Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dragon Slayers

"There is no greater curse than discontent."

Once again, the words of Lao Tsu as written in the Tao Te Ching.

I bet any one of us can relate to this idea. It emerges during the periodic frustration due to our striving for results.

Such discontent is entwined with our ego's need to recognize it's own achievement. I am reminded of mythologist Joseph Campbell, who equated the many tales of slaying dragons as an act of overcoming our own ego-self. However, we need not slay or suppress such a beast, rather just acknowledge that it exists and is merely an aspect of ourselves that need not oppress us or be feared.
I don't view defeating one's ego as eliminating individual identity--merging into a mass military mindset--but instead, permitting a balance to exist within one's mind while on the path of bettering oneself (as a martial artist or a person). In other words, understanding that some struggle is needed in order to grow, but not becoming a slave to, or rushing towards any specifically desired outcome.
For while the Tao of Heaven does not strive, Lao Tsu insists that it still overcomes.
Take this concept back to practical martial application. To strive intellectually for results usually leads to sub-par form, and therefore frustration. When effortless reaction is used, based in repetitive practice, a harmonious feeling is achieved.
A proper balance.
And therein can be found the skills to defeat the dragon.


  1. I was just talking with someone today about Campbell, and how I first learned about such debates as this ... essentially, the Western myth of hero vs. dragon (man vs. nature, reason vs. chaos) ... but the dragon never dies in the really good ones, and I think the most interesting are tragedy. What happens after you slay a dragon? Beowolf has some interesting answers. I wonder what will happen after either A.) I slay a dragon, or B.) I never find a dragon to fight. What would you do? Great stuff.

  2. i think campbell ties into carl jung's thoughts... jung said people cause suffering because they won't look at their own shadow... jung knew the old myths well... and as you say, they aren't always hollywood endings... the questions are good ones.... hopefully the answer is that we find peace, or content ourselves with the hunt. thanks for your input.