A Mind Like Wax

(Written by hand originally. It took a few days to write this all down. Distractions abound.)

It is 4:00pm exactly. I meant to get coffee in Greenwood at Herkimer, but they weren\’t offering any indoor seating. So, I walked down the main road looking for another cafe along the way and found my way into a beer bottle shop with over a dozen beers on tap.

I’m having a saison from Holy Mountain. Typically a saison is funky (due to bacterial fermentation that happens alongside the yeast—I think (correction: a saison typically features wild yeast.))This one tastes somewhere between Michelob Ultra and a middle-shelf, dry white wine.followed by a slightly hoppy, slightly bitter finish.

There’s a vinyl record playing. It\’s bluesy, groovy, with heavy electric organ use.

It\’s gray and misting.

The passing cars sound like an intermittent river.

—Quick pivot: today was my first day at my new MMA/Jiu Jitsu Gym. I am currently sporting two bruises; and my right shin hurts because a +200lbs, former army combat medic\’s knee landed right on it. We warmed up with five minutes of jogging and practiced drills for 45 minutes. Then, for the last 5-10 minutes, we rolled. (Wrestling with each other, which is also known as grappling.)

I am better at grappling than the average person; but that is true because the average—the typical person, rather—has absolutely no experience. John, the former combat medic and I rolled for a few minutes. He won both times, but he was good about letting me fight at my skill level without immediately destroying me. He called it \”rolling at half-speed\” or something close to that.

After John and I rolled two or three times, Coach suggested I roll with Spike.

One of the things that I failed to mention is that of the dozen or so of us at the class, only John and I were adults. Coach was watching us along with his son who is my same age and a semi-pro MMA state champ. But otherwise, all of the other students were under the age of 15 or so.

I am 6′ 0”.
185 lbs.
Lean. Muscular. And broad shouldered.

Spike is a teenage who recently got braces, doesn\’t have facial hair, and I think he may weigh as much as 120 lbs—maybe.

When we first squared up on the mat, he looked at me with large, calm, gray eyes. He was confident, eager, and curious. I didn\’t sense a trace of cockiness, which made it that much more humbling when he kicked my ass twice.

I was still breathing heavily five minutes later as I was walking into the grocery store to pick up ingredients for a late brunch.

I hope I can kick his ass someday.

Earlier in the session, I had a moment of reflection and insight. Coach\’s sun, whose name I can’t recall, stepped in to give advice to John and me. —There’s something special about having a \”master\” teach you. A master teaches with their whole…
—not their words alone
—not with their body alone
—not the dogma
—not their emotions
—not their vibe nor their soul.
A master teaches with their whole being. which is reflected in the student. The reflection—the image or the form—impresses upon the student. It transforms him, likening him to the teacher.

An impressionable student becomes like the teacher, not the lesson.

I was only really there, learning for the first half, right up until my perception became a blank gray wall of static because I was tired and brain fried. But my last, most-productive moments died and brought me the memory of a philosophy lecture.

It\’s Spring quarter three years ago, and Hud Hudson, one of contemporary analytic philosophy\’s most notable metaphysicians (and theists), is giving a lecture. He is a middle aged man, wearing an Under Armor hoodie, cargo shorts,  and keen hiking sandals. His lectures sound like he is reading from a beautiful and lucidly written book. My initial impression is that his style is merely the product of careful repetition, rehearsal, and the memorization of key phrases that inevitably follows. However, he answers questions with the same cathedral-like elegance and detail—shining light where it matters most.

The class he is teaching is called History of Philosophy: The Empiricists. I almost failed the class. I passed with a C, which may have been charitable on Hudson\’s part. The lecture was on a particular philosopher: Descartes, Locke, or Hume. (Though maybe it was an Ancient Greek philosophy who said the following:)

The mind is like a soft clay tablet (or perhaps like wax). The world makes impressions upon the clay-like mind through the senses—sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste.

In more simple terms, the empiricists believe that all knowledge came from the senses. They left no room for inborn instinct or synthetic a-priori knowledge.)

I struggled with this class because partially because its lessons were to disagreeable to my own ideas and experience. I did find the ideas interesting and valuable, but only as mere abstractions. —until now.

Today, while the coach\’s champion fighter son teach, I felt an intuitive, subjective sense for what the empiricists meant when they said the mind was like impressionable clay. It was the first time that I felt what they meant when they said the mind was like a clay tablet.

Subjectively, as the prize fighter was teaching me jiu jitsu by going through the various bodily motions, I felt the lessons sink in. Then, I did my best to repeat the fighter\’s movements. I felt him mark and his impression. Its form lingered as it sank in. This is different from my other experiences. I tend to overthink lessons, often relying too heavily on language and relating the lesson to as many other lessons as I could, looking for similarities across other domains. But for part of the lesson, my mind was like soft clay.

However, that state did not last long. I returned to my typical method of learning, which is in a different direction than the empiricists:

The form sinks in, and it enters a garden (my mind); there it must learn to survive—be it through force, viciousness, cunning, or cooperation. The form is not a mere shape nor a sophisticated blue print. It arrives like a living animal, with a spirit, capable of independent existence.

A master\’s lesson is both metaphor and spirit.

And the metaphor-and-spirits—they talk amongst each other. They organize themselves, perhaps like a mandala or perhaps like a social community, like a city. They are each capable of stepping forward to work when they are needed, (or they step forward, by their own compulsion, when they feel they are needed.)

Everything that can be talk about, exists. (There is no non-being.) The question is, how does it exist?

(E.g. A hallucination is a real experience. The problem is that the hallucinator is liable to confuse non-material entities for physical entities.)

It\’s all real. The question is, how is it real, and how do we relate to it? —whatever it is.

To experience is to suffer—among other things.

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