Taming Of The Sword
Taming of the Sword
Once in the ancient ages in the valley of Dragon-gate stood an old oak tree, an indisputable sage of the jungle. It reared its head to talk to the moon and stars; its roots clobbered deep into the earth, mingling their bronzed coils with those of the silver dragon that slept beneath. Along a mighty old sword master, who decided to retire from the mundane world and became a secluded soul. He built a hut under this old tree and years gone by, they grew to be incredibly companion and recounted and conversed of their philosophy in life.
On one night when the crescent moon was half shied away in the sky, the old sword master was unusual quiet, and was only broken off by heaving sighs. “What seems bothering you, my good old man?” asked the old oak tree. Replied the old sword master: “My time is number and I will be riding the yellow crane to the next world. The only thing I want to leave behind is my Yee-Tien Gin (Gin means sword).” “Wow!” The Old Oak Tree shaking its body in triumph and started chanting the old martial arts song: “In this world…. The Dragon Sabre commands all beings; however, with the emergence of Yee-Tien Gin, she is without peer….” “My good old friend,” Old Sword Master said gravely: “promise me, after leaving this world, I entrust you to uncover this sword for a true master.”
Years had passed by, whose stubborn spirit should be tamed only by the greatest of sword master. For long the Yee-Tien Gin was cherished by the Old Oak Tree, but all in vain were the efforts of those who in turn tried to draw the spirit of the sword, in response to their utmost strivings there came from the sword but insensitive and scorn feeling. The sword refused to recognize a master.
At last came Silver Moon, the sagacious of sword master. With tender hand he caressed the sword as one might seek to soothe a mustang, and softly touched the sharp blade. He moved with the sword of nature and the seasons, of high mountains and flowing waters and all the memories of the sword awoke! As they danced down the ravine, laughed to the budding flowers in a moment were heard the dreamy voices of summer with its myriad insects, the gentle pattering of rain, the wail of the cuckoo. Hark! A tiger roars, - the valley answers again. It is autumn; in the desert night, the sharp sword gleams the moon upon the frosted grass. Now winter reigns, and through the snow-filled air swirl flocks of swans and rattling hailstones beat upon the boughs with fierce delight.
Then Silver Moon changed the pace and danced of love, the forest swayed like a passionate swain deep lost in thought. On high, like a haughty madden swept a cloud bright and fair; but passing, trailed long shadows on the ground, black like despair. Again the mode was changed; Silver Moon chant of war, of clashing steel and trampling steeds. And in the Yee-Tien Gin arose the gale of her grandeur past; the dragon rode the lightning, the thundering avalanche crashed through the hills. In ecstasy the Old Oak Tree asked Silver Moon wherein laid the secret of his triumph. “Sire,” he replied, “others have failed because they moved and sensed but of themselves. I left the sword to choose its premise, and knew not truly whether the sword had been Silver Moon or Silver Moon was the sword.”
This story well illustrates the mystery of the art of sword appreciation. The masterpiece is a symphony played upon our finest feelings. True art is Silver Moon, and we the sword.
At the magic touch of the beautiful the secret chords of our being are awakened, we vibrate and thrill in response to its call. Mind speaks to mind. We pay attention to the unspoken, we gaze upon the unseen. The master calls forth notes we know not of. Memories long forgotten all come back to us with a new significance. Hopes subdued by fear, yearnings that we dare not recognize, stand forth in new glory. Our mind is the canvas on which the artists lay their colour; their pigments are our emotions; their chiaroscuro the light of joy, the shadow of sadness. The masterpiece is of ourselves, as we are of the masterpiece.
The sympathetic communion of minds necessary for art appreciation must be based on mutual concession. The spectator must cultivate the proper attitude for receiving the message, as the artist must know how to impart it. In order to understand a masterpiece, you must lay yourself low before it and await with bated breath its least utterance. My mother once made an appealing acknowledgment. She said: “In my young days I praised the master whose pictures I liked, but as my judgment matured I praised myself for liking what the masters had chosen to have me like.” It is to be deplored that so few of us really take pains to study the moods of the masters. In our stubborn ignorance we refuse to render them this simple courtesy, and thus often miss the rich repast of beauty spread before our very eyes. A master has always something to offer, while we go hungry solely because of our own lack of appreciation.
To the sympathetic a masterpiece becomes a living reality towards which we feel drawn in bonds of companionship. The masters are immortal, for their loves and fears live in us over and over again. It is rather the spirit than the hand, the man/woman than the technique, which appeals to us, - the more human the call the deeper is our response. It is because of this secret understanding between the master and us that in poetry or romance we suffer and rejoice with the hero and heroine. In the west, Shakespeare has lain down as one of the first principles of dramatic composition the importance of taking the audience into the confidence of the author. As of Romeo and Juliet has the proper spirit of the drama, for it takes the audience into consideration. The public is permitted to know more than the actors. It knows where the mistake lies, and pities the poor figures on the board that innocently rushes to their fate.
The great masters both of the East and the West never forgot the value of suggestion as a means for taking the spectator into their confidence. Who can contemplate a masterpiece without being awed by the immense vista of thought presented to our consideration? How familiar and sympathetic are they all; how cold in contrast the modern commonplaces! In the former we feel the warm outpouring of a man's heart; in the latter only a formal greeting. Engrossed in his technique, the modem rarely rises above himself. Like the sword players who vainly invoked the Yee-Tien Sword, they feel only of themselves. Their works may be nearer science, but are further from humanity.
Nothing is more sacred than the union of kindred spirits in art. At the moment of meeting, the passionate artist transcends himself. At once he is and is not. He catches a glimpse of Infinity, but words cannot accent his delight, for the eye has no tongue. Free from the shackles of matter, his spirit moves in the rhythm of things. It is thus that art becomes akin ennobles mankind. It is this, which makes a masterpiece something sacred.
Until then, have a happy practice of your sword.
Straight from my heart
Year of the Spirit