Judgment, Jokes and Joy

Judgment, Jokes and Joy

by Lynn Seiser

The article below does not necessary reflect the point of view on Aikido of our club Aikikai Gent. However, we think these articles provide really ‘food’ for deeper thought on Aikido and it’s value.
This article appeared on the forums of aikiweb

Breathe in, judgment
Breathe out, jokes

Ever play a practical joke on someone? The entire time you are getting it up and waiting to pull it off, you snicker to yourself. Yea, it is like that.

(Please see if you can read this entire article/column without a single thought of right or wrong, good or bad, agreed or disagreed.)

judgment: (1) a formal utterance of an authoritative opinion, (2) an opinion so pronounced, (3) a formal decision or legal verdict given by a court, (4) discernment or good sense.

I remember sitting on the bleachers at a large Aikido seminar. A young man, with possibly good intent, but in all ignorance and arrogance, was doing a demonstration on everything that was wrong with Aikido. He managed to surround himself with many hecklers in a circus like atmosphere. I decide to take a closer look. A Shihan looked at me as if to say, are we not beyond that. I smiled as if to say, apparently not me.

Recently I had a chance to do Kyokyu-dosa with a Sensei who has far superior skills than mine. I knew I could not move him within the confines and context of the exercise (as a sensitivity drill not a power struggle) and began to use my larger muscle mass and longer reach. He smiled as if to say, are not we beyond that. As I pushed him over, I thought to myself, apparently not me.

It is easy to be caught up in rank and reputation in Aikido training. It is easy to think that we already know what good Aikido is and what bad Aikido is. It is easy to think that the way we were taught and the way we are doing a technique is the right way and that everyone and everything else is the wrong way. These tend to be very judgmental attitudes. This extends beyond just training and reflects on how we may see other martial arts or means of self-development. I often refer to my bashing history in a descriptive way, but recently realized some may take it as judgmental and dismissive, as if Aikido is somehow a better art and I am a better person because I study it. I am not going to debate or explain my position or use of words, but it does remind me that judgment appears in all we think, feel, and do. Yet, has judgment ever made for a better workout or a better person?

In life and relationships, we may have already judged ourselves as better than as or worse than others. We have rules about not judging others, but self-judgment is still judgment. I often suggest that we pick people who agree with us. If we do not like ourselves, we tend to attract and relate to people who agree with us, they do not like us either. Most of these self-referencing and self-judgments are unconscious and learned originally in our family of origin. We learn our position in our family and in the world. We may have been taught judgmental views of others. We take these judgments wherever we go and apply them to everything and everyone we meet every day. In couples counseling, I am often asked to take sides of who is right or wrong, who is the good person and who is being bad. This underlying process of judgment is what has destroyed the relationship. What we are doing to try to help our relationships is exactly what is hurting them and each other. I often ask people if they want to be right or do they want to be happy. They think being right (and the other person wrong) would make them happy. Usually it just makes them lonely.

I remember reading Ken Wilbur’s work in transpersonal psychology on the pre/trans-fallacy. He proposed that we do not transcend former levels to reach higher planes in an exclusive way, but rather integrate and incorporate them inclusively. Do I really transcend judgment, leave it behind, and never have to deal with it again? A very common attitude is that once you have insight into an issue you will always see it that way. I think the joke is on us. We are the joke in judgment.

joke: (1) a funny story, (2) a cause for amusement, (3) something inadequate, (4) not to be serious

Alan Watts was a professor who helped introduce Zen to the academic western world. He had the most infectious smile and laugh. It was as if he knew we were playing some cosmic joke on ourselves and he was just enjoying waiting for us to get the punch line.

Sigmund Freud wrote a small essay on jokes and their relationship to the unconscious. It was a very interesting work from a man who few people thought had a sense of humor. Freud’s contribution to “the talking cure” was to make the unconscious conscious through introspection leading to insight. He taught about the structure of insight as we have a specific storyline or narrative of our life that has a very predictable ending. Insight allows us to review the entire story from a different perspective, freeing up the possibility of a new ending. Jokes, likewise, have a specific storyline with a predicable ending. The punch line allows us to review and revise the entire story from a different, more humorous perspective. One we take seriously and one we laugh with.

I like being with people who take the training seriously, but not themselves. In Aikido, we are told to train in a joyful manner, yet we look so serious (often locked into a judgment frame of mind). This is my hobby. While I consider myself a serious student of Aikido, I still do it for the enjoyment of training. I have often been asked what I intend to do with my training. Many think I am joking when I say I am doing what I intended to do, I train. The training is the process and the destination.

In couples counseling, I usually see people who take themselves and their relationship very seriously. When I asked why they first got together, they usually say because they enjoyed being with each other and making each other laugh. I asked how they stopped themselves from enjoying and laughing with each other now. We usually uncover the self or other judgmental scripts and schema that are being played out. Often we repeat old patterns in an attempt to resolve them, but usually just reinforce them. They say that one of the first things to leave and one of the last things to come back is our sense of humor. Perhaps laughing at others is judgmental, but laughing at ourselves is very healthy and desirable.

When I read existential philosophy, they seem to see the great void with self-referenced dread as if the only thing that is real is negative. On the other hand, in Zen, we seek the void and that cosmic joke is on us as a positive. Insight and enlightenment, not to mention entertainment and enjoyment, is in the laughter.

joy: (1) great happiness, (2) a pleasurable aspect, (3) elevated pleasure, (4) delight, (5) bliss or ecstasy of a sensual, emotional, cognitive, social, or spiritual nature.

I have never trained with people over a long period of time that was not enjoying the training. I have never had someone come into my office complaining there was too much joy in his or her life. When we are filled with judgment, we are empty of joy.

Why do we train? Perhaps we train because we find joy in the process of our interaction with others and in the opportunity and experience of self-reflection and refinement.

Why do we fall in love? (Okay, that is a much harder one.) Perhaps we fall in love because it is a place we find ourselves, lose ourselves, and realize that not everything in life is about us, or being right or wrong, or good or bad. Perhaps if there is judgment, there is no love. Perhaps we are all seeking the joy of love (inter-connected and inter-dependent) that we can only find by letting go.

Perhaps the joke is on us: there is no judgment.

Are you laughing now?

Breathe in, judgment
Breathe out, jokes