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01 January 2017

Commonplace Book: December

Selections from my Commonplace Book, collected from this month's reading. Topics include martial arts, self-education, Christmas, herbalism, ratification of the US Constitution, homeschooling.

A 'kamae' is not simply a posture, but a posture for a specific purpose. It might be to use a weapon, a tool, or even to hold a tennis racket. You're not just holding it and posing. You're holding it in a way that will make it efficient and effective. A kamae consists of two parts; a 'mi-game' (body kamae) and a 'kokoro game' (mind kamae... i.e. an 'attitude'). A kamae displays 'body language' ... A sword kamae might convey a threat to one part of the opponent while at the same time offering a part of you as a target (AND making sure that the bait you've given is actually covered!). Obviously, you don't want to show weak body language to the opponent. Strong body language can win a fight before it happens. There is no such thing as 'weak' kamae. If it's weak, it's not kamae... because kamae is, by definition, an effective and efficient way to use the body for a certain task.

I recently see some terrible kamae in Honbu Dojo, from people getting up to take the godan test. So many people seem to kneel down in front of the person giving the test with round shoulders and neck... almost like they are sitting in a fetal position (Is that even possible?). The body language that their kamae gives to me is "I'm terrified and don't feel confident at all!" I wish they'd sit there with a little stronger attitude! If you fail the test, it may hurt... but it's not going to kill you!

Sit tall, sit proud, and take whatever comes like a man (or a woman!). You'll move, or you'll get hit. Simple! Either way, good kamae is the best way to handle what comes! That should be your first thought when sitting down for the test!
-Shihan Mark Lithgow, Facebook, 13 June 2016

Serious reading is hard work. This should comfort you. If successful reading is a matter of innate intelligence, you can do little to improve yourself. But a task that is merely difficult can be broken down into small and manageable steps, and mastered through diligent effort. Reading the Great Books is no different.
-Susan Wise Bauer, The Well-Educated Mind, 41

The custom of exchanging presents on a certain day in the year is very much older than Christmas, and means very much less. It has obtained in almost all ages of the world, and among many different nations. It is a fine thing or a foolish thing, as the case may be; an encouragement to friendliness, or a tribute to fashion; an expression of good nature, or a bid for favor; an outgoing of generosity, or a disguise of greed; a cheerful old custom, or a futile old farce, according to the spirit which animates it and the form which it takes.

But when this ancient and variously interpreted tradition of a day of gifts was transferred to the Christmas season, it was brought into vital contact with an idea which must transform it, and with an example which must lift it to a higher plane. The example is the life of Jesus. The idea is unselfish interest in the happiness of others.

The great gift of Jesus to the wold was himself. He lived with and for men. He kept back nothing. In every particular and personal gift that he made to certain people there was something of himself that made it precious.
-The Spirit of Christmas

The muscular and  skeletal system... develops out of the mesoderm, or middle layer of the fetal organism. From the initial connective tissue cells develop cartilage, bone, tendons, and muscles. This should teach us about the underlying unity behind muscular and skeletal disturbances. Whether we are dealing with arthritis (inflammation of the joints), rheumatoid arthritis (connective tissue autoimmune disorder), fibromyalgia (pain of the muscle fibers), rheumatism (the old fashioned name for muscular and skeletal aches and pains in general), osteoporosis, broken bones, or tendonitis, we should be aware of the continuity in origin and possible treatment strategy. All too often, this background unity is lost in the modern era of specialization.
-Herbal Treatment for the Muscular and Skeletal System

Almost immediately on returning, both houses of the new [New Jersey] legislature unanimously authorized delegate elections. The wording of both resolutions reveals the sense of overwhelming consensus; the original charge was "to deliberate upon, agree to, and ratify." Later, this was amended to read, "to deliberate upon and if approved by them to ratify," thus at least admitting the possibility that the convention might come to a negative decision or at least allowing it the right to do so.
-Ratifying the Constitution, Gillespie and Lienesch, 72

...for he used often to say, that the way to heaven was the same from all places, and he that had no grave had the heavens still over him.

"God's providence is rich to his,
Let none distrustful be;
In wilderness, in great distress,
These ravens have fed me."
-Roger Williams, Introduction to The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution

Here is the bare truth: Not an hour passes without the enormity of the task I have taken on bringing me to my knees. This work of homeschooling and raising hearts and souls and bodies is hard. It is more than I can do in my own strength. Even so, more than anything else, I desire to teach and mother in a way that pleases God. Some days that feels like feeding the five thousand. But He is not asking me to feed the five thousand; He just wants me to bring my basket of loaves and fishes and lay them at His feet.
-Sarah Mackenzie, Teaching From Rest, Preface

God doesn't call us to this work and then turn away to tend to other, more important matters. He promises to stay with us, to lead us, to carry us. He assures us that if we rely on Him alone, then He will provide all that we need. What that means on a practical level is that we have to stop  comparing. ... We toil because we long to be like the man in Psalm 1, who is "like a tree planted in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all he does, he prospers (1:3)".

The heart of this book is about remembering what our true task really is, and then throwing ourselves in completely. Giving our all. The raising of children, the teaching of truth, the sharing of life, the nourishing of imagination, and the cultivating of wisdom: The are all His anyway; we are merely His servants.
-Sarah Mackenzie, Teaching From Rest, xvi-ii

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Anne Chovies said...

Kym Thorpe said...

I'm especially intrigued by the quote from The Spirit of Christmas, and I've always loved the Wadsworth poem!

Jeniffer D said...

I LOVE Sarah Mackenzie's book. I've already read it twice. :)

Annette V said...

NOW I have a song in my head. :)


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