Happy Great Big Blowing Void Day.

Sorry. It doesn't mean I don't love you, but I don't do Valentine's Day.

On the bright side, I'm happier this year than I have been in any year in the past, including years when I've been seeing someone.

I'm watching The Three Musketeers tonight, one of my favorite fun films, and probably one of the best things ever to come out of Walt Disney Studios (certainly for live-action). It's doubly interesting since I've been reading this history of swords and swordsmanship, which is adding a lot of historical detail I've been missing. And my God, the cast: Oliver Platt, Tim Curry, Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, many others, and a really well-done script.

As I'm watching it, I'm realizing exactly how good the fencing coaches must have been, because each character's personality is mirrored in his fencing. Captain Rochefort, Richelieu's lieutenant, has an aggressive, snake-like style, weaving and dodging with a lot of back-and-forth, especially with his head. Porthos, the freewheeling ex-pirate, has a somewhat brutal streetfighting style that involves punching and kicking and pulling out knives and guns to finish things off. And Aramis, the former priest who charms women with poetry, fights with a quiet, flowing elegance that matches his speech. That kind of expressiveness takes some thoughtful planning.

Aikido keeps coming up in TV shows that I watch, as the martial art favored by nonviolent characters. The lead in The Pretender uses it regularly (he never fires a gun at anyone and usually is just disarming an attacker), and I just saw it on The Dead Zone. It's a wonderful thing, aikido. Somehow it manages to transform aggression into...I don't know. Peace, but peace of the strongest kind. Warriorship, in its greatest and most life-affirming form. (Well, these days. Miyamoto Musashi, one of the greatest swordsmen in history, said that the way of the warrior is to always choose death, when given a choice between life and death. Most of us nowadays feel there's more to life than a willingness to freely surrender it.)

The vibe at work is still a little weird. I can't tell if this is some sort of interpersonal weirdness with me and my boss, which is possible because I haven't been around much and we haven't had a lot of bonding time; or if it's just that he's busy and has to worry about me as well, and there's this entire project that I'm doing largely by myself and he's trusting me to get it done because I designed it and I implemented something very similar last year (the XML server for UCSB), even though he'll catch a lot of the heat if I don't make the deadline (about 10 days away). I suspect it's the stress, and once I complete a project on spec and I get into more of a routine with being in the office consistently and leaving early for aikido only on specific days, things will improve. At least, I hope so. That's a lot easier to fix than interpersonal weirdness. He's just a strange guy in his own right, and hard to read sometimes. I'm sure it will all be fine eventually.

It's Valentine's Day, and if I'm a little spacey and unfocused and feeling slightly lonely (or something, it's all the same feeling of thinking there's anything out there that would make me feel better) as my mind drifts from the things that are important, I am constantly happy that I am not inflicting myself on other people by dating them. Really. Each day I see more and more how my life just Hasn't Been Working, and I get closer to sorting myself out. I'm unlocking myself, and I knew even many months ago that there was stuff to unlock and keys to get to it, and I just had to keep going. In Zen they say that when you are tied up in an unspeakably complex knot, and your mind is folded in on itself and the entire universe is stuck together in a giant ball of contradiction in your head and you don't know what's what any more, that is the most important time to practice and do hard training, because you are very close to enlightenment. It's very like what my coaches used to say about running, that when you're exhausted and can't keep going, it's important to keep going for ten more minutes, and I've found that to be true for lesser insights as well. You need some faith that everything will come together, but mostly you need a simple will to continue. It's always simple: complex rationalization won't get you through the nightmare times. You don't have to "care", necessarily; you just have to keep going. A fundamental decision to action that comes from inside yourself, so that you say "I don't care if I live or die, but since I'm here I'm going to continue".

There are quite a number of people who, in their darkest hours, do not have these thoughts. I call them "bright spirits", because they are more or less free of the shadows and cynicism you can feel in the rest of us. Sometimes the bright spirits are kinda neurotic and have some serious demons kicking around, but other times--in the midst of really nasty life situations--these people seem almost incapable of deep misery. They get stressed and unhappy in their own way, but don't seem susceptible to the melancholy and truly foul moods of me and most of my friends.

I'm normally not close friends with those people.

Bird on a branch
Tidying his feathers
Eats a pinecone seed
And always belongs where he is.