Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Posts Tagged ‘life’


A Rough, Stark World

…The country [of tenth century Castile] is high and bare, though it may have been more thickly wooded in the early Middle Ages than it is today….

…Large tracts of land were still untamed, roamed by wild pigs and cattle, wolves and probably bears…. They were roamed also by voluntary or involuntary drop-outs from human society such as hermits or outlaws….

It was a rough, stark world where status mattered, justice was uncomplicated, and war never far away.

Richard Fletcher, The Quest for El Cid, chapter 5

This sounds like a great setting for a fantasy roleplaying game.

There Comes a Time

King Osric:
There comes a time, thief, when the jewels cease to sparkle. When the gold loses its luster. When the throne room becomes a prison. And all that is left…is a father’s love for his child.

— “Conan the Barbarian” (1982)

Willing to Act as a Guide

The martial arts sensei is very much like a Zen master; he has not sought out the student, nor does he prevent him from leaving. If the student wants guidance in climbing the steep path to expertise, the instructor is willing to act as guide—on the condition that the student be prepared to take care of himself along the way. The instructor’s function is to delegate to the student exactly those tasks which he is capable of mastering, and then to leave him as much as possible to himself and his inner abilities. The student may follow in the footsteps of his guide or choose an alternate path—the choice was his.

The instructor first teaching technique (waza) without discussing its significance; he simply waits for the student to discover this for himself. If the student has the necessary dedication, and the teacher provides the proper spiritual inspiration, then the meaning and essence of the martial arts will finally reveal themselves to him.

Joe Hyams, Zen in the Martial Arts, p. 5

Being Tough

“Winning fistfights means being good at fistfighting,” Susan said. “Being tough means looking at something ugly, and saying ‘That’s ugly; I’ll have to find a way to deal with it.’ And doing so.”

Robert B. Parker, Sixkill

From the last Spenser novel completed before the author’s death. 🙁

The Armour of Contempt

Chaos claims the unwary or the incomplete. A true man may flinch away its embrace, if he is stalwart, and he girds himself with the armour of contempt.” — Gideon Ravenor, The Spheres of Longing

Dan Abnett, His Last Command

The Odyssey Is a Grand Metaphor

[The Odyssey] is not a poem about then and there, but now and here. The poem describes the inner geography of those who hear it. Every aspect of it is grand metaphor. Odysseus is not sailing on the Mediterranean but through the fears and desires of a man’s life. The gods are not distant creators but elements within us: their careless pitilessness, their flaky and transient interests, their indifference, their casual selfishness, their deceit, their earth-shaking footfalls….

Adam Nicolson, Why Homer Matters, p. 8

Inside the Great Keep of a Castle

Inside the great keep of the castle was the required minimum of living-space: a great hall; provision in the basement for supplies; a private chamber, and perhaps a solar, for the lord and lady; a chapel; a well; and privies. In large castles, the number of chambers and guardrooms would of course be multiplied to provide for a larger garrison, as well as for the household. The great hall was the centre of all social activity and the common meeting place. It usually occupied almost the full expanse of the main floor, with a dais at one end, a fireplace in one wall, and screens or “spurs” to block the draughts of cold air from the entry doors. The bed-chamber of the lord of the castle and his wife was normally on the floor above the great hall and provided a relatively private spot.

Margaret Wade Labarge, A Baronial Household of the Thirteenth Century, p. 24

Wine of Ancient Greece Was Thick Like Syrup

…The wine of ancient Greece did not taste anything like the wine we know today. It was thick like syrup, and was often heavily flavored with honey, thyme, aloes, and juniper berries. Most people today would find it awful. Even then they had to water it down to avoid toxic intoxication….

Jean Houston, The Hero and the Goddess, p. 109

A Dojo Is a Miniature Cosmos

A dojo is a miniature cosmos where we make contact with ourselves—our fears, anxieties, reactions, and habits. It is an arena of confined conflict where we confront an opponent who is not an opponent but rather a partner engaged in helping us understand ourselves more fully. It is a place where we can learn a great deal in a short time about who we are and how we react in the world. The conflicts that take place inside the dojo help us handle conflicts that take place outside. The total concentration and discipline required to study martial arts carries over to daily life. The activity in the dojo calls on us to constantly attempt new things, so it is also a source of learning—in Zen terminology, a source of self-enlightenment.

Joe Hyams, Zen in the Martial Arts, p. 4

Space Was Severely Limited Within a Keep

Space was severely limited within the great stone keep [of a thirteenth century, C.E., English castle], so accommodation for most of the household activities was provided in numerous wooden buildings erected within the inner courtyard. The kitchen might be an elaborate separate structure or merely a shed protecting the cook and the fires from the weather. Frequently the animals and poultry awaiting their turn for the pot were kept in the courtyard, near the kitchen, till the cook required them. In the bailey was a farriery where the smith shod the many horses needed by the household. A pigeon-loft, often a large and elaborate structure, or a dairy might add yet other varieties of animal life to the courtyard. The bailey might also contain a large chapel for the benefit of all the household, since the small chapel in the keep was normally reserved for the lord and lady of the castle and their immediate retinue. Occasionally another separate building existed to house the bells for the chapel. The general impression is one of a confusing hodgepodge of structures designed for many different uses, but all dominated by the solid masonry of the keep and enclosed by a thick wall.

Margaret Wade Labarge, A Baronial Household of the Thirteenth Century, p. 20

The Way of Life

A man is born gentle and weak.
At his death he is hard and stiff.
Green plants are tender and filled with sap.
At their death they are withered and dry.
Therefore the stiff and unbending is the disciple of death.
The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life.
Thus an army without flexibility never wins a battle.
A tree that is unbending is easily broken.
The hard and the strong will fall.
The soft and weak will overcome.

— Lao-Tzu, Tao Te Ching

A Lucky Find Unsettles One’s World

Coming from who knows where, a lucky find is potentially unsettling to whatever world it enters. The moralists will be likely to complain, the gamblers will be pleased, while everyone else will wait to see if it really is amusing, this new thing. Whatever the case, before we can have a full sense of the disruptions and delights that come in the wake of a lucky find, we need fuller examples to work with. In 1965 [C.E.] George Foster, an anthropologist who had worked in Mexico and Italy, published an essay that is partly about how peasants respond when their neighbors’ fortunes suddenly change. In “Peasant Society and the Image of Limited Good,” Foster argues that many othervise perplexing details of peasant behavior can be understood by assuming that peasants believe there is a fixed quantity of wealth in the community and therefore that if someone in the group suddenly becomes richer it must be because someone else, or the group as a whole, has become poorer. The idea holds if we imagine, as Foster does, a closed community, or—to put it the other way—the idea finds its exceptions in cases in which wealth clearly comes from outside the nominal bounds of the group. Peasants do not feel ripped off if one of their number becomes richer as “a result of selling labor as a migrant worker, for it is clear that wages so earned come from across the border. More telling for my purposes are the other ways to get wealth without being subjected to group opprobrium. In peasant communities in southern Italy, for example, the neighbors won’t harass someone whose sudden success comes as a “gift of Fortune,” as, for example, when “a rich gentleman gave a poor boy a violin,” or when “a rich gentlewoman adopted an abandoned child,” when a man “hit upon a hidden treasure” buried in the woods, and when “another was lucky enough to win in the lottery.”

Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes This World, pp. 131-32

Emphasis mine.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and new we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up your quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

— John McCrae

The Wrong Reality Map Can Kill You

Reality mapping allows individuals, organizations, and nations to use belief systems to chart a path through the universe. A reality map is a set of conceptual boundaries that determine the limits of expectations, what is—and is not—possible in a particular belief system.

Around 1300 [B.C.E.], a Hittite king used his reality map and the excuse of a timely eclipse to declare a politically meddlesome queen guilty of witchcraft and have her executed, in accordance with the belief system of his people. Homeric Greeks never sailed out of sight of land in their long ships. They hugged the coast, because their reality maps told them that any seagoing ship would be lost and their belief systems peopled the sea with deadly sirens, monsters, and gods. In the time of Alexander the Great, when his archrival, the Persian king Darius, wanted to cross a river with his army, the entire army stopped while the king threw hot manacles into the river and disciplined it according to the reality map of the day. If the river gods where not beaten and shamed into submission, said the belief system of the Persian army, any attempted crossing would end in disaster.

The wrong reality map can kill you, because your reality map sets your expectations. The right reality map can free you, vindicate you, or make you a hero. For individuals, nations, and cultures, all empowered by belief systems, reality maps are often the place where history is made and fates decided. The reality map of a nation defines its character and charts its destiny. Your reality map comprises the boundary conditions of your personal universe. It defines for you what is possible and impossible. It is the reference system you use to determine whether a phenomenon is real or unreal—or whether an event is an act of God, a trick of fate, or a simple coincidence.

John B. Alexander, Richard Groller, and Janet Morris, The Warrior’s Edge, p. 103-105

Emphasis mine.

For Whom The Bell Tolls

No man is an island, entire of itself;
Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,
As well as if a promontory were,
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were;

Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind;
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

— John Donne

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced or cried aloud.
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and will find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How changed with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.

— William Earnest Henley

A Warrior’s Creed

I have no parents—I make the heavens and earth my parents.

I have no home—I make awareness my home.

I have no life and death—I make the tides of breathing my life and death.

I have no divine power—I make honesty my divine power.

I have no means—I make understanding my means.

I have no magic secrets—I make character my magic secret.

I have no body—I make endurance my body.

I have no eyes—I make sensibility my eyes.

I have no limbs—I make promptness my limbs.

I have no strategy—I make ‘unshadowed by thought’ my strategy.

I have no design—I make ‘seizing opportunity by the forelock’ my design.

I have no miracles—I make right-action my miracles.

I have no principles—I make adaptability to all circumstances my principles.

I have no tactics—I make emptiness and fullness my tactics.

I have no talents—I make ready wit my talent.

I have no friends—I make my mind my friend.

I have no enemy—I make carelessness my enemy.

I have no armor—I make benevolence and righteousness my armor.

I have no castle—I make immovable-mind my castle.

I have no sword—I make absence of self my sword.

— Anonymous 14th-century samurai.

Domain of the Philosopher

The Meditations [by Marcus Aurelius] is customarily, and no doubt rightly, classified by librarians under the heading of “Philosophy” But this may give the reader a misleading impression, unless he understands the place which philosophy held in the ancient world. From what he knows of the writings of its twentieth-century [C.E.] exponents, he is unlikely to conclude that its chief aim and end is the attainment of personal virtue. This, he imagines, is the province of religion, not of philosophy. But in classical times things were different. Morality, the good life, man’s relations with the gods—all these were the domain of the philosopher, not the priest. Roman religion in the Imperial age had no concern with moral problems. Its business was simply the performance of such appropriate rites as would ensure the gods’ protection for the State, or avert the effects of their displeasure. It was a formal system of public ceremonies carried out by State officials, and provided no answers to the doubts and difficulties of human souls. Yet then, as now, men found themselves perplexed by the great questions that are the common concern of us all. What is the composition of this universe around us, and how did it come into being? Is it ordered by blind chance, or a wise Providence? If gods exist, do they interest themselves in mortal affairs? What is the nature of man, and his duty here, and his destiny hereafter? It was not the priests but the philosophers who claimed to supply the answers to such inquiries. Their answers, it is true, were not unanimous; there were rival systems of philosophy, and each proffered its own solution (as, for that matter, the different world-religions of our own day still do); But all were agreed that the sole right to pronounce with authority in the fields of metaphysics, theology, and ethics belonged to philosophy.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, translator’s introduction

Emphasis mine.

Your Time Has a Limit Set to It

Think of your many years of procrastination; how the gods have repeatedly granted you further periods of grace, of which you have taken no advantage. It is time now to realize the nature of the universe to which you belong, and of that controlling Power whose offspring you are; and to understand that your time has a limit set to it. Use it, then, to advance your enlightenment; or it will be gone, and never in your power again.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, p. 46