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Courtesy. Integrity. Perseverance. Self-Control. Indomitable Spirit.
My brothers and sisters in the Korean art of Taekwondo instantly recognized that list I just … er, listed. Those are the tenets of Taekwondo.
What’s a tenet? A tenet is a belief, a characteristic, a habit or a behavior that defines an adherent of a system of belief. Notice, for instance, in all of those tenets of an ancient martial art, there is no mention of strength, or of victory, or of dominance — the real art of Taekwondo is internal. It is about learning to govern your own character and your own actions and reactions to the world around you.
Which is good, because, as I’m (slowly) growing older, then victory and strength and stuff like that is fleeting. At any rate…
I have learned through the study of the art that tenets are a useful feature of any behavior. My columnist-colleague, Andrea, likes to have “words of the year,” which are, basically, like having tenets. So, may I be so bold as to join her and suggest a handful of tenets to govern the year that is about to be 2018.
1. Reason. It would appear to me that we have all, collectively, traded out our normal sense of reason over the last couple years for a bloated sense of reactionary outrage. It would seem that every statement is instantly parsed and picked-over on Twitter to amp up our sense of being slighted or dismissed. I mean, in just the last three weeks, I’ve seen people suggest that “Merry Christmas” is a tool of white supremacy, that former President Obama is still trying to undermine his successor through a British royal, and that “Jingle Bells” is inherently racist. Seriously, folks. May I be so bold as to suggest that we would do much better to reclaim the ability to stop, to consider, and to think, before we immediately reach for the anger button? We’re better than this.
2. Humor. If there is one thing that the world around us is absolutely worthy of, it is mockery. Every time I think we’ve reached “peak ridiculousness,” something happens which is even more ridiculous. Somehow, it has to be within our ability to see it all and laugh at it, and at ourselves. If we don’t, I don’t see how we can possibly survive.
3. Grace. My daughter, the 21-year old, is a dancer, and, when the music starts, she moves in a way that is beyond my comprehension. She turns her body into a moving representation of expressive art, and the coordination that it happens with is mind-boggling. She is the embodiment of grace — the ability to change direction and speed with effortlessness. I strive to take life in — with all of its surprises, disappointments, and misdirections — with a fraction of the grace she moves around the stage with. Life is hard, and American life comes with unique challenges (and opportunities): perhaps we can all do it better, together, if we extend a little grace to each other, and if we try to smooth some of the leaps and turns of life for ourselves.
And, by the way, if you’re ever wondering what it would look like to act with grace, just try to picture Princess Dianna or Princess Kate, and not, say, Mariah Carey or the President.
Good luck with 2018. Let’s be careful out there!
Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His novels are available at MichaelJAlcorn.com
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