No Excuses

In my early 20s, the philosophy books that I was reading took a hard shift from the religio-philosophic writings of Taoism and Buddhism to the more worldly thinkers of the West. At the time, the practical intellectual framework provided by these philosophers was something I needed more than the more esoteric teachings found in Eastern religious philosophy. I needed a firm footing in the world more than I needed to transcend it.

Being young and full of myself, I wanted to discuss, ie debate, these philosophical ideas with everyone. Part of me was interested in a sincere, thoughtful exchange of ideas, but mostly I just wanted to argue. I became a sort of intellectual bully, assaulting those around me with my opinions, ideas, and ideology. This is a period of my life I am not particularly proud of because I alienated a lot of good people out of pride and arrogance.

One day, I was in the company of a good friend and his wife. My friend, who was and remains a trusted advisor, and I were discussing my attitudes and behavior, which he observed had changed. His wife, also a dear friend, turned to me and said, “You really seem to have reinvented yourself these days.” I knew immediately that she was not complimenting my charming wit. “No,” my friend said, “He has re-excused himself.”

 Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu

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