Saturday, November 3, 2012

Story of the student and the pool

Random little story story.  My mind has been on parables lately and this came up. I can't really say there is a particular meaning intended.  Just thinking out loud.

A beginning martial arts student was told there was a Master instructor that lived in his neighborhood.  He knew of the man, but wasn't aware he possessed any knowledge or special ability of any worth or interest.  However it did come to his attention the the last week of school that he may have passed the man off too quickly. A rumor had circulated that the old man in the neighborhood had .....     The boy decided to pay the old man a visit and find out for himself.  After a long discussion the boy was intrigued, and seeing the boy's desire to learn this art, the instructor said that if he really wanted to learn he would need to dedicate his entire summer to his initial training.  Friends, games, and TV would need to be put on hold.  The eager student agreed.

Day one began with the instructor telling the student he needed to empty a nearby pool of all the water.  Confused, but before having a chance to complain, the teacher abruptly handed him a bucket and went on about his business.  The student, looking upwards in total disgust debates whether or not the old crock of a teacher actually knows anything at all.  But he snatches the bucket and walks over to the pool.  After gazing into the murky water he realizes he can hardly make out is own reflection in it.  Just then the instructor called from the background and said: "if you want to learn, your going to have to first get that dirty water out of the pool".  Again rolling his eyes in disgust the boy wonders how long this is going to take.  Then begins to wonder where on earth he supposed to put the water?  The lawn?  After the enormity of the task settles in, he wonders why people buys pools at all.  But he began anyway.  After a few bucket loads of water to the nearby storm drain, and already tired, the student contemplated telling the teacher that people get paid good money to clean pools.

Day one ended tired and sore and a bit bitter.  Day two didn't go much better.  The boy decided to take his time as well as a few days off.  After almost half the summer is gone the instructor seeing the task almost complete, and the student's arm, back, leg, and core muscles toned and developed, then shows the student where the pool can be drained, and where the drain pump switch was.  The instructor smiled a smile that was too much for the boy to handle.  With this new revelation all doubt in the students mind had been removed about the competence of the old man.  "Why didn't we just pull the plug and use the pump and save me all the work" he demands?  "You never asked" the old man said.  But before the boy could respond, the instructor says that he is now ready, and not to worry, that it was for his own good.  "Ready for what? More manual labor?" The student sarcastically muttered to himself.  But glad to not have to use a bucket anymore he was curious what was to come.  So the training moved forward.

"The pool now serves as our dojo to practice in" the teacher said.  "It wasn't all about emptying the pool".

The student hardly heard what he was being told due to the oddity of practicing in an empty pool where the echos are not only distracting, but for the most part obnoxious.  The student's doubt about these training methods turned into a casual "whatever".   At least now he was going to learn something new that may impress his friends and help him win a fight.  Training began every morning at sunrise.  As the days went on he did notice his body felt much stronger from his physical labor.  He thought perhaps this has been at least a little bit more productive that playing video games with his friends.  After all, not many people can say they alone emptied an entire pool with a bucket.  The old pool was so dirty it was starting to smell anyway.

With time the student mastered the basics, and as he progressed they would fill the pool little by little with water again.  As the water level slowly rose they would practice their movements and combinations against increasing amounts of water resistance.  This isolated parts of the body for focused training.  The student got used to the dojo acoustics and sometimes found them helpful especially when training with a blindfold.  Oddly he also noticed that the water, when still, would give a reflection that allowed him to see more sides of his instructor.  He could pick up on subtle movements quicker.  After a while the pool became too full to work in without having to swim and so the day came when the only training was to sit on the pool deck and meditate while the pool ever so slowly was filled the rest of the way with a half trickle pace from the garden hose.

By now the seasons had changed, and a leaf or two would fall into the water.  Summer was over.  As they sat in silence looking at their reflection one day, the student began to ponder, and meditate.  His mind was calm, his body keenly aware of all of his surroundings, his ears attuned to the most slight and subtle shift in air pressure. The acoustics of the empty pool had caused a change in his perception.  He noticed everything happening around him but wasn't particularly distracted by it.  Noticing his heightened senses, he closed his eyes and reflected.  He didn't notice the instructor had left him alone.

With his eyes closed he could almost sense his friend sneaking up on him from behind.  It was perhaps the last weekend before the weather turned cold, and his group of friends were going to make it clear the pool had been out of service long enough. They grew tired of their lazy summer days spent in front of the TV and wanted to go outside have a BBQ and swim.  With swimsuits on, and towels in hand, the group came to enjoy what might be the last remaining hot day of the year.  They were gong to swim that day even if (perhaps especially if ) it meant pushing or dragging their unsuspecting friend into the pool with them.

As they made their final approach, they were sure they would be undetected thanks to the soft grass and the sound of the passing noisy garbage truck.  Assured of their stealth, they took off towards him.  When they got within arms reach, without looking and hardly thinking, the student did what surprised even himself.  As the leader approached from behind intending to push his closed eyed friend into the pool, with perfect precision he took one step to the side, turned, and with a small but perfectly placed foot and arm movement tripped the leader, directing him face first into the pool, which sent him and the closely following group all stumbling and splashing into the pool.  Fully dressed.

When they surfaced the student was just then barely opening his eyes.  Despite their taunts that he somehow "cheated", he remained still and quiet...and dry.  

The instructor just smiled from the porch.

Later the friends asked how he knew they were coming and how he managed to pull that off.  "Empty that pool with a bucket and I'll tell you" The student cleverly said.  But they didn't have time for such nonsense, so they they pestered him for tricks and secrets instead.

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