Let me describe the arc of my academic career with two swords, learning and teaching.
When I left highschool, I left home, and lived close to university with a family friend. I had to work to support myself, although I did receive a small amount of Austudy. I remember being very lonely, only one other senior from my highschool went to UQ and he was in anthropology, and I was in human movements, so we rarely got to see each other.
In the large first year lecture halls I enjoyed lecturers that were, in a sense, theatrical. Perhaps this is what I remember because large gestures are conveyed further when your seat is way up the back. I found much of university life in my first year intimidating and socially scary so I traded it in for a short stint at the Australian Defence Force Academy. In the summer between the end of my first year and the start of my term at ADFA I had plenty of time to read and get fit.
I swam everyday, ran and rode my bike to prepare for military life. I also read several books that shaped my understanding of conflict and scholarship (as any good officer cadet should). From Miyamoto Musashi I read The Book of Five Rings, where he talked about “the school of two swords” and how a warrior prepares for death each day and ready to rush headlong to meet it, in doing so frees himself from fear and hesitation. This philosophy of seeking stillness when all is chaos and finding an eternal presence without regret, or fear, is with me even today.
I read Sun Tzu’s Art of War, which frames all human relations as a struggle between competing agendas that are prey to influence from external factors and subjective belief. His insights helped me grasp the concept that acting decisively outweighs appropriate planning in quickly changing conditions. But most importantly;
“If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”
As is similarly inscribed on the entrance to the Delphic Oracle, “know thyself”. My exposure to Confucian, Buddhist and Hellenic thought forced a fierce examination of my purpose in life. That, and the pressure cooker of adjusting to military conventions lead to the realisation that my quest to become a warrior was metaphoric and did not require the literal act of murder.
Eiji Yoshikawa’s glorification of the life of Musashi in his serialised novel by the same name gave possible clues to the ultimate goal of the warrior’s life, to lead others and finally one’s self to self-actualisation through an application of the way of the warrior to art and culture. Musashi claimed in his Book of Five Rings that “When I apply the principle of strategy to the ways of different arts and crafts, I no longer have need for a teacher in any domain.”
I returned to University soon after returning to Brisbane, but was out of step with my study and unable to gain financial assistance so I turned my passion for cycling into an income becoming a bicycle courier for Power Couriers.
to be continued…