Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ink Stained Fingers

First published in Jiyushinkai Budo News summer 2001, when I was living and training in Japan.

Lessons from Shodo - The way of the brush

I sat with my friend Matt a few months ago practicing writing kanji, Chinese characters. Matt's project for the evening was looking up and writing the characters for the seven sins. After some practice he finally made a beauty. He put in on the wall and stared at it admiringly for about ten minutes. He walked around the room analyzing his work from different angles. With a sudden realization, Matt turned and said, "shodo is full of irony, eh?"

The kanji he had written was 'pride'.

Tonight I sit practicing calligraphy. For some reason I just cannot get the character right. Thirteen unlucky strokes I am afraid. All the strokes are easy enough, yet getting the proper balance seems impossible. The harder I try the worse it looks. 'Not trying' does not yield results either. It's delicate nature cannot be forced. Each element must flow naturally. Whatever, it's damned difficult.

The kanji reads Ai which is Japanese for love.

Irony indeed Matty boy, irony indeed.

Determined I vow to endure until I make the perfect one. Maybe all I need is a good teacher. After hours of ink stained fingers I come upon a realization of my own.

Perfection is not really the goal. Perhaps the only goal lies in the daily practice to improve. Maybe the goal lies in striving to make yourself better then the day before. The wisdom of shodo comes not from making something perfect, but the striving to make something beautiful.

Maybe we can all learn from the way of the brush and make a beautiful Ai so that everyong can bask in it's beauty.

My Japanese friend just looked over my shoulder and asked what I was doing. "trying to make Ai," I said. "Ai is difficult, neh?" He looked over at his girlfriend and smiled. "Hai, AI is difficult for Japanese people too."

Update - Years later...with a wife of eight years I am still learning about Ai. I met my wife a few months after the above piece was published.

The above kanji for love I wrote for a company called Spirit Mama.

Walk In Peace

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