Thursday, February 20, 2014

Truth vs. truth

In philosophy, you sometimes encounter the discussion of "Truth" vs. "truth".

Since I'm not a philosophy major, let's just say that a "Truth" is something that is universal and objective, while a "truth" is something that is subjective no matter how many people believe it. "I will die if I jump into the sun" is a Truth.  "The best ice cream flavor is chocolate" is a truth.  Maybe someday some Truths will be proven false, like if we evolve into a plasma-resistant species, but you get my point.

Tonight in the dojo, 5 of us were staying after class and discussing fine details of body mechanics when moving.  The discussion even got into physics equations (I was of little use there) to argue and explain what we believed and questioned.  At the end, we agreed on only one Truth: The feet are somehow involved.  Ha!  That's like spending an hour talking about drag racing and coming to agree that you need tires on your car.  Still, it's a Truth.  All the other truths that we brought were debated to minutia.  Even the truths most of us agreed on had some doubters.  I loved it.

I bring up this topic because I see a lot of people in taiko taking a truth and making it a Truth.  They were taught a way of playing and it's now the right way of playing.  They were told something by their sensei and so it must be Truth.  It's not necessarily that they try to proselytize others, but instead may not respond well to a different approach of playing.  To them, one person's truth has become their Truth.  This isn't to say what's not a Truth is a lie!  Big difference there.  I'm simply saying what's a truth might work well under one style or system, but not apply outside of that style or system.

How do you know when a Truth is a truth?  You have to question things.  "Hitting harder means a louder sound" is a Truth for many new players, but ask those who have been playing a long time and you'll find very few that support that belief.  "Japanese taiko is better than other taiko" is a big Truth for some, but good luck having that one go unchallenged.  Ultimately, I bet you'll find only a few Truths if you search in earnest.  To me, that's a good thing!  The more you know that things aren't set, the more opportunities you have to learn.

I play with SJT style as a default, but we have very specific goals with our style.  Because of that, I know there's more to learn by looking at other styles of playing.  Maybe a group that doesn't focus as much on kata has a different way to think of chops?  What about a group that focuses more on dance-like movement, what might they have to teach about body mechanics?  Maybe learning something that feels totally foreign to me will expose weaknesses in my ability or highlight what I'm really good at.  I won't know unless I try.  I might not find a truth I agree with right away, but if I keep looking, I bet I'll find some I do.  And that's when I grow.

There is no one person that plays taiko the "right" way.  Some don't even play the "right" way for themselves, but it's what they've learned.  I've been playing for a long time and it's not always easy for me to think "maybe there are better ways", but if there is no "right" way, then that means I still have things to learn.

How about you?

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