We live in a world of unending measurements, quantifications, and classifications. We use them to define the world around us and the world within us. From height, weight, length, depth, and volume to knowledge, wisdom, understanding, compassion… We even try to measure emotion. Whether diplomas, certificates, numbers, statistics, logistics, chapters, steps, or otherwise, we have created a world where all things need names, and those names require a clearly defined, easily visible, readily explainable hierarchy that can help us explain it, define it, teach it, or show pride in it to those around us — just as they try to show us the same.
It is a world of instant gratification, that demands tangible proof of its progress or measurable degrees of its failure over the course of very small slices of time as its only seeming means of drive and motivation. It is a world of pure anticipation without patience.
How many years until I graduate? How big is the engagement ring he gave you? How many pages left in this book? How long is the flight? Everything is measured.
However, this need for definition and recognition grows more desperate as we, humanity, society, “evolve,” it would seem.
Recently, the theme of need for quantification has come up a lot for me as a result of friends testing for ever increasing ranks, of friends wanting to refrain from testing at all, of my own, recent tests, upcoming seminars, and, even, of articles that I’ve encountered online.
At first, there was no rank, only study, practice, work, and the path was its own reward. Your wisdom, compassion (or lack thereof), comportment, and skill spoke for you and represented your instructor. It was enough to know and want to constantly know more. The pride involved in the open recognition of one’s own skill was a sign of the immaturity, it dishonored you, your elders, instructors, family, and friends.
It may seem like a romanticized story to most people today, but it wasn’t then. The need for a certain level of maturity was necessary because the knowledge they were obtaining had very real, very immediate, and very directly translatable applications with fatal results. They weren’t learning the arts for the sake of sport, fitness, or hobby. They needed the arts for defense of their lands, loved ones, and self. Today, competition is held on a mat, for a medal or trophy.
But, it seems as though the simple matter of knowing is no longer enough for people, and, from those that it is enough some proof is always required. So, how do you keep the balance? Any thoughts?