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The Sun Interview

Making War Obsolete

An Interview With Gene Sharp

The articles in this issue on Aikido suggest at least one way people can defend themselves against their enemies without killing them. In this interview, Harvard political strategist Gene Sharp asks why nations can’t do the same. We all…

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

The Opponent Is Within

Aikido And The New Warrior

High whirling kicks, explosive punches powerful enough to smash boards, terrifying shouts: that’s the typical image of the martial arts, the one we see in the movies. Depending on our prejudices, it either thrills us or turns us off.

This Isn’t Richard

There were four of us, three men and a woman, who shared an ordeal, a rite of passage. In a culture that has turned its eyes from challenge and chance and possible tragedy, this was a rare gift indeed. We were up for black belt in Aikido — Richard, Lawrence, Wendy, and I — and over a period of about a year each of us in our separate ways confronted injury, exhaustion, humiliation, and despair. Our list of injuries alone suggested the severity of the ordeal. In addition to numerous bumps, bruises, and abrasions, we suffered a broken foot (Lawrence), a sprained neck and torn ligaments of the elbow (Wendy), a fracture of the cheekbone and a multiple fracture of the arm (Richard), and a dislocated shoulder (me). These injuries might seem excessive in an art that so often has the effortless quality of a dance or a dream. But in Aikido no punches are pulled, and each attack proceeds to its logical conclusion, with the attacker pinned or thrown through the air. Thus, the Aikidoist must practice hard and long to transform the fear of falling into the joy of flying — an unforgiving if ecstatic practice.

A Kind Word Turneth Away Wrath

A turning point in my life came one day on a train in the suburbs of Tokyo. It was the middle of a languid spring afternoon, and the car was comparatively empty — a few housewives out shopping with their kids in tow, some old folks, a couple of bartenders on their day off poring over the racing form. The rickety old car clacked monotonously over the rails as I gazed absently out at the drab houses and dusty hedgerows.

The Light From Different Windows

As a Westerner turning Buddhist in 1982, I was concerned about abandoning my “Christian heritage” for a foreign culture. I had never felt completely at home with that heritage: church seemed like a sterile routine, and any form of dogma affected me like one more arrogant know-it-all telling me how I should live.

Meeting The Woman Within

Lord, I may be a man, but I am pregnant with grief. I have only just gotten used to crying, and now I am rolling about and wailing out loud, clutching my painful belly as if struggling to unhitch a beast who has leapt upon my center, clawing. But the beast is inside; my stomach has turned against me! It spasms and contracts in the service of an inexplicable distress. It bloats with the eruption of unspoken violence.

Fiction

My Life In Marketing Research

When I returned from Denver to Manhattan last fall I needed a job. My first idea was to be one of those guys who sit on boxes outside discount stores on Dyckman Street watching that no one steals plastic coat hangers — but all those positions were filled. My next plan was to be Santa Claus. I went to Macy’s, asked for the Santa Claus Department, rode to the ninth floor, and discovered that the Father Christmas industry is run by gays! For half an hour I sat on an uncomfortable green chair overhearing who was in which Off Off Off Broadway play and who was breaking up with whom. Finally, I was interviewed by a fellow so likeable that I found myself telling him I had a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing, was planning to travel to India, etc. “We’ll be happy to have you,” he said, “if you’ll shave off your beard.” Life is full of such ironies.

*NOTE: Original copies of this issue are no longer available. Unbound, laser-printed copies will be provided for print orders.

Readers Write

Morning Rituals

First, I pull myself up into a sitting position against the wall, with my legs still stretched out under the covers. Then I close my eyes again and try to settle my thoughts. Invariably, my cat Bill comes over and curls up on my lap. I open my eyes and stroke him behind his ears; his eyes are closed, and he purrs sleepily. He represents the force of sleep now, the pull to go back down under, while my restless mind is already leaping a million miles ahead into the day, spurred by the momentum of my dreams. I close my eyes, breathe slowly, and open them again. I drift in and out of half-sleep for a few minutes, all the while absently stroking Billy's ears, until I attain a certain mental balance which enables me to lift him gently off my lap without upsetting either of us too much. Then I know I’m ready to get out of bed and begin the day.

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