Living Things and Dead Things


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Concept                     -                  Idea
Man                           -                  God
Closed                       -                  Open
Limited                      -                  Unlimited
Conscious                  -                  Unconscious
Known                       -                  Unknown
Intentional                 -                  Accidental
Left hemisphere        -                  Right hemisphere


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Concepts are devices with which we hold the world still. They are structures that we stand upon and live within; and when viewed from 'Middle World' they seem solid enough.

However, walk a little further out, or dig a little deeper, and their supposed solidity is thrown into question. When viewed from outside Middle World our structures are not as consistent, or as solid, as they first appear.

By believing in our structures - that they are solid, real - we are able to create grand illusions: vast organisations, towering buildings, complex bureaucracies. It is through putting our faith in the idea of permanence - through taking our games seriously, and our stories literally - that we have been able to construct the monumental edifice of Western society, with its many boons.

Perhaps this is one reason why traditional societies, like the Blackfoot - who were less inclined to view things as static, or solid - did not build such edifices. They did not take things seriously enough.


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The Idea is the unity that has fallen into plurality by virtue of the temporal and spatial form of our intuitive apprehension.

The concept, on the other hand, is the unity once more produced out of plurality by means of abstraction through our faculty of reason;

the latter can be described as unitas post rem, and the former as unitas ante rem.

Finally we can express the distinction between concept and Idea figuratively, by saying that the concept is like a dead receptacle in which whatever has been put actually lies side by side, but from which no more can be taken out (by analytical judgements) than has been put in (by synthetical reflection).

The Idea, on the other hand, develops in him who has grasped it representations that are new as regards the concept of the same name; it is like a living organism, developing itself and endowed with generative force, which brings forth that which was not previously put into it.

Now it follows from all that has been said that the concept, useful as it is in life, serviceable, necessary, and productive as it is in science, is eternally barren and unproductive in art. The apprehended Idea, on the contrary, is the true and only source of every genuine work of art.

The generation, in other words the dull multitude of any time, itself knows only concepts and sticks to them; it therefore accepts mannered works with ready and loud applause. After a few years, however, these works become unpalatable, because the spirit of the times, in other words the prevailing concepts, in which alone those works could take root, has changed.

Only the genuine works that are drawn directly from nature and life remain eternally young and strong, like nature and life itself. For they belong to no age, but to mankind; and for this reason they are received with indifference by their own age to which they distained to conform; and because they indirectly and negatively exposed the errors of the age, they were recognized tardily and reluctantly.

Now, if the purpose of all art is the communication of the apprehended Idea, this Idea is then grasped by the man of weaker susceptibility and no productive capacity through the medium of the artist's mind, in which it appears isolated and purged of everything foreign;

further, if starting from the concept is objectionable in art, then we shall not be able to approve, when a work of art is intentionally and avowedly chosen to express a concept; this is the case in allegory.

An allegory is a work of art signifying something different from what it depicts. But that which is perceptive, and consequently the Idea as well, expresses itself immediately and completely, and does not require the medium of another thing through which it is outlined or suggested. Therefore that which is suggested and represented in this way by something quite different is always a concept, because it cannot itself be brought before perception.

Hence through the allegory a concept is always to be signified, and consequently the mind of the beholder has to be turned aside from the depicted representation of perception to one that is quite different, abstract, and not perceptive, and lies entirely outside the work of art. Here, therefore, the picture or statue is supposed to achieve what a written work achieves far more perfectly.

[...] certainly no great perfection in the work of art is demanded for what is here intended; on the contrary, it is enough if we see what the thing is supposed to be; for as soon as this is found, the end is reached, and the mind is then led on to quite a different kind of representation, to an abstract concept which was the end in view.

If in plastic and pictorial art we are led from what is immediately given to something else, this must always be a concept, because here only the abstract cannot be immediately given. But a concept can never be the source, and its communication can never be the aim, of a work of art. On the other hand, in poetry the concept is the material, the immediately given, and we can therefore very well leave it, in order to bring about something perceptive which is entirely different, and in which the end is attained.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
The World as Will and Representation, p.234-7, 240


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We continue the iconoclast habit and destroy images in religion and literature through allegory and in psychology through conceptual interpretation. (This kitten in your dream is your feeling function; this dog, your sexual desire; this great snake coiled in the corner is your unconscious, or mother, or anxiety.)

The image is slain and stuffed with concepts or vanishes into an abstraction.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.70-1


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I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. 

I much prefer history – true or feigned– with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.

[J.R.R. Tolkien]


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Calling a story an allegory is intellectually lazy, unless the author intended it to be so. It tricks people into forcing themselves to accept one possible explanation for any story, if it has a "lesson." 

 On some level it is also insulting to an author to suggest that their entire work is a one-to-one substitution to an actual event, unless it is strictly intended. Calling an Onion article an allegory wouldn't be insulting, as each article specifically tackles an issue of choice; it is a lampooning of one aspect of modern culture per article, and the whole production of works is great, because of the format. But it is intended.

LotR is often considered an allegory to WWII, and the Ring has been compared to nuclear weaponry or even nationalism. I personally don't find any of those interpretations to hold much merit, as they lack any of the metaphysical aspects of the object in question.

I mean, really, it's magic.

Some allegories really are timeless lessons in philosophy and folk wisdom and should not be discounted. No one argues the conversation that can result from discussing the Allegory of the Cave or any of the Parables.

However, these allegories all have an intended purpose and point to them, as well as a specific audience that is intended to hear them. To reduce the entirety of the story of LotR into one lesson or one point is reductive.

[Tavrobel]
'Why did Tolkien hate allegory?' 


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[...] men, that is to say, are now writing only with the male side of their brains [...] It is the power of suggestion that one most misses, I thought, taking Mr B the critic in my hand and reading, very carefully and very dutifully, his remarks upon the art of poetry.

Very able they were, acute and full of learning; but the trouble was that his feelings no longer communicated; his mind seemed separated into different chambers; not a sound carried from one to the other.

Thus, when one takes a sentence of Mr B into the mind it falls plump to the ground - dead; but when one takes a sentence of Coleridge into the mind, it explodes and gives birth to all kinds of other ideas, and that is the only sort of writing of which one can say that it has the secret of perpetual life.

[Virginia Woolf]
A Room of One's Own, p.117


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Critics who want to escape from the mysteriousness of the work try to replace it by the intention they ascribe to the artist.

A few years ago, Robert Klein argued that it is no longer possible to judge a painting or sculpture without knowing who made it and in what spirit. When we look at a contemporary painting in a gallery, we search for the artist’s name and the title of the painting, if it has one. We do this not out of mere helplessness or curiosity but in the hope of seeing the work as the fulfilment of an intention.

What Klein meant, I think, was that the work of art now persists chiefly as an indication of an intention; it is as an embodied intention that it can best be studied. It is comforting to be in the presence of intentions we understand because the considerations of psychology and economics aren’t at all mysterious—discussion of them is easy.

You’ll recall the incident, a few years ago, when the Tate Gallery paid good domestic cash for a work called 'Equivalent VIII', a load of bricks laid on the floor by the artist Carl Andre. Andre’s intention was far more interesting than the bricks or the order in which he assembled them.

'I sever matter from depiction,’ he said, ‘I am the Turner of matter’. He meant that in choosing bricks, metal plates, or bales of hay, he chooses things that are associated with particular uses, and he diverts them from those uses so that he can give them intrinsic existence.

(Andre's materials have not already become what their manufacturer wanted them finally to be: as, for instance, a car-mirror (Joseph Bueys) or a lavatory seat (Duchamp).)

Normally we look at things mainly for their use; we deal with them as we deal with the wallpaper in our rooms, we would notice it only if it was gone, torn or daubed with black paint.

Carl Andre wants much the same result. Looking at his bricks, we see them as such, as objects: the artist has forced us to pay attention. He doesn’t claim that there is anything sacred in the bricks themselves, or even in his way of disposing them.

Andre regards the artistic event as a combination of the artist’s intention and our way of receiving it. Is there anything against this? No, except that art in this sense can have no history other than that of its intention.

Once we have taken the point and resolved to amend our lives accordingly, there is nothing more to do. Like any one of Andy Warhol’s films, it is not necessary to see it, it’s enough to understand that it is there, and why.

[Denis Donoghue]
The Arts Without Mystery, p. 36


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The way I think about making exhibitions is less about having an argument I’m trying to prove to the world - that this is the right way to think, or to see - it’s more a hypothetical story that I’m trying to tell.

I’m trying to keep it as open as possible, to provide lots of different entry points for different audiences. I’m not interested in trying to hammer away at people's perceptions to make sure they only see it one way.

I do an exhibition because I want to know what the show is about, and if I already did know what it was about then I would not find much interest in doing the show, because it just becomes an exercise in illustrating an argument I’ve already figured out.

For me its more exciting, and more alive, to [not know what it’s about].

[Anthony Huberman]
'Anthony Huberman on For the Blind Man…' 
 

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While the Western world, and particularly Western science, converts the world into a series of concepts that can then be manipulated in the mind, such concepts do not come so easily in the Blackfoot language.

Their philosophy deals with relationships to individual things rather than to collections of similar objects, or ideas into fixed concepts.

Likewise names of things are not fixed. A person's name will change several times during his or her lifetime and to reflect particular deeds and attitudes. Neither is there a fixed concept of personality.

Indeed, while we find multiple personality to be a mental aberration, the Blackfoot would view someone who believed they had only a single self, more or less fixed for life, as missing out on the richness of life's possibilities.

In place of fixed laws and organizations the Blackfoot have networks of relationships with all living things, including rocks and trees, as well as compacts that were negotiated by their ancestors with the spirits and energies of the cosmos. In a world of flux each person has an obligation to renew these relationships and compacts.

And so the Blackfoot world is one of ceremony and responsibility and the recognition of life's basic impermanence. How different their vision of reality is from that which has created our vast organizations, multinationals, and government bureaucracies.

As yet the deeper meaning of quantum theory and process reality has not permeated into our general culture. However, the world of the Blackfoot does show that a society can function in a world of process.

[F. David Peat]
From Certainty to Uncertainty, p. 69-70


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The contextual versus abstract distinction is illustrated by the different use of symbols by each hemisphere.

In one sense of the word, a symbol such as the rose is the focus or centre of an endless network of connotations which ramify through our physical and mental, personal and cultural, experience in life, literature and art: the strength of the symbol is in direct proportion to the power it has to convey an array of implicit meanings, which need to remain implicit to be powerful.

In this it is like a joke that has several layers of meaning - explaining them destroys its power.

The other sort of symbol could be exemplified by the red traffic light: its power lies in its use, and its use depends on a 1:1 mapping of the command 'stop' onto the colour red, which precludes ambiguity and has to be explicit.

This sort of symbolic function is in the realm of the left hemisphere, while the first type belongs to the realm of the right.

[Iain McGilchrist]
The Master and His Emissary, p. 51


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Any work of art which is simply a copy, simply a piece of knowledge, something which, like science, is simply the product of careful observation and then of noting down in scrupulous terms what you have seen in a fully lucid, accurate and scientific manner - that is death.

Life in a work of art is analogous with - is some kind of quality the work has in common with - what we admire in nature, namely some kind of power, force, energy, life, vitality bursting forth.

That is why the great [works of art] are called great, because we see in them not merely the surface, not merely the technique, not merely the form which the artist, perhaps consciously, imposed, but also something of which the artist may not be wholly aware, namely the pulsations within him of some kind of infinite spirit of which he happens to be the particularly articulate and self-conscious representative.

When this is lacking, when the whole thing is wholly conventional, done according to rules, done in the full self-conscious blaze of complete awareness of what one is doing, the product is of necessity elegant, symmetrical and dead.

This is something to do with the notion of depth [...] According to the romantics [...] what I mean by depth, although they do not discuss it under that name, is inexhaustibility, unembraceability.

[...] in the case of works which are profound the more I say the more remains to be said. There is no doubt that, although I attempt to describe what their profundity consists in, as soon as I speak it becomes quite clear that, no matter how long I speak, new chasms open. No matter what I say I always have to leave three dots at the end.

'Can the sacred be seized?' asked Friedrich Schlegel, and he replied, 'No, it can never be seized because the mere imposition of form deforms it.'

[Isaiah Berlin]
The Roots of Romanticism, p. 98-9, 103-4


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Walk a Straight Line


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With a sigh, Knecht shook of this notion. He himself had gone another way, or rather been led, and what counted was to pursue his assigned way straightforwardly and faithfully, not to compare it with the ways of others.

[...] More and more he had to bid farewell to the dream, the feeling and the pleasure of infinite possibilities, of a multiplicity of futures.

[Hermann Hesse]
The Glass Bead Game, p. 248, 471


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[...] although a man is always the same, he does not always understand himself, but often fails to recognize himself until he has acquired some degree of real self-knowledge.

He finds in himself the tendencies to all the various human aspirations and abilities, but the different degrees of these in his individuality do not become clear to him without experience.

Now if he resorts to those pursuits that alone conform to his character, he feels, especially at particular moments and in particular moods, the impulse to the very opposite pursuits that are incompatible with them; and if he wishes to follow the former pursuits undisturbed, the latter must be entirely suppressed.

For, as our physical path on earth is always a line and not a surface, we must in life, if we wish to grasp and possess one thing, renounce and leave aside innumerable others that lie to the right and to the left.

If we cannot decide to do this, but, like children at a fair, snatch at everything that fascinates us in passing, this is the perverted attempt to change the line of our path into a surface. We then run a zigzag path, wander like a will-o'-the-wisp, and arrive at nothing.

Or, to use another comparison, according to Hobbe's doctrine of law, everyone originally has a right to everything, but an exclusive right to nothing;

but he can obtain an exclusive right to individual things by renouncing his right to all the rest, while the others do the same with regard to what was chosen by him. 

It is precisely the same in life, where we can follow some definite pursuit, whether it be of pleasure, honour, wealth, science, art, or virtue, seriously and successfully only when we give up all claims foreign to it, and renounce everything else.

Therefore mere willing and mere ability to do are not enough of themselves, but a man must also know what he wills, and know what he can do. Only thus will he display character, and only then can he achieve anything solid. Until he reaches this, he is still without character, in spite of the natural consistency of the empirical character.  

Although, on the whole, he must remain true to himself and run his course drawn by his daemon, he will not describe a straight line, but a wavering and uneven one.

[...] We must first learn from experience what we will and what we can do; till then we do not know this, are without character, and must often be driven back on to our own path by hard blows from outside.

But if we have finally learnt it, we have then obtained what in the world is called character, the acquired character, which, accordingly, is nothing but the most complete possible knowledge of our own individuality.

It is the abstract, and consequently distinct, knowledge of the unalterable qualities of our own empirical character, and of the measure and direction of our mental and bodily powers, and so of the whole strength and weakness of our own individuality.

This puts us in a position to carry out, deliberately and methodically, the unalterable role of our own person, and to fill up the gaps caused in it by whims or weaknesses, under the guidance of fixed concepts.

[...] In accordance with these, we carry it out as deliberately as though it were one that had been learnt, without ever being led astray by the fleeting influence of the mood or impression of the present moment, without being checked by the bitterness or sweetness of a particular thing we meet with on the way, without wavering, without hesitation, without inconsistencies.

[...] [We] will then often partake of the pleasure of feeling [our] strength, and will rarely experience the pain of being reminded of [our] weaknesses.

[...] For as the whole man is only the phenomenon of his will, nothing can be more absurd than for him, starting from reflection, to want to be something different from what he is; for this is an immediate contradiction of the will itself.

Imitating the qualities of others is much more outrageous than wearing others' clothes, for it is the judgement we ourselves pronounce on our own worthlessness. 

Knowledge of our own mind and of our capabilities of every kind, and of their unalterable limits, is in this respect the surest way to the attainment of the greatest possible contentment with ourselves.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
The World as Will and Representation, p.303-6


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(Anonymous): I wonder if there's a Cocker backlash in the wings.

There's a generation who see him as a guy who crops up to comment on stuff although he (himself) hasn't had a hit for years, so he's a kind of half-cocked national treasure (when everyone seems to be a national treasure), possibly compounded with "death-by-Guardian" a ubiquitousness meaning that you tick all the boxes for production assistants and editors, out of proportion with any public fervour.

imomus
: Celebrity and backlash are absolutely inextricable, for the reasons we were discussing the other day:  

as soon as you make a clear unequivocal statement (and what is a celeb if not a "cultural statement"?) doubts rush in, and the opposite begins to seem appealing.

Slebs can only avoid this by becoming reclusive, ie silent as mimes. Like the Queen, or David Bowie. (Anyone know what he thought of the death of Michael, the Iraq war, the Obama victory? Of course not; he's a mime.)

milky_eyes: ah, I think bowie avoided this by keeping or try to keep his whole 'thing' ie image, statements, music... increasingly more abstract, or postmodern...
 
I dont think you ever got a consistent 'straight' statement out of him... I think in his early years, he'd say stuff, but then one gets tired of always having to backtrack and apologize, etc... so one talks more and more in non-committal statements.

but geez, I'd get tired of always 'airing' 'MY" opinion of this or that.... tired pompous situation.

Conversation from Click Opera, see here.


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I'm told so many things. I've had someone on the phone trying to tell me what the sixth sense is, and I said, I've got a sixth sense, its a fucking sense of humour!

Everything to me is logical and practical, its in my face, its there. I can't distract from it, because the second I distract from it I do lose my way and I have to stay the way that I am, and thats why I have to be non-effected by anything that I listen to, or hear, or see.

[John Harris]
Interviewed on tnsradio


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Amish women adopted quilt styles from the larger society but made them in strong, unprinted colours of their own clothing.

Quilts are emblems of affection. They symbolize a message of warmth. They are an extension of parental affection to the family, the kin group, and to the wider world. Quilts underscore the importance of the transgenerational family.

The patterns, colours, and fabrics are the result of firm boundaries, strong identity, and decisiveness. Inside those boundaries there is warmth and caring. 

[John A. Hostetler]
Amish Society, p. 166


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As we get older, the brain’s synapses—the connections between neurons—start to change.

The young brain is very “plastic,” as neuroscientists say: Between birth and about age 5, the brain easily makes new connections. A preschooler’s brain has many more synapses than an adult brain. 

Then comes a kind of tipping point.

Some connections, especially the ones that are used a lot, become longer, stronger and more efficient. But many other connections disappear—they are “pruned.”

[Alison Gopnik]
'For Babies, Life May Be a Trip'


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Men of Firm Purpose

Is there a limit to man's power? Why can a man's fist break a stone which cannot be broken with an iron hammer? Strength itself is not the answer.

One day I visited Shohkakuji Temple in Nagasaki. The old priest of this temple is the one who had learned the art of Chinese Karate and Zen. This old priest showed me a part of his training practices during my visit. What I saw there was a scene almost dreadful to behold. He put some oil around his hand and thrust it with a yell, into boiling water in a big pot hung over the hearth.

As I was watching it in surprise, he slowly counted from one to ten and pulled his hand out of the boiling water quickly. "Look at my hand." He showed me his hand with a smile; it was not only not scalded but had undergone no change whatsoever. I could never forget the words he mentioned, "You can do anything if you will. Only act with self-confidence."

Man's mental power is great; his body supported by this great power is mysterious beyond solution by science. As far as there actually exists a priest who could calmly put his hand into boiling water [...] it moves our mind as a believable example of the greatness of man's mental power.

The essence of Karate, therefore, is nothing else than a training of mind over body. This is why Karate, capable of such power, should not be used wrongly or violently. The art of Karate seeks for something deeper than simple physical cultivation.

I have tested the limit of possibility for human strength using Karate. As a result of it I have found out that I can easily break thirty piled roof tiles, two red bricks or a two-inch thick square board with one stroke. I can also break a stone weighing over twenty pounds. I have verified that the strength to do these which is called 'superhuman,' is developed by repeated training. And needless to say, it is mental power, surpassing physical strength, which is required for this severe training.

" [...] As the proverb goes, 'Temper the heated iron before it gets cold,' so train yourself in self-discipline before you grow older if you wish to be a great man." The Oriental Confucian maxim is: "First train one's self, manage a household, and then reign over a country." It is essential to train one's self if one wants to administer the affairs of state well.

"The really great man can only be produced through continuous heavy training."

I once had an ambition to become a good politician and after experiencing much doubt and suffering, realized the necessity for power over self. Today, as a man who studies and trains in the martial art of Karate, I feel keenly that a perfect man can be produced only through a combination of culture and physical training.

The affairs of state can only be well administered by the hands of a man self-disciplined mentally and physically. Miyamato Mushashi, a famous swordsman of olden times, once said, "Make yourself familiar with all sorts of martial arts; do not think of greediness, profit or life in tomorrow. Think of nothing but the victory or defeat of today."

There is another saying that a lion runs after a hare to the best of his ability. If a lion must try his best, how much more should the politicians and statesmen give their best to the country they serve.

One famous statesman of the Orient devoted himself to serving his nation without thinking of self-interest or distinction; he even refused to accept peerage and court rank [...] If the statesmen of our time could have such pure minds there would be no unsightly bribery or graft.

To sacrifice oneself, to be selfless, is most important. I believe that true soldiers, true men of martial art, are prepared to give their lives to their first cause, moral obligation - and real statesmen should have the same resolution.

When I, as a man of martial accomplishment in sports, consider my fatherland, Korea, I earnestly believe that a mental revolution of Korean youth is a more burning need of the hour than industrial revolution and cultural elevation.

What is this mental revolution? My expression may sound a little too formal but the mental revolution I conceive of envisions Korean youths who do not try to promote their country simply by ideology or because of their desire for political power. They seek integrity and mental strength through physical training in order to become men of firm purpose to take charge of the future of their fatherland.

Cultivation of character is necessary for this purpose, and both physical and mental training are required to cultivate character [...] Only young men with integrity gained through self-discipline such as comes from the spirit of martial accomplishments can take charge of their country.

[...] I should like to propose the salvation of Korea by human nature trained in this self-denying spirit. I hope that young men of my fatherland will try to gain the self-discipline of mind and body inherent in the martial art of Karate so that the country may be restored to its rightful stature.

[...] It is the mission of us all to give our best efforts for country and for mankind.

[Mas Oyama]
What is Karate?, p.19, 119, 121, 128-30

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Budō

Budō is a compound of the root bu, meaning war or martial; and , meaning path or way. Specifically, is derived from the Buddhist Sanskrit mārga (meaning the "path" to enlightenment).

The term refers to the idea of formulating propositions, subjecting them to philosophical critique and then following a 'path' to realize them.

signifies a "way of life". in the Japanese context, is an experiential term, experiential in the sense that practice (the way of life) is the norm to verify the validity of the discipline cultivated through a given art form. The modern budō has no external enemy, only the internal enemy, one's ego that must be fought.

Wikipedia
Budō


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