Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Just Because We Can, Does that Mean We Should?

Many of us are writers. Some of us have our work formally edited, and at the very least we edit ourselves. How many times have we realized or been told that a word, a phrase, or a whole paragraph just has to be cut out? It hurts, doesn’t it? Sometimes we feel like greedy children (who seem to live by the opposite of the credo, “less is more”). No, we want – we need that pretty word, that perfect analogy. But luckily common sense or editorial vision tells us that things are better without the side bar story – you know, the one with grandma’s wart removal technique.

But whether its warts or excess verbiage, some things do need to be cut out. I’ve been training in Kenpo karate for nine or ten years now. What I’ve learned could be easily fit in a tea cup, and what I’ve forgotten, or not quite grasped, could fill a freight car. But a few things have stuck, and one little nugget is why do more than you need to? I remember one time a few years back I was working some technique that involved a kick to the opponent’s body. Now that in itself is not too difficult, although I was in my 40s, and had bad knees and a questionable spine. But this particular class I was feeling good and spunky, and was attempting kicks at my opponents head. My sensei took one look and promptly questioned me, “Why are you kicking so high?” And since I was feeling like I was Bruce Lee or Cynthia Rothrock, I replied, “Because I can!”

Uh – no. That’s not what he said, but that was the meaning. His first concern was that I’d injure myself, he knew my limitations. But mainly he saw cockiness and excess, neither of which have a place in the dojo. The martial arts are all about humility, a lesson that doesn’t always sink in with enthusiastic students. Also, the arts, generally speaking, work with economy of motion. Kenpo in particular, is a fairly hard (as in impact, not necessarily difficulty), direct, spare style. There are not as many flourishes as in certain Kung Fu systems, or high kicks as in Tae Kwon Do. My fancy kicks were an unnecessary flourish.

But if arrogance in karate training were the only problem I – or the world – ever faced, no big deal. Unfortunately, there’s much more overindulgence and overkill in life, and I just don’t get why.

Hummers – for a fine example of glut – I am trying real hard to find the redeeming quality in a Hummer purchase. I did read somewhere that there’s a Red Cross program that certifies Hummer drivers to respond to disaster situations, as the vehicle is well suited for nasty off road driving. Which is pretty cool, truly. But the amount of Hummer owners that are actually certified through the HOPE program, is quite a small percentage compared to the rest of the owners. And really they do look silly circumnavigating a mall parking lot.

So, along with these superfluous behemoths on wheels, there are other things that come under this category:

Breast implants. Unless perhaps the person needs reconstruction as a result of disease or injury, why bother?

Price gouging at the gas pumps. Sure, kick the little guy while he’s down and out. (Even the Hummer owners). This is all about greed.

RFID implants on humans. There’s a lot of controversy here, and I can see the rationale behind the advancement of this technology – but still, do we really, really need this?

All I can do is close with the caveat last mentioned in Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility.”