Written by Rachel

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All by yourself?

Modern people are quite often alone and lonely. With the advent of widespread divorce and the collapse of the 'nuclear family', society has changed dramatically.
Many of the changes are good. But some are not. There is a growing concern in society that being alone is more harmful than stress, drugs, excessive alcohol consumption or smoking.


Many martial arts classes adhere to an image that is reminiscent of the Kirk Douglas movie Spartacus.
Muscled men strut around, pouting and macho. There is rough humour and sweat. Nobody especially likes anyone else. The goal is to be the best, the toughest, the scariest, the meanest.
This kind of atmosphere is not very healthy. It promotes negative emotions and insecurity.

Showing off is the fool's idea of glory.

(Bruce Lee)

Game playing

A lot of friendships and conversations in our lives revolve around rather obvious 'cultural games' designed to promote status/prestige.
See Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships by Eric Berne...
Both families and friends deliberately or unconsciously employ manipulative games. They can be quite a strain.

Faux friends

It is common for people to be friendly and talkative when they want something and then haughty and distant on all other occasions.
This is a Chinese insight:
"one face for giving and one face for taking". Essentially, the individual is only being friendly because they want something from you. Faux friendly.
Their apparent friendship is false; merely a ploy designed to manipulate you. In reality, they are anything but friendly.


Some people like the idea of being somehow famous/a celebrity. They are very vain; preening and posing in the hope of garnering attention and fame.
Everyone around them is inadvertently cast as their audience... The quest for approval suggests insecurity and indicates weakness of character, fear and shame.

Why is it that we crave to be recognized, to be made much of, to be encouraged? Why is it that we are such snobs? Why is it that we cling to our exclusiveness of name, position, acquisition? Is anonymity degrading, and to be unknown despicable? Why do we pursue the famous, the popular? Why is it that we are not content to be ourselves? Are we frightened and ashamed of what we are, that name, position and acquisition become so all-important? It is curious how strong is the desire to be recognized, to be applauded. In the excitement of a battle, one does incredible things for which one is honoured; one becomes a hero for killing a fellow man. Through privilege, cleverness, or capacity and efficiency, one arrives somewhere near the top - though the top is never the top, for there is always more and more in the intoxication of success. The country or the business is yourself; on you depend the issues, you are the power. Organized religion offers position, prestige and honour; there too you are somebody, apart and important. Or again you become the disciple of a teacher, of a guru or Master, or you co-operate with them in their work. You are still important, you represent them, you share their responsibility, you have and others receive. Though in their name, you are still the means. You may put on a loincloth or the monk's robe, but it is you who are making the gesture, it is you who are renouncing.

In one way or another, subtly or grossly, the self is nourished and sustained. Apart from its antisocial and harmful activities, why has the self to maintain itself? Though we are in turmoil and sorrow, with passing pleasures, why does the self cling to outer and inner gratifications, to pursuits that inevitably bring pain and misery? The thirst for positive activity as opposed to negation makes us strive to be; our striving makes us feel that we are alive, that there is a purpose to our life, that we shall progressively throw off the causes of conflict and sorrow. We feel that if our activity stopped, we would be nothing, we would be lost, life would have no meaning at all; so we keep going in conflict, in confusion, in antagonism. But we are also aware that there is something more, that there is an otherness which is above and beyond all this misery. Thus we are in constant battle within ourselves. The greater the outward show, the greater the inward poverty.



The desire to be noticed is not a healthy one. It speaks of an inner gulf. Of a sense of worthlessness. Why would you want fuss and attention?
There is a Chinese curse:
May you come to the attention of people in high places. It warns of the danger of being popular/famous. Not all attention is good attention...

Drama queen?

Some people behave as if they were the only person in the universe that encounters problems or setbacks in life. Everything that happens to them is considered to be unique and enormous.
This is quite a drag for everyone else. After all, we all have things to deal with. The good, the bad and the ugly. It's just the nature of life.

Beyond egotism

You do not need recognition. You do not need to be famous. Or to have prestige. These are shadows. Cheap illusions for the shallow-minded.
Taoism abhors the show off. It advocates a life of anonymity and quietude. The last thing we want is to 'make a name' for ourselves. Egotism has no place in tai chi.

Context friendships

We all form relationships with people that are the product of the situation.
e.g. most work friendships are fine in the context of the workplace but might fail miserably if we attempted to expand that relationship beyond work. This is normal and healthy.

A night off

The by-product of the tai chi environment is a reprieve from the game playing commonly found in various situations that occur in our lives.
Rather than step cautiously through the minefield of self-promotion and competitive conduct, we can relax. No one gets rewarded for being a smartarse, mean or sarcastic.
There is no merit in playing games. These sorts of behaviours have no place in a tai chi class. Our interactions are straightforward, direct, honest. Game playing is frowned upon.
It is easier and more satisfying for everyone to relax and get along.


Page created 8 April 2007
Last updated 15 May 2020