In the philosophical teachings which form the foundation for the Ninja Warrior’s lifeways, there is a principle known as the ‘law of interdependence.’ This so-called ‘law’ is not a must-do rule which one must follow, nor is it to be confused with dependence or co-dependence as it is seen today where one or more individuals who cannot or choose not to provide for themselves, lean on and ‘depend’ on the work and resources of another for the fulfillment of their needs. Rather, the law of interdependence is something that is to be recognized as a basic ‘truth’ in the world.
Much like the law of gravity or cause and effect, it is something that is ‘going-on,’ always, regardless of whether we ‘believe’ in it or not. In fact, contrary to our need to believe that we are what we are, this principle in action shows us that we are more like others than we know.
Unlike the law of gravity, however, which is difficult to understand and explain; interdependence is relatively easy to explain. Let’s use a simple analogy to understand this ‘goings-on.’ We’ll use something simple, like a Whopper. No, I’m not being paid to endorse a food franchise and you can feel free to substitute this item for any of a thousand others. But, for our purposes, it will do.
Now, most people would agree to the connection between themselves and all of the individuals working in the restaurant at the moment you visited and placed your order for the sandwich. Someone took your order; another was busy making the product; and others made sure it found its way to a tray or bag and ultimately into your hand. In this simple view, there is an interdependent connection between you – the person who ‘wants’ the sandwich, and those who are making sure that you get it.
Of course, seen from the viewpoint of any worker, they are mutually dependent on you, and many others throughout a day, wanting and willing to pay for a sandwich so that they can get a paycheck at the end of the week. For you: no restaurant – no sandwich. For them: no customers, no restaurant, no paycheck.
But, in the words of the enigmatic guru “Morphius” from the popular movie, “The Matrix”, if you really want to see “how deep the rabbit hole goes,” we can look much more closely at that simple sandwich.
Let’s begin with the wrapper. It wasn’t made there at the restaurant. It was delivered, probably by truck. Which means what? Well, where do you want to start? Driver? Truck dealership who sold it to Burger King? Truck manufacturer? Trailer manufacturer? Get the idea?
For now, let’s stay with the driver and truck remaining associated with the restaurant. But, already we’re talking about more than just the employees working in the restaurant, aren’t we. Many, if not all of them have families which will benefit from their paycheck in some way just as the company is benefiting from their desire or willingness to do the job they’re doing.
The wrapper itself is paper which now extends our connection to people working in the logging and paper production industries and their families. The ink does the same along those lines; and so on throughout the rest of the parts of the sandwich like the burger, vegetables, and so on.
“What’s the point?”, I can hear you asking. “How does this relate to personal development, martial arts, self-defense or my life?” After all, aren’t we different than a sandwich?
I don’t think it’s the answer that will drive the point home as much as a question: If a burger can be made up of the materials, effort, energy, intention and connections of so many that it almost touches the lives of every other person on the planet – how can we believe that we, as so-called ‘individuals,’ can be any different? After all, haven’t each one of us been influenced, positively or negatively, by other people, places, and situations that caused us to believe, act, and engage the world the way we do?
Can you imagine how different you would be had those influences been different or not there at all? Just think about what motivated you to take up martial arts training. Regardless of whether it was for self-defense, the allure of Asian culture, or soemthing else – you were first exposed to those ‘other things’ – giving you your reason to take up the arts. The saying goes, “no (wo)man is an island,” and it’s true. No matter how much we would like to be an ‘individual,’ we are nonetheless, tied to every other human being on the face of the planet – if by no other means than the water we drink and the air we breath. The law of interdependence teaches us to recognize the value in all things and to treat everything as though it were ‘me.’ Only then can one be sure that we are not acting in an egotistical, self-serving way that will harm, alienate, or hinder ourselves or others.
What does this have to do with our training? It is the person who recognizes and acts knowing that this is true who builds his or her world rather than isolating themselves as important and in contrast with everything and everyone else that is seen as ‘obviously’ of lesser value. It is the ego who must be “right” and “righteous” that needs to attack others – to fight for ‘right.’
There is an old saying that goes: “the truest measure of a person’s character is in the way he or she treats those least important to them.” Once we understand, and can ‘see’, how our every thought, word, and action acts upon the world, we can take control of the process and decide to build a character that takes responsibility for the way it affects others. No longer will we act out of a state of disconnection and isolation, but move purposefully through our world with compassion and disciplined action.
We have a choice. We can be ‘nice’ to others because it’s proper manners to do so, because we expect to get something from them, or because we have to live with them. Or, we can treat others with respect and honor because we recognize that we are already connected to them in some way already.