out what a person's fetish is, you may control the person via his fetish, but that is another discussion. If you make a person hate his fetish, the person will hate himself, and his beacon will be his own self-hate. That, too, is another discussion.

Back to the ghosts. Legends have established that ghosts are often looking for something that is lost, or the ghosts haunt people that own that which the ghosts have lost. If you destroy a person's fetish or make it inaccessible, you will remove the item that the person required to be in touch with himself, and hence the person's indicator of reality. The vital part of the person through which the person lived is gone. The person's spark of life disappears together with the disappearance of the fetish. The person “dies” but is unable to find rest without his fetish.

That is the secret behind the curse of the ghosts. Ghosts of flesh and blood have lost their fetishes, and their curse can only be lifted if the ghosts can recover their lost fetishes or if they find a new fetish. In rare cases the ghosts may find their own root.

The fetish is the person's axis mundi, the indicator of world order. If the axis mundi is shifted even once, the world is destroyed. An Aboriginal tribe in Australia understood this concept so literally that they symbolized the axis mundi with a stick, and if the stick were to be destroyed, the tribe would sit down and wait to die, because the world order had been destroyed.

Jacob's LadderIn the mythical universes the axis mundi connects the cosmic planes of existence. In Christianity, the axis mundi is symbolized by the Jacob's ladder, and in the Norse mythology it was Yddgrasil. The the individual, the axis mundi is the connection between sensing and interpretation of the senses, and the connection between his past and his future. It is the person's thread through life.

The fetich is the person's single reference point that cannot afford to be shaken. If control of the fetish is lost even once, the basis of the person's world view is for ever uncertain. If the person's fetish is his girlfriend, she needs not demonstrate her disinterest more than once before the person's local world—himself—crumbles, even if the girlfriend finds her way back.

Like their mythical counterpart, real ghosts haunt those living individuals that have life, warmth, and an inner flame. The haunted people are those who possess the fetishes of the ghosts.

The ghosts make themselves present in different forms. You may forget about the ghost and only become aware of its existence when it rattles the chains of an inextinguishable bitterness. Or you may wonder why the ghosts return to people that they once had relations with, even if the ghosts themselves have long since renounced the relations. Or you may have been together with a ghost and leave with a feeling that the ghost was the only person in the party who gained from the contact. The presence of the ghosts is a transparent outline of that which the ghosts once felt they were as living individuals.

The ghost may be the mother who has lost her child because the child has moved away from home or has freed itself from its parents, and who attempts to keep the child in its childish needs by helping with cooking or laundry. Or the ghost may be the old politician who has lost interest in politics but still turns to other politically active individuals about issues that he could easily discuss with anyone else.

Ghosts may not walk through walls, but they are very real, and they cannot be slain like vampires with a proverbial stake through their hearts. Ghosts are also never kind. And unlike the ghosts of the myths and legends, ghosts may not be reunited with their lost identity by anyone; true ghost hunters need hard training in psychiatry. We other mortals can rarely dispell the ghosts. If we are unwilling to flee the haunted area, we must live with their howls at night and their chilly puffs down our backs.

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The Destruction of Truth

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Eliphas Levi's Goat of MendesTruth is re­ser­ved for mis­guided humans who believe that truth is a goal.

Truth is sought by humans who are cul­tur­ally trained to believe that some­where, someone knows what is “true.” They believe it is the duty of each human being to either be this person or to work hard to com­pre­hend through this person what is “true.” Even if they may not form­ally or lit­er­ally believe in gods, it is implied by their culture that it is “God” who holds the final and eternal truth.

The Devil has no in­ter­est in as­pir­ing for his op­pon­ent. Satan turns his back at God. He knows that there is no such thing as “true.” Satan does not want truth. Satan is the per­petu­al liar, and it is his cor­rupt­ive nature to destroy truth.

Yet a truth that has been forced to adapt to the Devil's eternal ques­tion mark and de­struc­tion through the ages has not become a lie; it has only been pro­gress­ively less wrong. Satan's ob­st­in­ate desire to destroy truth as we know it has re­placed the term “true” with the term “pro­gess­ively less wrong.”

It may sound as if Satan inadvertently attains the very goal that he wishes to avoid, but there is a monumental difference between the two concepts.

“True” is something that is measured as the distance from an absolute, constant merit, which is an ultimate goal. The closer something is to this goal, the more true it is.

“Progessively less wrong” is measured according to a point of departure. It is a measure of how far you have reached and how far you have progressed.

“True” is an angst of not being close enough to God—a fear that cannot be eased, because there are no gods. The wish to reach the goal is a death wish, because once the wish has been granted, there is nothing more to strive for.

To be “progressively less wrong” is to revel in your own progess, and it is a perennial desire to always go further.

The desire for “truth” creates rigid societies. People think in terms of “right” when they maintain their own, “true” course while they actively combat any other course and are hostile towards discussion and perspective.

The desire to be “progressively less wrong” leads society in new directions. It encourages respect for past knowledge and enthusiasm for constributing with new knowledge, to lifelong learning, and to an appreciation of the fact that there is great value to be found in the interaction between humans with unique views.

But it is not easy to be “progressively less wrong” instead of being “more right.” Many people have a feeling of what is “right” and do not have the slightest idea of how to be “less wrong.” They belive you are opting for the second-best solution when you wish to be “less wrong” rather than “more right.” This, in spite of life itself being a monument to the fact that there is nothing second-best to beling “progressively less wrong.”

To learn what is wrong in a popular “truth,” we must follow the Devil's example.

Satan does not belive in false authorities who know in advance what is “right.” Satan has much more respect for those people who seek to demolish truths—assuming these people are not merely motivated by another “truth.” Satan believes in chaos, because he trusts people to be creative, and he trusts that a large number of people that do not share an opinion are capable of functioning together.

To be “progessively less wrong” demands the Devil's tools: the ability to be critical and to learn from your own and others experiments, but also to keep an open mind that allows controversional thoughts and acts. The key talent is creativity, but unfortunately our god-fearing culture is suspicious of this chaotic skill, or may have lost its belief in it or forgotten it in its quest for maximum profit or “financial responsibility.”

A truth that cannot be destroyed is promoted to divinity and will enthrall independent thought. In his destruction of truth, Satan therefore demands bickering and dispute, obstacles and destruction, frustration and error. Only thus can truth be destroyed and mankind be liberated from God.

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Seven-Eights of Your Life

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When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
a miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.
And all the birds in the trees,
well they'd be singing so
happily, joyfully, playfully watching me.
But then they sent me away to teach me how to be
sensible, logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world where I could be so
dependable, clinical, intellectual, cynical.

(The Logical Song, Supertramp, 1979)

The grandmaster of a martial arts branch once remarked that the head only takes up one eighth of the entire body proper. Anyone that uses only his head to think with is seven-eights paralyzed.

Yet often I hear atheists cry: "rationality!," "logic!," "reason!", etc. when they argue that religious people are separating themselves from the real world. They cling to the intellectual and the abstract. Apparently their real world is restricted to the upper one-eighth of the body.

The last seven-eights of the body does not think in the intellectual sense of the word. However, the body feels and senses. Dr. Antonio Damasio explains in his book, Descartes' Error, that it is not the human brain that controls a human being's rationality. It is instead the body that creates what Damasio named "somatic markers," or bodily points of reference, that direct the brain. Body and brain join in a reciprocal, closed-loop action where the brain is just one of many organs that together spark reason.

Damasio experimented with patients suffering from a brain damage that prevented them from applying their somatic markers. To his surprise, Damasio discovered that these people were just as intelligent as other people, only were these people controlled exclusively by their intelligence, that is, by their brain's reasoning alone. Yet it was as if their goal had changed. Deprived of the use of their somatic markers the actions of the patients showed that the patients unconsciously—but apparently very deliberately—attempted to create problems for themselves, financially as well as socially. Denying their bodily feelings and relying on their reasoning alone the patients had become self-destructive.

Ayn Rand

We consider logic the foundation of our rationality in our part of the world. However, some people forget that logic is a means, not an ends. And just like tools such as a hammer can strike pointless blows in the air instead of driving nails into wood, logic can be used without applying it to anything tangible, or it can be used outside its proper scope. You may conclude that there is a god or that there is none, both by means of logic. The use of logic can easily lead to surreal conclusions.

Maybe it is because of our ability to consider meaningless issues and draw logical but wrong conclusions that many Western philosophers have become so impressed by their ability to think that they consider it spectacular. These philosophers include Descartes, Berkeley, and, widely used among atheists, Ayn Rand.

Human beings can draw on many more resources than rationality and logic. The figure below illustrates which psychological and physiological functions we have at our disposal. Beyond the familiar intelligence, which leads to reason and rationality, we also have feeling (bodily sensing), emotion, and intuition. Usually a person is only consciously aware of two of the functions, leaving the other two functions in the person's subconsciousness.

In our part of the world, thinking and intellectualism is well-known, because they serve as basis of scientific method. Thoughts order our impressions whether they are caused by intuition or feeling. Feeling is for the most part socially accepted as valid means of perceiving the world. However, emotion and intuition are considered "chaotic," "inferior," or even "demonic" because they do not fit well into a culture where the body is considered inferior and something to be controlled. Hence it is only intellect and feeling that is considered "normal" in our part of the world. Emotion and intuition are confined to a place in the subconsciousness, where they are usually blamed for deviant behavior.

Conscious vs. Unconscious

Atheists may be attracted to rationality and reason, but when they react emotionally to something, often they expose a highly unreasonable identity beneath the surface.

The ability to think clearly, to be rational and logical, can be an incredible strength. But when the ability is out of tune with the other psychological functions, problems arise. To an overly intellectual atheist, rationality becomes a confession of faith where even our very existence is "only an abstraction."

It is quite natural to employ one's dominant functions such as intellectuality and feeling. But as Jung remarked, it is necessary to listen to all of the functions, in particular those functions that are the least developed. It is only then that we realize that there are many situations in life that we cannot effectively appreciate with just the dominant function. One might say that if one faces life with just one function, life is made lesser than life—one kills life.

What we term intelligence today has not always been considered an isolated skill. The term "logic" can be derived from the Greek "logos," which seems to have referred to much more than sheer intellectualism. In some esoteric schools it refers to an inner, divine light that is felt as a warmth rising up through the body, a corporeal feeling that has no direct relation to intelligence. Intelligent logic is often seen as a result of the carnal logic/logos. A person only thinks logically when the logic is shaped by somatic sensation. Logic cannot exist alone, without bodily origin. This is an important point: thoughts will contain no logic unless the logic has first been "felt" by the body; this ancient mysticism is eerily echoed in Damasio's much more recent research.

Erle Montaigue

It is also im­port­ant to realize that the body cannot learn from in­tel­lec­tu­al ex­per­i­ences. The use of pres­sure points in martial arts are a strik­ing example (pun in­ten­ded). Al­though it is reas­on­ably easy to explain where pres­sure points are located by means of di­a­grams and logic as, for example, Erle Mon­tai­gue does it in several of his books, learn­ing to use pres­sure points in combat is a di­f­fer­ent matter al­to­geth­er­. No matter how pre­cisely one men­t­ally me­m­or­izes the loc­a­tion of a par­t­ic­u­lar pres­sure point, this know­ledge will be useless when an op­pon­ent attacks.

However, if you have been shown the loc­a­tion by someone that made you scream from pain, your own knuck­les, elbows, fingers, knees or feet will find it without the help of a th­ink­ing brain. This "body memory" can only learn from bodily ex­per­i­ence.

This kind of learning pervades the esoteric schools, which are sometimes called "oral" schools, because it does not help to read about it. Even if the knowledge was written down, the knowledge would be incomprehensible, because words on paper do not provide carnal experience. One may be able to understand it in an abstract sense, but cannot put it to practical use. Hence, one can write down all of the secrets and pass them on, but in the hands of an uninitiated person the material will be useless. In that sense it is still "secret," because no matter how clearly it is communicated in writing or speech, the "hidden" knowledge is not passed on.

Some things cannot be learned. Either you know them, or you don't. Without having been told, authors such as Tom Kristensen spoke of magic in the shape of a "octopus-like image" in his book, "Havoc," Michael Ende felt the magical influence of people that "distort time" in his book, "Momo," and H. P. Lovecraft used a long array of beings that are well-known in magical visions in other cultures.

Some understanding of the world can only be expressed via the symbolism of intuition, and some understanding requires the empathy of emotion. These "languages" cannot be learned intellectually; if you do not already know on these levels, you will not understand what you are being told. At best you can repeat it to others. In Pythagoras' cult, the mathematikoi were the people that understood his teaching while akousmatikoi referred to those people that would stand on the outside, who could only listen and perhaps repeat what they had heard.

A person that only uses his head and focuses overly on rationality and logic is a partially disabled person. It is a speaking head with no body. It is a person that rejects his body, just as the Christian culture we live in mandates. It is perhaps not surprising that it was Antonio Damasio who in a 1994 essay in Scientific American remarked that perhaps we have culturally "brain damaged" ourselves in much the same sense as had happened to his patients by physical accident or disease.

In the darkest depths of the esoteric schools, you find that if you fight or deny the forces of darkness, they will defend themselves and attack you. In a more practical sense, if you deny your subconsciousness, you will instead become directed by it, usually in a rather unfortunate direction. Perhaps this is what happens to Damasio's patients or our civilization as a whole.

There is much else to life than cold logic. There is an entire world in the subconsciousness the size of the consciously known world. I appreciate this world, which is confined to the darkness of our minds. If one wishes to understand human motivation in a world focused on thinking and sensing, it is in the forbidden realm of emotion and intuition that one must feel at home.

Rockbitch

The members of the former rock group Rock­bitch had founded a group that focused strongly on the phys­ic­al aspect of life. However, while Rock­bitch re­p­res­ents feeling and is correct in stating that the left-hand path is largely con­cer­ned with phys­ic­al living, ob­vi­ously it does not imply that other people should live their life as if part of Rock­bitch's stage show (neither do the members of Rock­bitch as far as I know). To people that have another per­cep­tion of eros than a strictly literal in­ter­pret­a­tion, such a life would be an over-focus on sex. And fun­c­tion­ally, if you ex­ag­ger­ate sex, you might as well abstain from it, because both dir­ec­tions are un­bal­anced--they are ab­st­in­ence from en­joy­ing life. Such people would achieve the op­pos­ite of what they wanted.

Sim­il­arly, if you focus too much on ra­tion­al­ity, you let your­self become its pris­on­er­ instead of its user.

So if you find yourself in a position where you argue or even just speculate whether there might be some gods or metaphysical beings, whether a mental image makes sense, whether reality really exists, or if you consider atheism an "attitude towards life," then they are all signs that seven-eights of your life is ignored: there is still an entire body to use and an entire world to play in.

Now watch what you say or they'll be calling you a
radical, liberal, fanatical, criminal.

(The Logical Song, Supertramp, 1979)

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A Tribute to the Devil

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Science has a reasonable understanding of matter and how the strong, the weak, and the electromagnetic forces and (at least for practical purposes) gravity affect it. We also have a firm grasp on an large array of other natural laws and principles.

But none of the forces or laws indicate that, from a human point of view, there is a constant evolution and change in our universe. They only describe change within so limited scopes that one cannot express connections between cause on the microscopic level and effect on the macroscopic level, or vice versa.

The laws of nature do not state anything about the development of life; although we do understand how DNA replicates, how organisms reproduce and mutate, how organisms adapt and survive according to changing environments, and how they in turn change their environments, we cannot explain which direction life will take. Neither do the laws of nature explain our emotions or reactions in spite of a good understanding of biochemistry, some neurological insight, etc.

Eliphas Levi's Goat of MendesPerhaps if in theory one could take a sn­ap­shot of the current state of my body and all things in its en­vir­on­ment that have a non-neg­li­gible effect and, this sn­ap­shot now frozen in time and space, de­scribe me as a defined system using math­em­at­ic­al equa­tions and models of chem­is­try and physics. If our world could be modeled this way, and no random effects can occur, perhaps one could predict the dir­ec­tion of life.

But no man can handle this re­duc­tion­ist view, and must instead resort to mys­t­ic­al sym­bol­ism both to un­der­stand and to com­mu­n­ic­ate any state of ex­ist­ence.

We possess an immense un­der­stand­ing of the world around and within us, yet our sense of de­vel­op­ment and life—our desire to act and live, to be and to become—is not covered by this un­der­stand­ing. We can still de­scribe such feel­ings only in sym­bol­ic terms.

Natural forces and laws com­bined have an immense effect that seems much larger than their sum total, and there is no well-de­scribed natural law that can express this com­bined effect. We can only state that the natural laws explain that things happen, and how phys­ic­al and chem­ic­al pro­cesses are fol­lowed, but they cannot de­scribe how life or our per­cep­tion of life unfolds. It is this "su­per­set of natural laws" that has no sci­en­ti­f­ic law or de­scrip­tion.

In principle, I could do with the above explanation, but few people can relate well enough to the knowledge that science has gathered today to understand the combined force of the laws of the universe. A symbol is required instead that effectively communicates this greater whole, enabling people to intuitively grasp the immensity and general mechanisms.

I prefer to use Satan as this symbol. It describes change with no guidance, a perpetual motivation that follows its own, inner dark light. It communicates both unordered dissolution and solidification into a balance that is found as chaos and order throughout Nature. It communicates a power of divine nature, but unlike that attributed to the usual gods it is a power that requires "evil" and destruction, and a power that is unconcerned with the well-being or the state of Cosmos.

Perhaps there might be a better word, but I cannot think of one that adequately communicates the gestalt of all natural laws acting simultaneously—the only way they can function—powerfully enough to do it justice. We owe it to life to use the most powerful and inclusive expression we can find.

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Less Is More, More or Less

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Less is more; slower is faster; simpler is better: we've all heard that before. But like so many pleasently-sounding pseudophilosophical phrases waiting to become the title of a self-help book for a stressful job, there's more to it than meets the eye.

One day a martial artist with a black belt in karate showed up at our dojo to train with us. We practice full contact in our dojo, and it took a little while for me to convince him that he should really hit me with full speed and full force. Karate black-belt practitioners can hit both very fast and very hard, and our guest was no exception. I'm sure I may not even have lived to regret it if he had managed to hit me, but I moved out of the way to avoid getting hit. He on the other hand was astonished by my speed: considering the speed of his blow, how could I move out of harm's way that fast? He tried again, hitting faster and harder than ever, and again found me standing behind him outside of his reach.

Bujinkan Black Belt

The answer was simple, of course: I didn't move fast at all. He was some­what skep­t­ic­al about that, so I told him to repeat the ex­er­cise while watch­ing my feet. True enough, high speed wasn't re­quired: he was strik­ing from a dis­tance of about three feet, and I had to move only a few inches before we'd meet half-way, him in front of me, giving the im­pres­sion that I had moved behind him. In ad­di­tion, I didn't move only while he moved. The very second I sensed his pre­par­ing the strike, I began to shift my weight, in­vis­ible to him. In his blind angle, I could prepare a step forward while he was gath­er­ing strength for the strike. When he even­tu­ally hit, I had already had plenty of time to start several di­f­fer­ent moves at the same time. Each move was almost non­chal­antly slow, but their com­bined move­ment yielded a very fast escape from his punch.

If I had attempted to move away with a single, fast movement, I probably wouldn't have had the time. And even if I were fast, a skilled martial artist will recognize a sudden jerk and compensate; this particular black-belt karate expert would probably have changed his direction without even noticing it and I'd have woken up on the emergency ward with a broken jaw. In his fast attack, my slow movements tricked his brain into thinking I wasn't moving at all, however.

This example illustrates how small, slow movements in practice become fast and comparatively large movements. Less (movement) really becomes more, and slower really becomes faster (than him).

But the Devil lurks in the details. The movements may be small, but there are many of them, and coordinating them all for a proper angle at the right time is no smaller amount of work than a single, powerful move. There is no less than more, only different moves and distributed timing. "Less" must flow, and "slow" must be fluent, or the result will be less and slow, too. It can take years of practice to learn how to do more by doing less and to move fast by moving slowly. (As it turns out, "less" and "slow" take a smaller toll on the body, making them vital for an old martial artist whose body has become fragile. But that is another story.)

Painting by Ernst TranekjærAnd so "less" is no less.

If one in­ter­prets "less is more" as sanc­tioned laz­i­ness, one will only ac­com­pl­ish less. That is, if a person be­lieves he is an artist because he draws child-like sketches when in fact that is all he can draw, then he's doing little, not less. An artist that grew up in my child­hood village spent years as an ap­pren­t­ice of Emil Nolde and another several decades copying Nolde's style until he finally found his own style and gained re­co­g­n­i­tion shortly before the end of his career. It took him a li­fe­time; don't expect to become a famous artist for doing any less than Ernst Tranekjær, Nolde's ap­pren­t­ice. The Ja­pan­ese term "shuhari" com­mu­n­ic­ates this tedious train­ing. That's why people spend years at un­i­ver­s­it­ies and even then may never reach the last of the shuhari stages of learn­ing.

You won't get thanked if you solve a task by doing only simple work, by doing less than re­ques­ted, or by doing it slowly, ex­pect­ing that this will create a perfect result. It takes great skill to make that simple which is com­plic­ated and to solve an ex­ten­s­ive task by doing only the least re­quired.

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